BI 3223 Worldviews, Lipscomb University
The Racial Divide (part 2)
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF RACE
- Our society provides white people in general with greater financial resources, a wider range of personal choices, more power, and more self-esteem (Feagin 177).
- For instance, white men often get better discount offers at car dealerships than blacks, even when the black customers have higher credit ratings (2018 study).
- A 2020 report concludes that whites receive more business loans from banks than blacks. (link)
- “In 2016, white women working full time earned $57,559 on average compared to $45,261 for black women working full time, according to US Census data.” (link)
- “Since 1990 white applicants [for jobs] received, on average, 36% more callbacks than black applicants and 24% more callbacks than Latino applicants with identical résumés.” (2020 study)
- In 2019 black families owned 3% of total household wealth in America despite making up 15% of households. White families owned 85% of total household wealth but made up 66% of households (link).
- Even among blacks, being closer to white is perceived by some as an advantage. Both whites and blacks attribute more positive values and greater social status to lighter-skinned blacks (2020 study). Blacks with darker skin color earned $.79 for every dollar that light-toned blacks earned (Goldsmith, 2007 study).
- This “shadism” remains true even in predominantly black countries such as Jamaica, as one former student from there told me; lighter skinned blacks have more privileges and benefits. Another student from Ghana confirmed that this happens in African countries as well.
- Wealth passes down from generation to generation. The main reason more blacks are currently worse off than whites, according to Shapiro, is that today’s blacks inherited less wealth from their parents than today’s whites did. It is not hard to see why: the previous generation of blacks accumulated less wealth because discrimination in their day kept most of them poor and denied them opportunities white Americans enjoyed.
- The disparity in wealth not only persists, it mushrooms. Without a cushion of inherited wealth, emergencies hit harder, and people without savings have to let economic opportunities pass by. Because of the wealth deficit, blacks find themselves more vulnerable to emergencies and less able to capitalize on investment options than whites with the same income. So the next generation will inherit less, too.
- Blacks and other minorities have suffered disproportionately from the 2020 COVID-related economic downturn. “Even before Covid-19 hit the US in full force, black Americans had an unemployment rate that was almost twice the national rate. In February 2020 the black unemployment rate was 5.8%. The white unemployment rate was 3.1%.” The COVID economic setback has only made those statistics worse for minorities. (link)
- Housing is another problem. Because neighborhoods are often racially segregated, black homes do not grow in value as fast as white homes do. Shapiro calculates that housing segregation costs blacks tens of thousands of dollars in home equity.
- Unfortunately, many whites fail to recognize these differences. Shapiro’s interviews convinced him that many whites hide their privilege from themselves. People who inherited most of their wealth told Shapiro that they were self-made and self-reliant. White parents use wealth to send their children to private schools or to give their adult children down payments for homes. They do not see how such practices also pass today’s inequalities on to the next generation.
- There is nothing wrong with parents passing on wealth to their children or seeing that they get good education, but we need to recognize that this is one factor in explaining the inequality that exists; we should not attribute lack of prosperity among minorities solely to their lack of initiative or hard work.
- Studies show that affluent white Americans overestimate the economic gains which black Americans have made in the last few decades. In surveys whites say they believe black incomes are much more equal to whites than they truly are. In fact, the difference in white and black earnings is increasing. In 1979, the average black man in America earned about 80% of the average white man. By 2016, this gap had grown, not shrunk, with the average black male making only 70% of the hourly wage of the average white male worker. (link)
- In the South, decades of “white flight” where whites have left inner cities for more prosperous suburbs, have created pockets of severe poverty. For example, Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s largest city, has struggled economically. 82% of residents are black. The city’s median income is $39,000. 25% live below the poverty line. (link)
- “We cannot solve problems that we do not know exist, or that we think are already solving themselves.” (link)
- These are worldview issues. When some assume that all Americans have an equal opportunity to succeed, they tend to blame the individual for financial problems rather than a biased society.
- Public opinion polls show that Americans support the general idea of affirmative action in its original sense of nondiscrimination, guaranteeing a fair opportunity to everyone, but not in the later sense of offering special opportunities for minorities such as lowering standards or quotas for jobs (Huntington, Who 152).
