Friday, July 3, 2015

Why Should Your Destiny be Decided by The Color of Your Skin?

by Nomad

Is it possible that in America the color of your skin will determine how well you will do in life?

A look at the statistics suggest that, despite all of the past progress on racial equality, if you are African American you will have the cards stacked against you. But especially if are also a man.

After reviewing numerous studies,  Jorg Spenkuch, an assistant Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at Kellogg School of Management  in Chicago came to a shocking conclusion.
"No matter where you look, race is a really important predictor of how well people do in life.”
He is one of the authors of Racial Disparities in Job Finding and Offered Wages which investigate how much discrimination can explain racial wage gaps African- Americans and other groups. 

How, fifty years after the Civil Right Era, can this still be a problem in America? 

In June 1963,   when the "fires of frustration and discord" were burning in every city, President Kennedy said:
It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.
For young African Americans, how much has improved since Kennedy spoke those words?

Neighborhood and Schools
Richard Rothstein, in an excellent piece for the Economic Policy Institute, explores the problem in great detail in  For Public Schools, Segregation Then, Segregation Since.

Here are some of the things he noted.
  • Firstly, the US Census Bureau tells us that 39 percent of black children are from families with incomes below the poverty line. Whites American children? Twelve percent. 
  • Furthermore, 20% of black children live in high poverty neighborhoods while only 4 percent of white children do.
  • Finally the overall economic status of the neighborhood impacts on the quality of the education. 
A PBS article noted how the goals of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education which mandated educational equality for all public schools have been degraded over the time. Not so much by race alone but by economic status.

Today public schools are just as segregated as they were in the 1950s. According to the Southern Education Foundation, in 2011, 72 % of the country’s African-American students and 68 percent of Latino students attended public schools where more than half of their classmates were living in poverty. However, when it came to Asian students, only 35 % and for white students, it was only 30%.

In other words, by an large, blacks and Latinos from poor neighborhoods go to poor kid's schools. A study by Stanford University found that a "family's economic situation is a bigger determinative force in a child's academic performance than any other major demographic factor." If you are born poor,  you are likely to do poorly in school.
But why?   

Well, here's the thing: although schools in destitute areas naturally require more resources than those in rich ones, that's not what's actually happening. U.S. Department of Education explains that "many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding." 
Less funding means less financial enticement to recruiting quality teachers, less money to upgrade classroom. It means larger class sizes.

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project which studies school segregation trends. explained to the PBS reporter, Kyla Calvert, that schools with concentrated poverty are not equal to those schools in more affluent neighborhoods.
Schools with concentrated poverty face numerous obstacles to educating students.
Orfield said:
“They have more kids with all kinds of different problems related to nutrition, violence and instability of housing, which are related to almost all important educational outcomes. A lot of these issues are not caused by schools, but impact schools, and the effect is enormous.”
*   *   *
Completing the minimum amount of education is, as most of us know, vital for making good. The good news is that the overall number of high school drop outs is actually at an all time low. 
And now the not so good news. 

A government study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce reported on that the educational attainment rate of 25- to 29-year-olds by race. 
The report shows that the percentage of whites Americans who received at least a high school diploma or its equivalent remained higher than that of Blacks and Hispanics. The size of the White-Black gap at this educational level in 2012 had not measurably changed since 1990. 
Compare that to the Hispanic population which has seen the White-Hispanic gap narrowed from 32 to 20 percentage points. 

University Attainable
Higher education expands the White-Black gap even further. Hope to escape the generational cycle of poverty depends very much on employment but also on wages. In 2011, young adults with a bachelor’s degree earned almost twice as much as those without a high school diploma or its equivalent. 
The advantage of being both white and male is reflected by the statistics. Studies found:
In 2011, the median of earnings for young adult males was higher than the median for young adult females at every education level...In the same year, the median of earnings by education level for White young adults exceeded the corresponding medians for Black and Hispanic young adults.
(The study also found that while being white and male provided lots of advantages, it was even better to be male and Asian.) 
The disparity shows up in earning power when a job can be found. 
Recent research coauthored with Roland G. Fryer, Jr. of Harvard University and Devah Pager of Princeton University found that, when African Americans looking for work, they are are generally offered—and generally accept—less compensation than white job seekers.

In fact, the researcher discovered that racial discrimination among employers could account for at least a third of the raw wage gap between black and white workers. (Interestingly that wage gap closed over time as employers' perceptions about black workers changed. Performance evaluations triumphed over prejudices.)

Another source explains that, no matter how much the national economy might (or might not) improve, one demographic group will always remain outside of any positive news. 
Eleven percent of black men over 20 are unemployed today. That’s down from 19 percent in 2010, but it’s still the highest of any ethnic or racial group. By comparison, 9.6 percent of black women are unemployed, while white men have an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. That racial disparity, alas, is nothing new. Since the government began tracking unemployment in 1940, the jobless rate for black men has consistently been at least twice that of white males.
The rest of the economy might be painfully climbing out of the deepest hole since the 1930s, and the jobless rate may have fallen to 5.9 percent, the lowest since July 2008. However, for black American men the numbers haven't changed. First to feel the effects and last to feel the benefits of economic growth. 

Politics and Playing on Racism and Fear
One other problem is that the image of the uneducated and un- or underemployed African American male simply reinforces a negative image. It naturally feeds on white racist attitudes and stereotypes.
The New York Times Upshot blog found that in 2012
40 percent of white Americans believed that blacks didn’t work as hard as whites. Another 45 percent said that blacks lacked willpower and motivation to get out of poverty.
Add to the conservative view (popularized by Reagan) that poor blacks are parasites to the American way of life. His racially coded rhetoric and strategy was, as Salon points out, extraordinarily effective.The mythic “Chicago welfare queen” and the "strapping young buck" were his favorite examples. Reagan and most of the conservatives that followed him have successfully played on white fears and white prejudice (purely for political advantages).

