In a previous post we talked about the Black-White Wealth Gap. In case you missed it there was an excellent video from Melissa Harris-Perry giving a very brief but effective overview of the some of the causes of the wealth gap and why blacks have been put at an unfair disadvantage. This post continues that discussion and explains in a little more detail why things are the way they are:
Why are there ghettos and why do so many blacks live there?
Why is black unemployment always twice the rate of white unemployment?
Why black youth graduation rates are so much lower than white youth?
Of course this post can not address all the reasons for our societal woes, but it is meant to give some insight into why the black community (and particularly black men) are at a disadvantage in 2011. When you know the history, pitfalls and traps of the system you can avoid them, survive and prosper.
Most of the ignorant discussion of African American history and its effects on contemporary society go something like this:
"Black people were brought here as slaves, Abraham Lincoln freed them during the civil war, blacks still discriminated against until Martin Luther King freed all the blacks during the Civil Rights movement. Everything has been equal after that so if black people don't have what other races have it must be because they are lazy, criminals, incapable or inept."
How many times have you heard this or a similar argument spouted by some racist, a Republican, or worse a teacher. Without your own proper information and knowledge you are forced to listen to this foolishness without much rebuttal. If you could just give them some concrete examples of the true damage that the past caused, how it shaped the neighborhoods of today and how policies over the past 40 years AFTER the Civil Rights movement have continued to maintain inequality in America. Well below are 10 concrete examples of government and corporate policies that perpetuate poverty and inequality in America. But first:
A brief and general history of the African American Experience 1776 - 1965
Certainly slavery created a situation where for 200 years most blacks in America amassed no wealth while simultaneously building the wealth of millions of white and other Americans. This head start in wealth building obviously put blacks at a major disadvantage. When blacks were freed as a result of the Civil War there was no real restitution, 40 acres and a mule was a cruel joke and blacks basically had to start from square negative 1. In 1876 Jim Crow took over where slavery ended, and the forced segregation of black and white through lynching, intimidation, beatings, etc. effectively created large centralized areas of blacks in less-than-desirable neighborhoods while whites bought property and built businesses in the nicest parts of America. Living on "the wrong side of the tracks" and being huddled into underfunded, undercapitalized areas created the ghettos of today. When white people left these city areas for the suburbs (see "white flight" and the Federal Highway Act of 1956) they took their capital and businesses with them and they did not allow blacks to follow. The result: by the 1960's you had the vast majority of blacks living in "inner city" ghettos or still in the south in rural areas without much industry or big business.
Beyond Civil Rights - What Happened After 1965?
So since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 what has Corporate America and the government done to level the playing field for blacks? Certainly civil rights legislation made overt discrimination illegal and racism certainly is frowned upon today, but instead of outright racism we have moved into a situation where for the past 40 years corporate and government policies have systematically kept black people in disadvantageous situations and have not allowed for equal growth. For every Affirmative Action or "special program" designed to help African Americans there are multiple policies working against black advancement. Below are 10 such policies that unfairly impact black men, the black family structure and the black community..
10 Policies That Destroy Black Men and The Black Community
Redlining is the practice employed by banks used to deny loans and services to people based on race or the racial composition of a neighborhood. It is called “redlining” because banks would draw a red line around an area and would deny loans or services to all people who live within the red boundary. Redlining has been primarily targeted at African Americans and there are many examples of low-income whites getting access to loans while middle and upper-class blacks are denied. Although redlining comes in many flavors the two most abusive and destructive to the black family and the black community have been redlining in the areas of housing and business. From the 1860s to the mid 1930s blatant racism and Jim Crow prevented blacks from moving into property-appreciating white neighborhoods. From 1935 (see History of Redlining) until the turn of the century redlining took the job over. Even after the civil rights legislation of the 1960s redlining was common practice with the major banks and persisted well into the 1990s. During this 150 year period whites were able to buy homes and watch their property values grow, while many blacks were forced to remain in less desirable neighborhoods where businesses and services were scarce, and property values were low. The result of this institutional racism was the maintenance of urban ghettos where blacks rent from rich whites or corporate owners or live in government sponsored housing. As home ownership is one of the top 4 ways to get rich in America it is no wonder that many blacks have not been able to build or grow wealth.
Corporate banks not only redlined blacks to keep them in the “hood”, they also used their policies to insure that many job-producing businesses could not be started there. The “line” drawn by banks around the inner city prevented blacks who lived there from getting loans to start businesses that could spark economic growth for the neighborhood and upward mobility for individuals. The result: lack of wealth building and upward mobility and joblessness, which leads to a lower tax base, lower property values, higher crime and of course, the widening of the black-white wealth gap. The banks effectively allowed the rich to get richer, the middle class to develop and forced the poor black family to stay poor.