- “Many of the inconsistencies in American racial attitudes point to a deep contradiction between two values that are at the core of the American creed: individualism and egalitarianism [equality]. Americans believe strongly in both. … Liberals stress the primacy of egalitarianism and the social injustice that flows through unfettered individualism. Conservatives enshrine individual freedom and the social need for mobility and achievement as values endangered by collectivism.”
- A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that 75% of Republicans thought that blacks who couldn’t get ahead in our society were responsible for their own failure, whereas only 28% of Democrats agreed; most Democrats place the blame on lingering discrimination in our society. (link)
Thomas Sowell, a black conservative, reviews the early history of affirmative action laws:
- The original equal opportunity laws passed in the 1960s required that people be judged on their qualifications without regard to race, sex, age, but affirmative action laws since the ‘70s require that they be judged with regard to such group membership, offering preferential treatment to insure meeting racial quotas.
- 1964 Civil Rights Act did not require employers to achieve a racial balance or to grant preferential treatment to any individual on account of an imbalance. It addressed only “intentional discrimination.” One senator assured critics that an all-white workplace could continue to hire the best qualified workers even if they were white.
- 1968 US Dept of Labor, Federal Contract Compliance guidelines began to use language such as “goals and timetables” and “fair representation,” but at this point these were goals for non-discrimination.
- In 1970 the guidelines referred to “results-oriented procedures,” implying more minorities must be represented. In 1971 “goals and timetables” meant employers had to work toward an increase in the number of minorities represented in the workplace, even if this meant hiring people because of their race.
- Lyndon Johnson in 1965 said we want all Americans to engage in the race to success, but some have arrived at the starting line with shackles on their legs (Lipset 118).
- Surprisingly, it was the Republican Nixon administration that first introduced quotas as part of affirmative action, over the opposition of trade unions, black civil rights leaders and congressional Democrats (Lipset 120).
The case for Affirmative Action
- Those who favor AA argue that its opponents mistakenly believe (1) the civil rights movement was successful in practically eliminating discrimination in labor, courts, and education; (2) America is becoming a color-blind society, thus there is no need for affirmative action which gives privileges based on color; (3) racial inequality, if it still exists, is due to blacks failing to take responsibility for their lives, and take advantage of opportunities which are there for everyone; they do not work hard enough or try to better themselves (Brown 1-7).
- The early “color-blind” laws were needed as a first stage to rid society of laws that were discriminatory. However, now that those overt injustices have been corrected for the most part, there remain more subtle forms of discrimination, “deeply rooted institutional practices,” which can only be corrected by giving some preferential treatment to minorities (Brown 58). Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman wrote in a 1978 decision: “In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently” (Thernstrom 414).
- White opponents to AA object when minorities are given preferential treatment to enroll in the best universities such as Harvard. However, they overlook the preferences given to the children of famous white alumni (such as George Bush) and of large donors to the school, sometimes worth 300 added points (out of 1600) to SAT scores, more points than affirmative action adds for race. Whiteness offers unearned privileges as well, which opponents to AA do not want to admit.
- Polls show that 78% of whites say that affirmative action hurts whites as a form of reverse discrimination, but only 7% claim it has hurt them or someone they know directly (Patterson 64). Contrary to white fears, several studies show that equally qualified blacks continue to be less likely to get jobs when competing with whites (Feagin 160).
- “Affirmative action has been hurt by a certain amount of cheating, although this has been exaggerated. The cynical promotion of clearly unqualified people, even if it happens only occasionally, greatly damages the legitimacy of the entire policy since it takes only one such mistake to sour an entire organization” (Patterson 158).
- Although he supports the conservative emphasis on individual responsibility, Patterson also sees the need for society to intervene to insure equal opportunity to succeed: “It is evident that a person’s capacity to act autonomously can be stunted by being disadvantaged and excluded. Behaving autonomously is itself something we learn mainly by doing. This is the classic case of the divine paradox: to him that hath it shall be given; to him that hath not, it shall be taken away. Success breeds success, failure, failure. How do the “hath nots” break out of the trap? They do so by struggling for access. The most important way in which affirmative action helps those who are on the outside is to provide them with access to circles and networks that they would otherwise almost never penetrate” (Patterson 159-60).
The case against Affirmative Action
- Shelby Steele, a conservative black scholar, discusses how both white and black society use white guilt for their own purposes, which rarely help to resolve to real problems of black society.