The book, Our Political Nature; The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, by Avi Tuschman, points out that conservatives by an large always tend to be more ethnocentric than the left. 
By this he means those on the Right- no matter in which country- tend to judge other people and cultures according to the standards of their own culture. That, by definition, tends to make it easier for racism to become part of the discussion, (whether it is acknowledged as such or not.)

Salon, in a review of Tuschman's book, noted that:
Conservatives have more positive feelings toward members of their in-group and higher levels of patriotism toward their country. In the United States they are more likely than liberals to have a flag in their bedroom. On the other side of the coin, the right is more xenophobic toward other countries and members of out-groups.
The rise of the Far Right, the success of the Southern strategy by Republicans, Nixon and Reagan, ensured that racism would always be underlying fixture of American politics.

Targeting the African-American Male
As soon as black males were painted as white Americans' greatest social threat, it was an easy matter to tailor the justice system accordingly.  Let me throw some stats at you for a moment.

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice tells us that nationwide African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that an African American male born in 2001 had a 32% chance of going to jail in his lifetime, while a Latino male has a 17% chance, and a white male only 6%.

I know that's a lot of percentages to digest but the bottom line is pretty simple. The chance of seeing the world from behind bars goes way up the darker your skin is. 
*   *   *
One way to  ensure that society's demands to keep the African American male as far away from the rest of the population is by racial profiling by police.  
On prime example of law enforcement's discriminatory practice is "Stop and Frisk." This common policy has been credited with lowering crimes rates and part of a get-tough-on crime policy. 
However,  The Atlantic casts doubt on those crime reduction claims. 
David Greenberg has conducted the most comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk and crime levels to date, and he finds “no evidence that misdemeanor arrests reduced levels of homicide, robbery, or aggravated assaults.”
It did serve to dampen white Americans fears of the African American and Latinos. Studies show that police are more likely to pull over and frisk blacks or Latinos than whites.
In New York City, eight out of every ten of the stops made were for blacks and Latinos citizens, and 85% of those people were frisked, compared to a mere 8% of the white people stopped.
This, for the white majority, was precisely what the largely white police force was paid to do: to serve and protect..  the white community.
The Truth about Drugs
If racial profiling didn't actually reduce crime, then supporters said, it helped reduce drugs on the streets. Right?
 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) points out that there are a few problems with this line of thinking. 
  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense. 
There's a persistent myth that blacks generally use drugs more than the whites. But how true is that in reality?  One source looks at the facts:
Nearly 20 percent of whites have used cocaine, compared with 10 percent of blacks and Latinos, according to a 2011 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -- the most recent data available.
Higher percentages of whites have also tried hallucinogens, marijuana, pain relievers like OxyContin, and stimulants like methamphetamine, according to the survey. Crack is more popular among blacks than whites, but not by much.
So if black are not using as much as whites then why are they getting arrested more? Is it all due to inherent racism in law enforcement?
Senior Counsel for the United States Program of Human Rights Watch Jamie Fellner is the author of a report entitled, Race, Drugs, and Law Enforcement in the United States

In that report Fellner quotes former New York Police Commissioner Lee Brown who points out that there is a very good reason why police arrest more blacks than whites for drugs sales.
In most large cities, the police focus their attention on where they see conspicuous drug use—street-corner drug sales—and where they get the most complaints.
Conspicuous drug use is generally in your low-income neighborhoods that generally turn out to be your minority neighborhoods . . . . It’s easier for police to make an arrest when you have people selling drugs on the street corner than those who are [selling or buying drugs] in the suburbs or in office buildings. The end result is that more blacks are arrested than whites because of the relative ease in making those arrests.
As well as reinforcing the stereotypes of the conservative public, police under the pressure of filling quotas, arrest African Americans simply because it's a lot easier.

A Mother Jones article quotes NAACP president Cornell Williams Brooks. He said it's not just about bad apples in the police force. It's not about individuals with racist attitudes. Brooks says we are seeing a culture of policing in which people suspected of minor crimes are met with "overwhelmingly major, often lethal, use of force." 
The Mother Jones article also quotes a a former assistant prosecutor in Monmouth County, New Jersey who sums up the situation this way:
"Unfortunately, the patterns that we've been seeing recently are consistent: The police don't show as much care when they are handling incidents that involve young black men and women, and so they do shoot and kill..And then for whatever reason, juries and prosecutor's offices are much less likely to indict or convict."
While accurate facts and figures for the nation are hard to come by, we do know that, according to an analysis of FBI data, white police officers kill black suspects twice a week in the United States, or an average of 96 times a year.

Compare that to the number of police officers killed in the line of duty in 2013. The number was in decline from previous years at 105 deaths. However, keep in mind that included accidents, heart attacks, duty-related illness, electrocutions, falls, training accidents drownings, boating and aircraft accidents, and 911-related illnesses. Excluding those and suddenly you have a total (and a much more realistic number) of- at most- 51 law enforcement fatalities in 2013. Half as many as the average number of African Americans who died at the hands of law enforcement. 

Despite the recent tragic murders of two New York policemen and the manufactured outrage and protests by police, there's a false equivalency here.  The truth is that it is far safer to be a police officer- who voluntarily put their lives on the line for a wage- than it is to be a young urban African American male who spends any time outside of his home. 
*   *   *
Over a half-century has passed since Kennedy appealed to Americans' secular sense of fair-play and the primary Christian commandment.
The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.
 Kennedy asked all Americans to look inward and ask the hard questions. 
We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
The verdict is still out after 50 years.