2. Supermarket Redlining
This could actually be called 1a as it deals with the same issue of the negative impact of financial institutions controlling neighborhood expansion. Supermarket Redlining (sometimes called "grocery store redlining") is the practice of mega supermarkets (think Safeway) that decide not to put supermarkets in lower-income neighborhoods in favor of rich neighborhoods where they think they will make more profits. This redlining leaves poor black communities without quality food and subsequently health problems (like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity). Not only is health affected but the cost of groceries at liquor stores and convenience stores tend to be 200% higher or more, making the poor poorer. Trips 5 to 10 miles or more to get to Safeway cost gas, wear and tear on the car and lost time with family or from work. Although this redlining is done to increase profits, there is no evidence that supermarkets in rich areas make any more money than those in poor neighborhoods. For another perspective on supermarket redlining see this article at WhyHunger.org.
3. Liquor Lining
This is the reverse of the redlining in items 2 and 3. Liquor Lining is the encouragement and funding of certain types of stores in poor areas (in this case liquor stores) because the bank thinks that the business can succeed there. Did you ever wonder why there are so many liquor stores, gun shops, convenience stores (think 7-11), and fast food joints in the hood? It's because these are the types of businesses that the banks will fund first. A computer software company or some other business will receive much more funding scrutiny than "Joe's Gun Shop", so the result is a neighborhood filled with booze, guns, and 24-hour stores - a perfect breeding ground for crime. Not sure if this is true? Try finding a gun shop in Beverly Hills or any other rich neighborhood.
4. The "Drug War"
Perhaps no other set of policies has been more damaging to the African American community than the so-called “war on drugs” Started during the Nixon presidency in the 1970’s, the war on drugs was supposed to cut down on the sale and use of marijuana and other drugs by the radical youth of the 60’s. Instead it has become a free license to round up and jail minorities at a rate 10 to 1 versus the rest of the population. The Rockefeller Drug Laws, which were first introduced in New York in 1973, created extremely harsh penalties for drug offenses including new marijuana laws and disproportionate punishment for drug offenses. This new war on drugs (which coincided with the privatization of prisons) meant that the government and the private sector had an incentive to lock up as many people as possible. Black men in the inner city were and are an easy target.
“500 FBI agents, coming after us.
With a license to kill 30 mil - claiming it’s just a drug bust” – Chuck D of Public Enemy - Hazy Shade of Criminal
During the first few years of Rockefeller adoption over 90% of the people incarcerated were minorities, with most being African Americans locked up for marijuana-related offenses. According to the NYCLU by the year 2000 93% of new drug law incarcerations were black or latino while only 6% were white, even though blacks and whites use drugs at virtually the same rate.
The result has been a devastation of African American families and a lost generation of millions of black male felons who after leaving prison cannot vote, cannot easily find work or places to live. The years of lost wages, plus the inability to find new work only expands the black–white wealth gap.
To read more about this topic see Warning: Smoking Weed Can Be Hazardous To Your Freedom and Because We Destroyed Ourselves
Stop-and-frisk is one of the most controversial and unbalanced tools of law enforcement in the last 50 years. Prior to the civil rights legislation blacks were stopped and frisked (and arrested and jailed) routinely. Since the passage of stop and frisk in 1967 blacks find themselves literally in the same situation as 50 years ago. Over 80 percent of people who are “stopped and frisked” are African American or Latino, and the policy is used almost exclusively in the black community. In 2010 New York policeman stopped more blacks than the entire population of Wyoming (read more).
Many describe stop-and-frisk as being “a prisoner in your own neighborhood”, and being a personal victim of stop-and-frisk in 2006 I can say that it is humiliating, scary and damaging to the psyche to be swooped up on by several police, handcuffed, thrown in the back of a police car and taken to jail with no charges filed, no probable cause and no right to protest. Lawsuits have popped up in record numbers in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and New York for use of this law to basically “red tag” black men to make it easier to arrest them in the future.
Nearly 90 percent of the people in the stop-and-frisk database are innocent of any crime, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
6. Predatory Lending
Where redlining leaves off, predatory lending begins. In fact, many refer to predatory lending as "reverse redlining" where African Americans are purposely steered into committing to home loans that they are unqualified for. This practice boosts profits for corporate banks (as they make more loans), but destroys black families as they have found themselves victims of foreclosure and eviction when they can't pay the note. Predatory lending is largely responsible for the housing crash of 2006 and its effects on the economy are still felt today. What many don't realize is that this practice started well before the turn of the century with African American and Latino families being easy targets.
Subprime lenders have been pushing bad loans on African Americans for decades and as this 2007 NYU study shows the process continues today irrespective of the wealth of African American families. Although residents are beginning to fight back through lawsuits against corporate banks the damage has already been done as black families and entire communities have been devastated. In a few short years plummeting property values and continued foreclosures have wiped out much of the financial gains that African Americans had achieved through home ownership.
7. Bank Growth Policies
Banks are a necessary evil. Banks have all the money so if you want a loan you must use a bank. Banks also perform all of the major financial transactions and services for businesses as well as individuals. If you want to manage your money efficiently and cost effectively you must open a checking account and use the services that banks provide like electronic bill pay, direct deposit, etc.