- On the one hand, white guilt allows blacks to “use America’s fully acknowledged history of racism just as whites had always used their race – as a racial authority and privilege that excuses them from certain responsibilities, moral constraints, and even the law” (Steele 54). “This power [of white guilt] to shame, silence, and muscle concessions from the larger society on the basis of past victimization became the new ‘black power.’ Then … it evolved into what we call today ‘the race card’” (Steele 55). White society will then do almost anything to avoid being labeled as racist.
- The problem, Steele says, is that blacks have given whites all the responsibility to correct the situation: “no black problem – whether high crime rates, poor academic performance, or high illegitimacy rates – could be defined as largely a black responsibility, because it was an injustice to make victims responsible for their own problems” (Steele 55).
- “Since the sixties black leaders have made one overriding argument: that blacks cannot achieve equality without white America taking primary responsibility for it. Black militancy became, in fact, a militant belief in white power and a correspondingly militant denial of black power” (Steele 60).
- On the other hand, white society uses programs like affirmative action primarily to alleviate their guilt, not to solve the problems: “White guilt generates only ‘results,’ affirmative action-style reform – reform that brings moral authority to whites without the bother and expense of minority development” (Steele 64). Since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, white society has made efforts to take responsibility for the problems of black Americans. In doing so, they have only continued to exploit blacks, treating them as victims rather than equals. Affirmative action and welfare are ways for whites to avoid the stigma of racism, to feel righteous and acquire an easy moral authority without addressing the true underlying problems of black Americans.
- “The greatest black problem in America today is freedom. All underdeveloped, formerly oppressed groups first experience new freedom as a shock and a humiliation because freedom shows them their underdevelopment and their inability to compete as equals” (Steele 67). “Preferential affirmative action, the classic results-oriented racial reform, tells minorities quite explicitly that they will not have to compete on the same standards as whites” (Steele 61).
- “Freedom seems to confirm all the ugly stereotypes about the group, especially the charge of inferiority, and yet the group no longer has the excuse of oppression. Without oppression … the group itself becomes responsible for its inferiority and non-competitiveness. So freedom not only comes as a humiliation but also as an overwhelming burden of responsibility. … We [blacks] avoid the terrifying level of responsibility that freedom imposes by arguing that whites should be responsible for our development. We even define full black responsibility as an intolerable injustice. … Freedom scared the hell out of us” (Steele 67-8).
- “White guilt … exploited our terror of freedom in precisely the same way that plantation owners once exploited our labor. Whites needed responsibility for our problems in order to gain their own moral authority and legitimacy. So they set about once again to exploit us, to encourage and even nurture our illusions, to steal responsibility from us” (Steele 69). “The very structure of the liberal faith – that white society must facilitate black uplift – locks white liberals into an unexamined white supremacy. They can’t really believe in blacks but they must believe in whites” (Steele 148). Thus most programs designed by white liberals actually benefit whites by soothing their consciences and sustaining their power as the majority, rather than offering real help to the black community by giving blacks the responsibility over their own lives and problems.
- The term “welfare” broadly refers to government programs for the poor such as aid to families with dependent children, Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, school lunch programs, low-rent housing, unemployment compensation.
- Welfare was originally designed to assist people out of dependence. John F. Kennedy said the purpose of the “war on poverty” was “to help our less fortunate citizens to help themselves. … We must find ways of returning far more of our dependent people to independence.” Pres. Johnson’s theme: “Give a hand, not a handout.” Unfortunately, public assistance more than doubled from 1960 to 1977 (Sowell, Vision of the Anointed 9-13).
- Welfare is not exclusively a black issue. In 2016 16% of those on welfare were white, 21% Hispanic and 18% Asian. However, welfare does affect the black community disproportionately with almost 40% of the total in 2016 (US Dept. of Commerce statistics, link).
- Martin Gilens argues that welfare has become a “race-coded” topic. Among Americans, negative attitudes toward welfare are in part a reflection of white association of blacks with welfare. Surveys indicate that more people believe blacks are less committed to the work ethic than are other Americans. Those who associate welfare mostly with blacks are more likely to say that the recipients do not want to work and do not deserve the assistance, while those who believe most on welfare are white assume most want to work but cannot due to circumstances beyond their control (Gilens 140).
