I voted for Barrack Obama twice. I did so, in part, because I hoped our first Black president would make addressing the multiple problems of African Americans one of his highest priorities. Sadly he has not done that.
Actually a White president from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, was much more vigorous, and public, in his efforts to address these problems.
I think addressing these issues should be a high priority of any presidential candidate we vote for. Here’s why.
According to an August 7 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for adult Blacks is 9.6%. For Whites it is 4.6%.
For White males, aged 16-19 years of age, the unemployment rate is 20.6%, but for Black youth the rate is 31.1%.
According to a recent report from the Henry K Kaiser Foundation, 10% of White Americans live in poverty. For African Americans the number is 27%.
The American dream has always been that, with hard work and diligence, poor Americans can move up to the middle class. However recent facts refute that expectation, particularly as it relates to African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
The Urban Institute did a study of trends in the gap in family wealth among White, Black, and Hispanic households. Their report says that, in 1989, White households had 5 times more in retirement savings than Black or Hispanic households. In 2013 Whites had 7 to 11 times more in retirement savings.
The amount of income you have depends greatly on the amount of education you have. Generally, those with college degrees, get higher wages than those without degrees. According to data from the US Census Bureau, among those 25 years or older, 29.3% of Whites (non-Hispanic) had a four year college degree while just 17.7% of Blacks do.
This college graduation rate gap may be influenced by the differences in the way White and Black students are treated in grade and high school. Recently the Graduate School of Education, of the University of Pennsylvania issued a report on the expulsion or suspending rates at school districts in 13 southern states. They reported that, on average, just under 25% of the students are Black, but Black students were nearly half of those who were expelled or suspended. Large numbers of suspended or expelled students drop out and do not even get a high school diploma.
And then there is the criminal justice system. According to a study by the ACLU, one in three Black men can expect to go to jail in their life time. For White men that number is one in seventeen.
The ACLU report notes that “The War on Drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: Despite the fact that White and Black people use drugs at similar rates, Black people are jailed on drug charges 10 times more often than White people are. Black people are also three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people are.”
The Jury selection process may be part of the problem. Lawyers for defendants, and prosecutors are permitted to dismiss prospective jurors with”peremptory challenges”. This means the person challenged in this way will not serve on the jury, and with few exceptions, the attorney or prosecutor need not give any reason for dismissing the potential juror. Studies done in several southern states found that prosecutors in those states were 3 times more likely to dismiss Black jurors than White Jurors.
A recent report published in the Journal of the American Economic Association notes that, if juries in death penalty trials were unbiased, the rate of appeals court reversals of death sentence convictions of Blacks and Whites should be the same. However, the report notes that the death sentence conviction reversals for Blacks is 3% to 9% higher than for White defendants. This suggests bias in the trial courts.
We need to seek and support residential candidates who make correcting these problems a high priority if he or she is elected.