Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The State of Black Amerika

The three most important post-Civil Rights, material-based issues for African-Americans in America are: 1) Poverty; 2) Jobs/Income, and; 3) Housing, and there are many policy options to address these institutionalized racial disparities.

The best example of the failure of a capitalist society's failure...

...is it's reliance on poverty for cheap wage slaves. In 2000, 9.1% of whites were below the poverty line, compared to 31.2% of African-Americans and 28.4% of Hispanics.1 In seven short years later, in 2007, 8.2% of whites were below the poverty line, and 24.5% of African-Americans, and 21.5% of Hispanics were.2 The 2010 State of Black America reports that whites have a poverty rate of 8.6%, and Hispanics have 23.3%, and African-Americans have a poverty rate of 24.7%. During the 2000s decade, African-Americans have had to endure a poverty rate that is triple of their white American counterparts (with Hispanics showing similar numbers, though slightly less than African-Americans). Because poverty affects a quarter of African-Americans, and that's 3 times as higher than white Americans, this shows that African-Americans have a greater concentration of poverty, and therefore have to combat more impoverished conditions than whites do. Inversely, this also demonstrates how whites are privileged because they aren't faced with the vast amounts of poverty that African-Americans and Hispanics are faced with.

Martin Luther King said that to deny a person a job in America was equivalent to not allowing them to live. Our capitalist system relies on the principle of “work or die”. In the fourth quarter of 2007, the unemployment rate for white men was 4.1%. It was 5.5% for Hispanic men, and 9.2% for African-American men.3 The Great Recession had everybody losing jobs, though the Great Recession impacted African-American and Hispanic communities greater than the whites. By the middle of 2009, white men had a 9.2% unemployment rate, Hispanic men 11.7%, and Black men doubled their unemployment to 18%. In 2007, white women had a jobless rate of 3.9%, Hispanics 6.1%, and Black women 7.6%. The second quarter of 2009, America sees their white women with a jobless rate of 7.2%, Hispanic woman with 11.4%, and Black women had 12.1%.4 While overall women have a lower unemployment rate than men, white women are doing better than their Hispanic and Black counterparts. Black Americans experience “greater volatility in their employment than whites”5. The Great Recession brought about more unemployment, overall, amongst Black folks than the whites. The unemployment problem for Black folks also persists longer than the whites. So Black folks' unemployment rate, compared to whites, is larger, and more tenacious. Black Americans' unemployment rates “rise earlier, their incomes fall sooner, and their benefits disappear more quickly than whites”6. Black folks have to wait longer than whites to enjoy the blessings of a rebounding economy.

Black folks have had to endure the problem of a high unemployment rate for decades. Black folks have to endure a historical legacy of a society who has criminally abandoned their own. Between 2007 and 2009, the unemployment rate for Black men jumped from 9.2% to 18%, and Black women went from 7.6% to 12.1%. In December of 2001, Black America saw an unacceptable unemployment rate of 10%, and from 1972 to 2009, Black America was 2.2 times more likely to be unemployed than whites7. The unemployment numbers doesn't include college students, disillusioned workers, underemployed, the informal economy, others, so the official unemployment rate is always lower the real unemployment rate. And since there's a causation link between jobs and income, it's not surprising that in 2008, the median income for African-Americans were 61.6% less than that of white people (the median income for Hispanics was 68.3%).8 For income to go up, there needs to be more, and better, job opportunities for Black folks. The income of one bread winner should be sufficient enough to cover the whole family.

Food, water, clothes, and housing are essential needs for life, any- and everywhere. Housing also represents the best vehicle for individuals to build real wealth. The Center for American Progress reports that “access to safe and decent housing” is a reality for African-Americans, but affordable housing, energy efficient housing, and fairness in housing applications are not.9 In 2000, 73.8% of whites owned their own house, compared to 46.3% Hispanics, and 47.2% African-Americans. In 2007, 75.2% of whites owned their own homes, 49.7% for Hispanics, and 47.2% for Black folks.10 In 2010, 75% of whites owned their own homes, 49.1% of Hispanics owned their own homes, and 47.4% of Black folks own their own homes. For a decade, more than half of the two main minority groups in America have not owned their own home, compared to a 25% “homeless” rate for white folks. This means that 25% of white folks have been able to build their wealth, moreso than Hispanics or Black folks, and those are just the numbers for the last decade. The entire timeline history of housing in America would no doubt draw an appalling comparison between periods of when wealth could be built for white folks versus black folks, when for most of America's history, Blacks didn't even have ownership of their own bodies, let alone being able to build their wealth through home ownership.

There are many policy options in order to break down the disparities in the number of quality jobs (income), and housing (wealth) between white and black Americans. Most of the ideas in the required readings seem reasonable, but they are too numerous to weigh the pros and cons of them all. The 2010 State of Black America suggests flooding the Black community with more resources, with a particular interest in low-income and low-employment areas (the “abandoned” class, using Eugene Robinson's terminology), as one of their main solutions. The report suggests expanding the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to provide more vouchers for housing, and to hire more housing counselors across America, with $500 million of federal money; dumping $150 billion into American cities, counties, States, universities, community colleges, and non-profits to provide for critical services, creating 3 million new jobs for Black folks; and spending $5-7 billion on more summer jobs for Black youth to employ 5 million teens. All of the above policy options are well thought out, and workable solutions. The 2010 report also suggests enforcing fair lending laws against racist banks; reducing the interest rate for small business administration loans to 1%; and the creation green empowerment zones in order to increase the amount of quality jobs for Black folks. Passing the Employee Free Choice Act would revolutionize union protection, and would dramatically increase union membership, which would create more worker councils to lobby governments, and force our government to be accountable to all working people11.

The Center for American Progress report, Leveling the Playing Field: How to Ensure Minorities Share Equitably in the Economic Recovery and Beyond. 2010.

Executive Summary, The National Urban League, State of Black America: Jobs Responding to the Crisis. 2010. Assessed on April 17, 2012 [http://www.nul.org/sites/default/files/EXECUTIVE%20SUMMARY%20SOBA.pdf].
1The Center for American Progress report, 2010.
5The Center for American Progress report, 14.
7 The State of Black America, 2010, 4.
8 The Center for American Progress, 2010, 8.
10The Center for American Progress, 2010, 5.
11Executive Summary, National Urban League, 2010.

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