Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why Don't Black People Have Their Crap Together?

It's the question on every white person's mind. I mean, predominately black neighborhoods still have lower employment rates and higher crime rates than predominately white ones, even though slavery has been long abolished.

So what is the problem here?

Some people insist that racism is subtly but effectively infecting the institutions and workings of our society, and thus playing a significant part in the destinies of our country’s black citizens. Others would argue that in a free and modern democracy like ours, everyone is control of their own destiny, and that many blacks lack the motivation or work ethic to pull themselves out of poverty.

Which is less realistic? Rampant racism or rampant laziness? Honestly, we could theorize all day about either one. But let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

Is there actually an economic gap between blacks and whites in America?

The unemployment rate for African Americans in a given area is often about twice that of whites. And although more blacks and other minorities are attending college these days, white students are increasingly enrolling in selective institutions while blacks are mostly sticking to open access and community colleges. Students who attend quality universities are more likely to graduate, go to grad school, and earn a higher salary. Which leads us full circle back to different unemployment rates. So why don’t black people either just get a job or work hard to get into a good school? Let’s dissect those two options one at a time.

Why not just get a job?                                                                    

They’ve got affirmative action on their side, so why aren’t they out there in the work force?

Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, two Faculty Research Fellows at the National Bureau of Economic Research, probed at least one facet of the issue by conducting an experiment from July 2001-January 2010. They gathered over 5,000 resumes and sent them as responses to over 1,300 employment ads in the sales, administrative support, clerical, and customer services job categories. But here’s where it gets interesting-they put false names on the resumes...some distinctively black sounding (like Lakisha and Jamal), others more white sounding (like Greg and Emily).

And what did they find? Employers are 50% less likely to call back people with black sounding names. And the trend held true across all of the occupation and industry categories covered, even those sometimes considered to be severely constrained by affirmative action laws.

Does this mean that there are a bunch of bigoted KKK leaders out there in corporate America, dreaming of bringing slavery back to the states? No. But it does mean that in general, black names still carry an unfair negative taste in the mouths of many whites. This is where racism is the most persistent...when it is the most subtle. I doubt many of the employers who unknowingly took part in this experiment would identify themselves as racists.

But of course, in this day and age, you often need an education to get an occupation. More black graduates with quality degrees from prestigious universities would certainly help deteriorate employer bias over time. So let’s move on to the next question.

Why not work hard and go to a good school?

Even if you come from a poor family, you can work hard and get a scholarship. And if you’re black, you already meet one necessary qualification for a number of them. So what’s the problem here?

Well, for one, there actually is a disconnect between the qualifications of young students of color and the caliber of university they end up going to. 30 percent of African American students who earned an A average while in high school somehow still end up attending community colleges, compared with only 22 percent of whites. That means that almost a third of black students with high GPAs are going to lower-quality colleges where less funding is spent per student and students are more likely to drop out.

But let’s back it up even further. Let’s talk about Jim Crow for a second. According to, Jim Crow Laws were “statutes and ordinances established between 1874 and 1975 to separate the white and black races in the American South. In theory, it was to create ‘separate but equal’ treatment, but in practice Jim Crow Laws condemned black citizens to inferior treatment and facilities.” That’s right...the “separate but equal” charade lasted right into the 1970’s. Within the lifetimes of many people living in the U.S. today. As a matter of fact, the Federal Housing Association blatantly participated in institutionalized racism all the way up to 1968 by denying housing loans to people based on their ethnicity.

To think that the effect those laws had on the American people all vanished when they did is pretty illogical. And not only does it defy logic, but it defies the evidence. For example, residential communities are definitely still highly divided along racial lines.

And as UpWorthy’s Franchesca Ramsey explains, “If your grandmother was denied a home loan or employment in the '50s because she was black, that influenced where your parents grew up, which then affected where you grew up. Where you live determines where you go to school, and since the community's tax dollars support local schools, it's easy to see why poor neighborhoods end up with poorly funded schools.”

And, of course, poorly funded means poorly equipped to prepare students for the next step of their education. 

Now let's wrap it up

So, Why don’t black people have their crap together? Is it because America the Free has set before them a plate of fresh-cooked equality and they’re just too darn lazy take a bite? Or could there be more complex factors at work?

Honestly, in the interest of keeping this a blog post and not a text book, I’ve really only scratched the surface of the issue. But I hope I've given you enough to draw at least a preliminary conclusion.

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