- “Many Americans assume poverty is a black problem while ‘economic anxiety’ is more widespread among whites who deserve better. Poverty is more often regarded as an outgrowth of moral failings or a faint work ethic, the problem of black people who haven’t done their part. … A review of local and national news stories found that between 2015 and 2016, black families represented 59 percent of the poor in the news but made up 27 percent of the nation’s poor in real life.” (source)
- Supporters of welfare argue that many do want to work but there are too many economic barriers. Typically, jobs for unskilled workers are the least reliable in the US economy. For instance, fast food places often require work at irregular hours (night shifts are not possible for single mothers). There is no guarantee of how many hours per week one can have; during slow times a person may be sent home without a full day’s pay. Layoffs are more frequent, and when they happen, unemployment checks sometimes take weeks to start up. Single mothers must consider all these factors, plus travel expenses and daycare, and many times they face the reality of losing money if they work rather than stay on welfare. In addition, most of these low level jobs rarely lead to better positions. They seldom offer the training, experience, or education required to move up the economic ladder, nor do they provide the professional contacts with links to other jobs (Haley, ed. Welfare: Opposing Viewpoints, 2003: 33, 35).
McWhorter, John. Winning the Race. 2005.
- John McWhorter, a black critic of welfare with a PhD in linguistics, describes the problem of poor black society in terms of “therapeutic alienation,” when blacks define themselves by rejecting white culture, values, and standards of success. “The new idea was that America’s racism rendered [white culture] unworthy of any self-regarding black person’s embrace and that therefore blacks were exempt from mainstream standards of conduct and judgment” (58).
- Beginning in the 1960s’ counter-cultural rebellion against Vietnam and the Establishment, white alienation deeply influenced the black community. Justifiable black anger against discrimination and injustice transformed into a mindset which prefers protest to progress, rage to results. “There was a certain thrill in the sheer rebelliousness in itself. … After the smoke cleared, a mood was left in the air, finding pleasure in rebellion for its own sake. Action devolved into gesture” (McWhorter 159). “Whether the efforts of [liberal policy advocates] improved the lives of the people was less important than whether it lent [the leaders] satisfaction, feeling that they were Good People fighting an Evil System. Their actions were really about themselves, not justice or compassion. Their alienation was therapeutic … a form of self-medication” (McWhorter 6-9).
- Racism and prejudicial barriers have always existed for black Americans, but prior to the ‘60s revolution, they worked to overcome them. They shared the work ethic of most Americans and took advantage of the few opportunities they had. With the expansion of welfare coupled with the new attitude of rejecting white values, many poor blacks opted out of seeking employment. Why work when welfare paid more than most unskilled and, in their minds, undesirable jobs? Earning “chump change” at McDonalds was now beneath their dignity (McWhorter 67).
- McWhorter calls it the one-two punch: now it became possible to survive without work at the same time as the word on the street defined being black in opposition to white society (68). “Black Americans are [now] defined by defiance. … It gives one the sense that the rules are different for us. Things considered ordinary requirements of others [such as riding a bus to work in a factory] are ‘too much’ for us. Choices considered inappropriate by others [such as unwed motherhood or absent fatherhood] are ‘understandable’ for us.” (154) Living off charity was no longer considered shameful.
- In an effort to avoid blaming the victim, “scholarly work on blacks pretends that we are the world’s only people whose culture has no negative traits.” Always blaming The Man for black poverty assumes that “poor blacks are driven only by external forces [they can’t or aren’t willing to overcome]. And this is nothing less than a dehumanization of black Americans. Haven’t we dealt with enough of that?” (McWhorter 228-31)
INSTITUTIONAL OR SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION
- Discrimination can be perpetrated both by individuals and by our society: individual whites acting against individual blacks (or the reverse), and actions taken by institutions or social systems, created by and for the white majority, which either purposely or inadvertently discriminate against minorities.
- Institutional discrimination is a pattern of unequal treatment that is unfair to minority groups but inherent within the ordinary operations of social institutions.
- Example: some businesses require educational credentials as qualifications for jobs that do not really need such background (flipping burgers), thus discriminating more against minorities who on average have fewer high school or college degrees. The employer may have no intention of special discrimination by having this requirement.
