Each person is responsible to get an education, to become a self-sustaining adult, and to pursue the American Dream.
While many African-Americans are progressing through education like never before, receiving better employment opportunities, and advancing economically in a more open and tolerant society, there are too many obstacles for poor rural and urban blacks to overcome. They are trapped in crime-ridden neighborhoods and poor schools. Achieving that stirring American Dream is almost unobtainable for too many.
There are 47,000,000 African-Americans in the U.S., 14.5 percent of the population. They are less likely to graduate from high school, gain a marketable skill, complete post-secondary education, get a good job and live above the poverty line. Their life expectancy is shorter than the American average. They are arrested and jailed at much higher rates. Most African-Americans live in the rural deep South or in large metropolitan areas, where crime is higher, life expectancies are shorter, schools are poorer and health care and good jobs are far less available. Our country has witnessed a welter of police slayings of black men, some of questionable justification, over the past few years, leading many blacks to fear for their own and their children’s safety, even around law enforcement.
African-Americans live under the historical specter of slavery: their forbears were kidnapped, transported abroad under inhumane conditions, sold and driven like beasts of burden, and were victims of violence, rape and constant harassment with no basic human rights whatever. Add to this that former slaves were denied their rightful place in American society. They suffered through the Jim Crow South, lynch law, legal and political disenfranchisement and discrimination in voting, employment, education and every other facet of American life. Segregation was only ruled illegal a few decades ago; de facto discrimination continues in many regards today. The legacy of these many, many wrongs continues to afflict African-Americans.
Poverty. According to BlackDemographics.com, twice as many black families live in poverty as the rest of Americans (24.2 percent versus 11.8 percent), and blacks’ median household income is only two-thirds of that of all American households.
Unemployment. The Economic Policy Institute found that black unemployment is twice that of whites.
Homeownership. Among Americans generally, 64 percent own their homes, while only 42 percent of blacks do.
Health insurance. Only 50 percent of blacks have commercial health insurance compared to 65 percent of whites, while a much higher percentage of blacks are enrolled in Medicaid than the total population.
Education. There is encouraging news in that African-American high school graduation rates are closing on the rates of the population at large. However, black educational attainment still lags the population at large.
Incarceration. A report by The Economic Policy Institute says one in 10 black children has a parent who is currently incarcerated; one in four has a parent who is or was incarcerated — six times as likely as a white child. The report continues, “A growing share of African-Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African-Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, develop learning disabilities … misbehave in school and suffer from migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness.”
In a July 10, 2016, interview on "Meet the Press," U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) stated, “The war on drugs led to "a 500 percent increase in incarceration in our country, disproportionately affecting poor and disproportionately affecting minorities."
Politifact rated that claim as “Mostly True.” Politifact stated, “It is a well-established fact that minorities are overrepresented in the prison population. About 58 percent of all sentenced inmates in 2013 were black or Hispanic, yet the two groups make up just about 30 percent of the total population. Research also suggests that when black and white people engage in the same illegal activity and have the same criminal history, black people are more likely to be arrested, more likely to face tougher charges and more likely to receive longer sentences than whites.” Moreover, the article continues, Jonathan Rothwell, senior economist at Gallup, found “white people are more likely than black people to sell [and consume] drugs. … Even so, black people are 3.6 times more likely … to be arrested for selling drugs and 2.5 times more for drug possession.”
The last thing the African-American community needs is latent or open feelings of racism from White America.
Greg Bell is the current president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association. He is a former Republican lieutenant governor of Utah.