EDITORIAL: Racism is still prevalent today
Our View: This generation has made progress toward racial equality. But don’t call America “post-racial” quite yet.
America has elected a black president, neighborhoods have finally been successfully desegregated and the millenials (born between 1981 and 2001) are the first generation of Americans to grow up without obvious racial biases. This Black History Month, we have a lot to celebrate.
But these accomplishments in no way mean we’re living in, or close to achieving, a “post-racial” society.
On average, white households in the U.S. are 20 times wealthier (in terms of net worth) than that of black and Hispanic households, a July 2011 study by the Pew Research Center showed. This is the largest gap in wealth between whites and minorities since the 1980s.
U.S. Census data shows that 27.4 percent of African-American households lived at or below the poverty line in 2010, compared to 9.9 percent of whites. The data also shows the median yearly income of black households was about $32,000, while white households earned $54,000 per year.
On top of that, the same data shows that black unemployment is nearly double white unemployment. And black women earn about 65 cents to every dollar made by white men, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In 2008, some 44 percent of white 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in higher education, while about 32 percent of black 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. OU isn’t doing much better, with 5.4 percent of students identifying as black compared to 7.4 percent of the state population.
And the problem isn’t limited to economic health and education. According to a 2007 Department of Justice report, people of all races are targeted for traffic stops at a similar rate. But blacks were more than three times more likely to be searched than whites, and they were twice as likely to be arrested.
Black Americans also are more likely to be sentenced to death than a white person for the same crime, according to the Department of Justice.
All of this is still happening in an era when towns and cities are the least segregated they have been for the past century, according to a report released Monday by the Manhattan Institute. The report claims “all-white neighborhoods are effectively extinct.” And yet, eliminating segregation has failed to eliminate racial inequalities.
While many Americans are patting themselves on the back for electing a black president, black youths are still significantly more likely to grow up poor and unable to attend college or end up in prison than their white peers.
Racial inequality is still a problem and will continue to be so because it’s not just about changing people’s perceptions and our cultural discourse. It’s about discovering, challenging and overcoming the deeply entrenched societal systems that privilege the majority and de-privilege minorities of all kinds.
In this way, America may be facing a tougher fight in the years ahead. Yes, this new generation is taking over without an ingrained racially divided outlook. But that may make us less likely to see — or even recognize the need to look for — deeper, more complex schemas that are truly the root of the problem.
Now, more than ever, Black History Month is necessary. This nation cannot become complacent. It cannot believe the problem is over. It cannot stop challenging itself to root out inequality. To do so is only to perpetuate the very real problems our society still grapples with.
We hope these numbers make you angry. We hope they push you to challenge the rhetoric of a “post-racial” society. We hope they inspire you to do something.
And in all that you do, be watchful for the ingrained systems that continue to perpetuate racial inequality — even for us color-blind millenials.