Black America in Peril

A recent issue of The Economist on p. 25 carried the headline Black America in peril. The article begins with a quote from Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in 1899: “The most difficult social problem in the matter of Negro health…” was why were so few whites bothered by that problem. He carried out a pioneering sociological study of “Negro health” in Philadelphia. His research indicated that: “The Philadelphia Negro” lived and suffered in the worst sections of the city with abominable health care.

Regarding the alleged police murder recently in Minneapolis by a white officer against a black unarmed citizen, one really should see if the issues Dubois identified are still in essence true? The answers point to YES they are. Take a look at D.C., for example. In the two poorest black wards the black residents have little access to decent food and health care. Thus, it should not be surprising that the group most impacted by Covid-19 are blacks. If they contract the virus, they are 2.4 times more likely to die from it than whites. Covid-19 was bound to especially harm those in tightly compacted neighborhoods with high poverty rates coupled with obesity and diabetes issues.

President Obama made a serious effort via the ACA to address these issues by extending Medicaid. The 20 million Americans who received health care thanks to that act were most likely blacks or Latinos. As The Economist pointed out, this helps explain why the opposition to the ACA came primarily from whites especially connected with the GOP. This conclusion was reached earlier by Dr. Kevin Fiscella in The American Journal of Medicine in August, 2015: “In summary, opposition to ACA is largely by white Americans. This opposition seems to be associated with increasing political polarization surrounding the Obama presidency, perceived self-interest, and racial attitudes.” It is noteworthy that now former President Trump had been shrinking the act’s reach through technical changes.

If you add to the Covid-19 results the unemployment rate, due to the various shutdowns, is twice as high among blacks as it is for whites then you are in a better position to understand why there are so many protests and with that riots. Further, there is likely to be a rental crisis regarding payments for those who have lost their jobs or are on layoff. That is especially likely to hit blacks. In Minneapolis, black home ownership was much less than white home ownership.

Finally, we come to perceptions of police relationships with blacks and whites. The gap is large between blacks and whites. Close to 81% of blacks believe that police are far more likely to use deadly force against them than 61% of Hispanics and 33% of whites. Research shows that DWB (driving while black) IS a reality.

Many blacks are certain they are more likely to be followed by department store security guards in upscale stores than whites. Why should it be that a professional black would feel that he must introduce himself to his white neighbors after he and his wife bought a house in their neighborhood to help insure that none of them will call the police about a “suspicious” person in their neighborhood? Why should black professional women need to worry about their sons or husbands being detained by police while driving in a “nice” community? Or how come a well dressed black man hears the sounds of car doors locking as he walks near them in the middle of the day? Or, a black university student having to show a student ID to campus security while walking to the University library on the campus?

Perhaps the most significant current disconnect is the gap between who certain elected politicians blame for the riots and those who actually did cause them. The politicians are quick to blame “outside agitators” (sound familiar to those involved in the Civil Rights movement?) such as Antifa on the left; or, right wing white hate groups. In fact, the evidence suggests that the majority of the perpetrators are local, not from outside. The CBC news team reported that the majority of those arrested, for example, in Minneapolis, came from that region. They have also reported that it appears that too many PDs have not learned the lessons from Ferguson, MO.

They need to be trained in and then held accountable for practicing community policing. That means the police need to know their neighborhoods. That can only happen by walking in them to meet folks and not just drive through them. If its a Spanish speaking neighborhood, the police should be able to converse in Spanish.

In short, we still mostly live in a racially divided society; and, have done so for a long time. Dr. King’s Dream has yet to be fulfilled. So, what will you do about that?