Friday, March 31, 2006

Extra! Extra!: society still racist!

A recent report by the Urban League has been in the headlines and highlights the ongoing discrimination in our society against blacks. A few excerpts from the New Standard article on the report:
Unemployment remains twice as high for blacks, and median "net worth" of African-American households is just one-tenth that of their white counterparts. That is, half the families in black America have less than $6,166 when their debts are subtracted from their assets, while among whites, half could cash in for more than $67,000. The federal government’s own figures from 2000 indicate the same disparity, but with higher medians: $79,400 for white families compared to $7,500 for blacks and $9,750 for Latinos.
Lance Freeman, professor of urban planning at Columbia University, said that an increase in home ownership for blacks does not mean comparable increases in home equity, which would begin to address the staggering disparity in "net worth." In the report, Freeman states that a high level of residential segregation between blacks and whites continues a dual housing market in which many blacks are limited to buying homes in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates, fewer or poorer amenities and services, and consequently lower property values.
According to 2001 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the death rate from heart disease for black Americans was 30 percent higher than that for whites, and the death rate for cancer was just over 25 percent higher. Additionally, blacks are twice as likely to have diabetes and accounted for more than 50 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases, though they make up about 13 percent of the US population.
The group also found that, while African-Americans constitute only 13 percent of drug users, they represent 35 percent of drug possession arrests, 55 percent of convictions and 74 percent of prison sentences.
["Blacks Losing Ground in Economic Race," The New Standard, March 30, 2006

Unfortunately, the solutions suggested in the report seem to be rather inadequate, despite the assertion of the report's authors that "'more than simply describing the problems, the report offers concrete solutions for moving Americans from poverty to self-sufficiency to prosperity' through a 'five-point empowerment agenda.'"

Take the astounding racism in the criminal justice system suggested by the above figures. The Standard reports that "To reduce this disparity, the Sentence Project suggests reforming drug laws to focus more on treatment and less on incarceration, and to eliminate harsh sentencing rules that by extension have a disproportionate affect on minorities." Undoubtedly these measures are extremely necessary - but they seem somewhat tangential in relation to the specific problem of racist police, courts, (juries?), and so forth.

The Standard does get in a good dig, reminding you that you're definitely not reading the New York Times:
The Urban League did not express its findings or recommendations to the people most affected. Rather, the authors address public officials, scholars and policymakers, who the group asks to use the annual State of Black America report as ammunition to "attack" persistent racial and class inequities. A full copy of the report is available for $29.95.


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