- In Black Power (1967) Stokely Carmichael coined the term “institutional racism” as the seemingly impersonal behavior of white society which allows “respectable” individuals to dissociate themselves from the acts of overt racists, while continuing to benefit from the ways in which institutions maintain white privilege. Carmichael considered all institutional bias as intentional racism, created and perpetuated by the dominant society to maintain white privileges.
- Wachtel admits that such institutional biases exist and need correction, but thinks that calling all of these problems by the loaded term racism allows whites to dismiss the charges because they are not intentional acts of hatred. “The rhetoric of institutional racism … leads people to focus on personal attitudes in a way that obscures the institutional dimension” (31-34).
Unintentional systemic discrimination occurs when people working within the system do not recognize unfair practices. A person is not a racist just because he does not see these institutional biases. Wachtel sees institutional bias as the result of indifference rather than race hatred. Do we truly care about others who are not like ourselves? Do we care enough to take the time to study and understand the complex problems? (37)
- Even our language symbols give negative connotation to “black”: black sheep, blackball, black-hearted, black list, blackmail, black magic. In contrast we speak of little white lies, white knight, whitewash, white as snow (innocent).
- In the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, the slogan “Black is beautiful” became popular as a way to remedy the negative connotation of “black.”
- For many years, sentencing was more severe for users of crack cocaine (who are more often black) than of powder cocaine (more often white) (Brown 60). Under former guidelines someone with 5 grams of crack cocaine would receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, the same as someone possessing 500 grams of powdered cocaine. Congress addressed this disparity in 2010 with the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing the discrepancy from 100:1 to 18:1 (still a significant difference).
- In one study, bail for black defendants was 35% higher than whites for similar crimes, yet bail bondsmen considered blacks less of a flight risk than whites because they have less available money (Feagin 149).
- Defendants who kill whites are four times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill blacks. Black men who rape white women are 18 times more likely to get the death penalty than white rapists or those who rape black women (Wachtel 203). If our justice system were truly color-blind as some claim, all these crimes would be punished equally.
- “Blacks, who make up about 13% of the population, have accounted for 52% of the people executed in state and federal jurisdictions since 1930” according to a 2004 report (Bonilla-Silva 47).
- Black children are 18 times more likely to be sentenced as adults than white children, and make up nearly 60 percent of children in prisons, according to the APA.
- A 2016 study conducted by Harvard found that in Boston, black people made up 63% of the civilians who were interrogated, stopped, frisked or searched by police even though they were only 24% of the population.
- Banks sometimes use a procedure called “red-lining” where certain areas, such as poor inner-city communities, are designated as high risk. Thus, anyone living in these areas, no matter what their personal credit rating is, can be denied a loan to buy a new home or improve their property. Whites with the same credit history but living in another part of town receive loans. This practice continues to keep the poor community in run-down condition, perpetuating the poverty.
- According to a Federal Reserve report in 2006, blacks and Hispanics on average pay more for home mortgages and higher interest rates on loans (Better, Institutional Racism 2008, 46).
- 72% of white families own homes compared to 42% of black families (US Census, 2018).
- In a 2021 study “How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans,” Dorothy Brown, professor at Emory University, points out how the tax code is optimized for white people, with the result that in the U.S.’s supposedly race-neutral tax code, black people end up paying more than white people with the same incomes. For example, interest paid on home mortgages is deductible, but there’s no comparable deduction for renters, who are disproportionately black. Consider tax incentives on 401(k)s and other types of retirement savings plans. Only about half of U.S. workers have a retirement account, and they’re disproportionately white. Brown is often asked: Does all this mean the writers of these tax laws were racist? “The question of intent is really irrelevant,” she says. “It’s hurting black Americans whether Congress meant to or not.” (link)
- A 2002 study submitted resumes with white-sounding and black-sounding names but with equal credentials. Those who appeared to be white (race was not given on the resume) were called back for interviews 30% more than the black-sounding candidates (Bowles 363). These results were confirmed in a similar 2017 study (link).
- Black Americans with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed. The median wealth of Black college grads is just $23,400 compared to $180,500 for white college grads (link).
- Whites are 89% more likely to be recommended for coronary bypass surgery than blacks (Emerson 14).
- Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy than white women (2017 study).