With all that being said large corporate banks and financial institutions are not making themselves available in to the poor people who so desperately need their services. In a December 2009 FDIC study of 685 banks only 18% had established new branches in low-income areas. In other words, providing banks in underserved minority communities was not a priority for 82% of the major banking corporations. What many major financial institutions (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank to name a few) have prioritized is funneling billions of dollars of funding to predatory check cashing and payday advance loan establishments that dot the landscape of the inner city.
A recent study by the Center for Responsible Lending showed that payday loan stores are nearly eight times more concentrated in California's African-American and Latino neighborhoods as compared to white neighborhoods, draining these communities of some $250 million in payday loan fees annually. Check cashing and payday loan businesses offer some of the most usury interest rates in history, with some payday loans having an annual interest rate of close to 400%! These institutions rob the poor of the little money they earn and with few "real" banks in close proximity poor African American men, women and the elderly are forced to use these payday loan sharks.
8. Truancy Practices
Many students skip school from time to time. It is an age-old tradition and one that is likely not to affect you too negatively if it is done on sporadic occasions. Chronic truancy however is a big issue as lost days from school will definitely negatively impact the quality of your education. Punishment for chronic truancy can be harsh from parental punishment to incarceration in youth homes or penal facilities. Disproportionate application of truancy laws against inner city African American youth has raised its head as one of the many factors that is affecting the ability for young African Americans to get a quality education.
If a child is truant he is truant, irrespective of the color of his skin, but when the overwhelming majority of truant pickups is African American there is a serious problem, especially in light of the fact that white and other race children skip school at similar rates to blacks. An absolutely unbelievable story was published in the Los Angeles Times that documents the inequality of truant ticketing in LA. Here is the link to the story and below is the amazing statistic.
"City and school police issued more than 47,000 tickets from 2004 to 2009, 88% of them to African Americans and Latinos, according to data compiled by activists through public records requests. And not one of the more than 13,118 curfew tickets issued by the school police went to a white student, advocates said." - source LA Times April 14 2011
Not only are African American youth the victims of this policy they (or their parents) are forced to pay fines of up to $2000. Another example of the government robbing the poor and victimizing the victim.
For more analysis on the inception of this policy follow this link.
Welfare is one of the most controversial social programs in America. There is no doubt that millions of Americans legitimately need welfare and use it to survive and feed their families. It is also a fact that welfare has been misused by some; using welfare as a means to live off the government dole, have multiple children and live a life free of the 9 to 5 job that others are forced to endure. The reality of welfare is that it is a safety net for poor people who cannot find work and must receive some form of assistance or they and their dependents will die. Die.
There will always be abusers of any program, but to assume that all black women on welfare are ultra-breeding “welfare queens” and “black men are lazy” are wrong-headed stereotypes created and perpetuated by haters of welfare and social programs like it. Although the welfare reform of 1996 certainly helped to put many welfare recipients back to work and restored some of the black fathers to families that were broken up by welfare policies, it is still not a solution to poverty or decreasing the black-white wealth gap. The only way that will be achieved is if welfare is reformed again; giving away less money to the poor and spending more money training and educating the poor on how to get high-paying jobs that will actually sustain a family and offer advancement that will ultimately lift the family into the middle class.
10. Minimum Wage Law
While corporate profits and CEO pay have both soared over the past 20 years, Republican congressman and senators have held fast on keeping the minimum wage as low as possible. Over the past 20 years the minimum wage has actually decreased related to inflation while CEO salaries have quadrupled.
Source: Executive Excess 2006
With such a low minimum wage there is very little incentive to work 40 hours a week versus taking a government welfare check. While Republicans and Tea Partiers consistently complain about government "entitlement programs" like welfare, their elected officials have consistently voted against increasing the minimum wage; thus discouraging the poor to find full time employment via minimum wage jobs. Refusing to create a decent minimum wage has forced many to take welfare and become the scapegoats of the angry middle class. This tension only inhibits race relations and makes it more difficult for the poor and middle class to come together to fight the real enemy - the greedy CEOs and the corrupt government officials who hold the middle class and the poor down.
As we can see, many of these 10 policies are extensions or transitions from racist policies of the past to capitalistic policies of today. As America has transferred from racism to unfettered capitalism as the means to subject the masses blacks, the poor, and increasingly the middle class are being forced into a situation of perpetual second-class citizenship. Crying racism will get you nowhere. This is not racism, this is capitalism. Blaming Republicans will get you nowhere. These are not Republican policies these are pro-corporation policies instituted by Republican pawns doing the bidding of mega-corporations who really run this country and the world. Blaming the racist fool on the street will get you nowhere. He will probably be destroyed by the corporation and politics that he so foolishly supports. Know your TRUE enemy and focus your efforts. Evil corporate policies and government practices that stand in the way of TRUE freedom must be abolished. The revolution is coming and the masses are waking up. Do you know what side you're on?
End Racism Forever
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