Socioeconomic segregation

Last week, America celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This is the event that ended government sanctioned segregation.  Although the government no longer explicitly endorses it, the spectre of segregation still lingers in America today in the form of economic segregation.

A report in the Washington Post last week caught my attention, but not for what it said.  Titled The economy’s troubling double standard for black men, I was intrigued that someone actually took the time to study our society and saw that the old saying that “Blacks have to work twice as hard to compete” isn’t just some old wives’ tale.

A black man with an associates degree has the same chances — about 88 percent– of finding a job as a white high school graduate, according to a recent analysis of employment rates and education for whites and minorities by Young Invincibles, a nonprofit group focusing on the economic issues impacting millennials. Getting a bachelor’s degree ups those chances to 93 percent for a black man, the same as a white man who dropped out of college.  “In a lot of ways that proves the saying that black people need to work twice as hard to compete in this country as white people,” says Tom Allison, policy and research manager for Young Invincibles and author of the report.

In the year 2013, we were basically told that racism is over by the Supreme Court.  We don’t need the full protection of the Voting Rights Act anymore as we are living in a post-racial America now.  Nevermind the fact that a spate of voter laws followed that decision in an attempt to help Republicans keep their grips on power.  Schools were legally desegregated long ago, although the school systems of today can resemble those of yesteryear.  Even the violence in Chicago, a favorite whipping post for some ideologues, doesn’t leave the perimeter of the neighborhoods where many people are locked in economically.

As the chart at the top partially shows, Black unemployment has consistently been twice the national average for as long as it’s been measured.  Changing segregation laws didn’t change the segregationist mindset.  When Blacks are less likely to get hired, what other avenues do they have to resort to in order to survive here?  Less earning power means less money to be able to fully integrate into American society.  As a result, this country today still economically resembles America circa 1950.

The black middle class, measured by the number of families earning at least $100,000 a year, has grown fivefold in the past 50 years. Now, about one in 10 black households is in that income category. The percentage of blacks older than 25 with high school diplomas has more than tripled. The number of blacks who are college graduates has grown by a factor of 10. Overall, blacks’ buying power is estimated to be nearing $1 trillion, while an increasing number of African Americans serve as company chief executives.

Yet, racial economic disparities are mostly unchanged and in some cases are growing. In 1963, blacks families earned 55 cents for every dollar earned by whites. In 2011, blacks earned 66 cents for every dollar earned by whites. The black unemployment rate averaged 11.6 percent between 1963 and 2012, more than double the white jobless rate over that time.

Source: Washington Post

When you have to be twice as good to earn two-thirds as much, it’s hard to claim that we’re a completely integrated society.  Some people will make claims about education and work ethic, but look at how politicians have been steadily dismantling the public education system in favor of trying to bolster private schools.  Who get’s left behind in that scenario?  The lower-income people, which ultimately affects all races and not just Blacks.  There are the exceptions like Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, and Robert Johnson, but people fail to forget that there was once a “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early 1900s that was full of successful and wealthy Black Americans.

Nobody’s asking for freebies or giveaways.  What people want is an honest and fair shot at making it on their own.  Before passing judgment on someone because of where they live or what they do, consider the circumstances they’re in.  They may not have any other choice beyond their current situation because of the ingrained economic philosophy that has driven America since its inception.  A while back, Ta-Nehesi Coates wrote a thought-provoking column in the Atlantic, The Case for Reparations.  As he eloquently put it, “Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”


10 thoughts on “Socioeconomic segregation

  1. We’re told over and over and over again that African Americans just need to shed their victim mentality, leave the Liberal Plantation and snort some Personal Responsibility Fairy Dust, and all will be right with the world. And then we see the results of a study like the Young Invincibles bit you cited and it’s all, well, exposed for the BS it is.

    All those years of slavery and Jim Crow don’t just go poof in the hearts and minds of the citizenry because the SCOTUS says so, y’know? That “honest and fair shot at making it on their own” isn’t going to happen because we just automagically became good-hearted Americans; it happens because of vigorous, ongoing legal vigilance.

    (And a competent Supreme Court, one that doesn’t just nullify any wee bit of progressive legislation that might happen to get passed. Which will require one of the five right wing zealots to leave, one way or another.)


    • Most anybody who can perform a Google search or open a book can see through that BS. I like the fact that this study comes from someone other than BLS or a different government agency that could be easily dismissed as doing the work for the current administration.

      I knew about some of the effects of slavery and Jim Crow because of first hand stories I’ve been told. The article from The Atlantic exposed me to government sanctioned and condoned programs that I didn’t know the full details about. Me being who I am, I started wearing Google out after reading that.

      Stories, such as this, should be headline news if we’re truly trying to ensure that we all have an equal opportunity to succeed. The corporate owned media tends to gloss over stories like this one because the mass interest isn’t there. They’re only interested in stories about Blacks when there’s blood, crime, or death involved.


  2. I think there are all kinds of things at work here. People, especially in small business, tend to hire people they know, family, people referred by friends, etc. If you’re on the outside looking in to begin with, then your climb is naturally going to be steeper. Then you have the old “you have to have experience” but you can’t get experience if nobody gives you a shot. So that’s another thing people have to overcome, if they don’t know anybody or have an “in”.

    We also used to have a system, whether by design or by accident, where people learned the job on the job. Whether it was white collar or blue collar, people started at the bottom, they company trained them and some of them were able to work their way up. Nowadays, business expects people to pay for their own training (college, tech school, etc) and come to them ready to go. Cuts way down on business expenses if somebody else pays for the training. The business of higher education, and don’t anybody kid yourself, it’s big business, has helped to move this along by helping to convince the world that this is how it should be.

    The real color that matters in this world is green. How do you fix it? You’ll have to ask somebody smarter than me.


  3. Great article.

    We have come a long way as a nation but much more is required for the US to be the true shining light we hold ourselves up to be. This will take work and cooperation along with the continual debunking of the talking points that come with these type issues.

    This is not to say the US is not a great country but when you look behind the current it is evident we still have much work to do on many fronts.


    • Thanks, bro. As long as people ingest the talking points as truth, it’s going to be a long fight. I had a conversation years ago with Bernice King about the incomplete task of integration. Many people forget that MLK Jr was killed while conducting the “Poor People’s Campaign”. He had shifted from just Black issues and was beginning to tackle issues that crossed the color spectrum.


  4. Brosephus: “Before passing judgment on someone because of where they live or what they do, consider the circumstances they’re in. They may not have any other choice beyond their current situation . . .”

    Man, you already know for a fact that conservatives aren’t going to consider that for an instant. Poor = lazy and poor minority = lazy, dirty & shiftless by definition (to them).

    It’s like some weird version of monarchy; the wealthy and powerful are wealthy and powerful because god made them so, and god doesn’t make mistakes. So if you’re poor and uneducated, you deserve it, because if you deserved anything better, god would have already made sure that you got yours.

    Eventually, once the GOP has no more ethnic minorities or homosexuals in its ranks to be run off, they’ll turn on themselves, castigating poor white conservatives for not being on better terms with god. On that day, I shall rejoice, because it means that poor white conservatives are juuuuuust about to figure out that the GOP’s not their friend after all.


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