- Infant mortality rates are higher among blacks than among white Americans: 22.2 per 1,000 births for black Americans versus 10.1 per 1,000 for whites (National Center for Health Statistics, 2013).
- Differences in access to health care (that is, health insurance coverage and/or the ability to pay for health care) might explain part of these differences, but not all. Differences in health care treatment even among the insured also contribute to disparities. “Even when their insurance and income are the same as those of whites, minorities often receive fewer tests and less sophisticated treatment for a panoply of ailments, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.” (link)
- A 2007 study found that doctors, who on psychological tests showed no racial bias, diagnosed black and white heart patients differently. They recommended a certain clot-breaking procedure for heart attacks more often for whites than for blacks. The study concluded, “No conscious bias was apparently present; there was no connection between the explicit racial views of physicians and disparities in their diagnoses. … Rather than harboring deliberate ill will, the physicians had apparently internalized racial stereotypes, and these attitudes subtly influenced their medical judgment without their even realizing it.” (link) Later studies have confirmed this report.
- In a 2015 report: “Living in the affluent white neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland, means on average an additional 10 years of life compared to people who are born in primarily poor, black southeast Washington, D.C., only 10 miles away. Where we live can determine opportunities to access high-quality education, employment, housing, fresh foods or outdoor space – all contributors to our health.” (link)
- In a 2019 study, “An algorithm commonly used by hospitals and other health systems to predict which patients are most likely to need follow-up care classified white patients overall as being more ill than black patients — even when they were just as sick. Overall, only 18% of the patients identified by the algorithm as needing more care were black, compared to about 82% of white patients. If the algorithm were to reflect the true proportion of the sickest black and white patients, those figures should have been about 46% and 53%, respectively.” (link)
- “People of color are more likely to work in low-wage jobs classified as essential, without the ability to take time off, get adequate personal protective equipment, or avoid exposure to people who refuse to wear masks. Those elements, combined with other socioeconomic factors such as segregated housing and lack of health care, suggest that black and brown Americans will contract and die from Covid-19 at much higher rates than their white peers.” (link)
- “Covid-19 care was significantly delayed for Black and Hispanic patients due to inaccurate oxygen readings from devices that can work poorly in darker-skinned individuals. The finding may be one reason much higher Covid-19 mortality rates have been seen in communities of color across the United States. Widely used pulse oximeters, which measure oxygen levels by assessing the color of the blood, have been under increasing scrutiny for racial bias because they can overestimate blood oxygen levels in darker-skinned individuals and make them appear healthier than they actually are. A 2020 study found pulse oximeters were three times less likely to detect low oxygen levels in Black patients than in white patients. Two months after that report, the Food and Drug Administration issued a safety communication alerting patients and clinicians that the devices could be erroneous in those with dark skin. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows the inaccuracies in oxygen measurement occurred at higher rates than in white patients not only in Black patients, but also in Hispanic and Asian patients, and that those inaccuracies had real-world consequences. The study provided evidence that undetected low oxygen levels led to delays in Black and Hispanic patients receiving potentially lifesaving therapies, and in many cases, led to patients not receiving treatment at all.” (link)
- In many states, blacks are under-represented in local and federal governments due to gerrymandering, artificially created voting districts to insure a majority of whites. This practice occurs when the majority party in a state redraws the districts in order to favor their own candidates. In 2022, the Republican-led legislature in Tennessee broke up the voting district of Davidson County, which typically favored Democrats, into three districts stretching outside the county into predominantly white areas, thus diluting the impact of black voters in Davidson County.
- Other methods involve the purging of voter-registration rolls without notifying voters in time to re-register, and having more at-large representatives (which favors the white majority) in place of more, smaller districts where blacks and other minorities might get elected (Feagin 144).
- Voter ID laws: In April 2017 “a federal district court held that Texas’ voter ID law was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Voter ID laws are a common method of voter suppression that disproportionately target voters of color. According to data cited by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit … in Texas ‘Blacks were 1.78 times more likely than Whites, and Latinos 2.42 times more likely, to lack’ voter ID. … While Texas claimed that its law exists to prevent voter fraud, not to disenfranchise voters of color, the evidence shows that … of the 20 million votes cast in the ten years before this law’s passage, only two people were convicted of the kind of voter fraud that is supposedly targeted by voter ID.” (link)
- In 2022 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation forbidding Florida schools to teach “Critical Race Theory,” which focuses on any form of systemic discrimination (such as this unit has discussed). Ironically, at the same time DeSantis pushed through a plan changing voting districts in the state, eliminating two traditionally black districts.
- A teacher may assume that black students are not as well prepared and may teach down to them, not giving them the challenges that white students receive. In this case the teacher may be honestly trying to help the black students, but is in fact hurting them by demanding less.
- Tracking: Pulling low achievers out of the regular classroom and into special programs is a well-intentioned but misguided strategy. Self-perpetuating little ghettos of low achievers are created, where the teachers’ expectations and the group norms are kept low, and the students only have other low achievers (and perhaps unmotivated teachers) as role models. All students need to remain in a competitive, challenging learning environment in order to compete in the real world.
- “Overcrowded classrooms, crumbling buildings, an absence of textbooks convey to students what society thinks of them and their prospects. In contrast, pleasant, well-equipped suburban schools with amble computers and sports facilities convey to their students a quite different message about how they are valued.” Unfortunately, critics point to low test scores in inner-city schools and argue that it’s a waste of money to support students who, they claim, can’t learn (Wachtel 271).
- Due to “white flight” where a large portion of affluent white families place their children in private schools in the suburbs, many inner-city public schools are as racially segregated today as they were in the 1960s with 95% non-white students (Bonilla-Silva 35).
- “Predominantly white school districts in the US get $23 billion a year more than districts that educate mostly non-white children. A 2019 report from EdBuild, which promotes equity in public schools, found that the average white school district got $13,908 for every student in 2016, compared to $11,682 per student in districts that mostly serve people of color. The money gap — a difference of roughly $2,226 per student — originates in the way Americans pay for education, with locally run schools being tied to local control of taxes. White communities tend to have more money to spend on schools, and white school districts tend to be much smaller than non-white school districts. ‘Small districts can have the effect of concentrating resources and amplifying political power,’ the report says. ‘Because schools rely heavily on local taxes, drawing borders around small, wealthy communities benefits the few at the detriment of the many. The report found that white districts enroll just over 1,500 students — half the size of the national average — while non-white districts serve over 10,000 students, about three times more than that average.” (source)
- Schools are not the only factor in a child’s educational success. A small study found that black children adopted into white families did better in school than those adopted into black families. Some differences: educational games (especially in the early years), how much reading is encouraged in the home, how many educational activities such as museums and libraries are taken, access to home computers, what degree of education the parents had achieved (in Jencks, The Black-White Test Score Gap, 1998).
- In 2016 the average black score on SAT test (used by many universities to determine admission) was 1270. The average white score was 1572. This reflects a 40-year trend. Debates are fierce over whether or not the test itself is racially biased, worded in ways more familiar to whites than blacks. Defenders argue that if the tests favored those from white culture, then Asian students would not have higher averages than whites (which they do). (link)
- A major factor in the SAT racial scoring gap is family income. There is a direct correlation between family income and SAT scores. For both blacks and whites, as income goes up, so do test scores. In 2016 students from families who made less than $20,000 averaged 1314, those over $100,000 averaged 1582, those over $200,000 averaged 1717. (link)
- Black students who study hard are often the subject of peer ridicule. If they work hard to get good grades, they are accused of “acting white” by other blacks. This form of peer pressure to shun academic pursuits undoubtedly has a lowering effect on average black scores, especially in schools which are predominantly non-white.
- Parents with low expectations don’t help; teachers complain that parents are happy when their child simply gets a D or has fewer F’s than last term. One parent scolded a teacher for failing her child: “Are you telling me that the reading grade is based on how well she can read?” (Burrell 162)
- Pres. Obama speaking at the NAACP 2009 Centennial Celebration: “Government programs alone won’t get our children to the Promised Land. We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes, because one of the most durable and destructive legacies of discrimination is the way that we have internalized a sense of limitation, how so many in our community have come to expect so little of ourselves” (Burrell 161).
SOURCES FOR UNIT 4
Barnes, Annie. Everyday Racism. 2000.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. 4th ed. 2014.
Brown, Michael, et al. Whitewashing Race. 2003.
Burrell, Tom. Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. 2010.
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