Monday, April 28, 2008

Race in America--Part Four

I’ve been breaking down the research of John E. Stapleford that is reported out in his very insightful essay, “A Torturous Journey: The Condition of Black America,” (Christian Scholar’s Review, XXXVII, No. 2, Winter 2008, pages 240ff). You can read my previous posts on his work by backtracking a bit (April 15, 18, 24, 2008).

Our nation is involved in a new and serious conversation about race as we head for the general election in November. Stapleford’s work is important for any meaningful conversation based on hard data and genuine understanding of the issues facing the nation and, more particularly, African Americans.

To conserve space, I have summarized much of what he presents, but all of what follows comes from his work.

The way out of the economic hole facing blacks in the United States was found in access to “the job growth centers and quality education available in the suburbs of our older metropolitan areas. But their wealth deficit, among other factors, prevented ordinary black families from participating in the wave of suburbanization. As sons and daughters of sharecroppers, small farmers and laborers in the South as late as the 1940s, blacks not only had a human capital deficit but had little opportunity to accumulate wealth. Sharecropping and farm labor continued a post-slavery version of white supremacy over blacks. . . .There was little or no opportunity for the accumulation of wealth” (242).

Other key factors that excluded our African American neighbors from the wealth and progress of the nation include:

During the 1950s and 1960s, blacks were excluded from both Veterans Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage products.

Numerous (“a wave”) of discriminatory deed restrictions.

The removal of these roadblocks did not offset the lost opportunity for the accumulation of wealth via the rapid appreciation of suburban housing values from which blacks were systematically excluded.

Fact: during the 1990s, nearly 50% of all white families who bought homes got their down payment from family or sources other than their own savings, whereas only one out of 8 African Americans enjoyed such positive options.

Each year a $225 billion intergenerational transfer of wealth occurs in the U. S. For every $1 available for transfer among whites, there is only 10 cents available for transfer among blacks.

The median inheritance of white households is almost 13 times that of black households.

Less than half of black households are homeowners, for whites the number is ¾. Empirical research indicates that renter-dominated urban neighborhoods have a negative impact on health, personal development and school outcomes.

Blacks lack needed transportation to outlying job centers—24% of blacks own no car (7% for whites); this number rises to 70% in high-poverty, inner city neighborhoods; the median value of black-owned vehicles is 42% that of white-owed cars.

From 1960 to the late 1970s, over 22 million whites moved into suburban communities and the white population in central cities declined by 4 million. During the same time frame, black population rose by 6 million in the central cities and the suburbs gained only 500,000 blacks.

Key factors in the creation of the reality we all face today.

[Next: the impact of the decline of urban communities]



Eric Livingston said...

Glad you included the paragraph about car ownership. In my experience lack of transportation has been a major key in lack of access to good employment. If you can't reliably get to work, how can you earn a good wage?

The public transportation system in Jackson, MS is a joke, so we have the problems of urban crime and poverty which are heightened by the lack of good transportation options. Currently what little transportation options are in place (even the rare car owners) are being squeezed by gas prices.

In fact, I just recently tried to figure out how I could ride the bus to the church office every day, but even though I'm halfway smart and pretty resourceful, I couldn't figure out what routes I would need to take in order to make it work.

I know of no other local government program that can more positively impact a community's poverty problem, than public transportation.

Anonymous said...

The analogy that sticks in my head about how behind AA's are financially is that of the baseball game. Imagine two teams playing a game in which one has its hands tied behind its back for the first 5 innings. For innings 6-8, one hand is freed, while the other is still tied. Only in inning 9 are both hands untied. Of course, by then the score is 387 to 5. That is, for me, a vivid picture of where AA's are after slavery (innings 1-5) and Jim Crow (innings 6-8).

Larry James said...

Thanks for these comments.

Eric, the public transit system in Dallas (DART) has been one of them most helpful developments in our city's history over the past almost 25 years now.

c hand said...

A baseball game lasts nine innings, and then a new one is played the next day. Good managers will tell their players to forget yesterdays loss and get ready to play todays game. Good advice?

Larry James said...

Yep, chand, great advice if 1) the rules tomorrow change and 2) somehow all of the "injuries" carried over from the previous game can be healed. If you haven't been there, you'll keep thinking like you presently are. Not a reason to stop playing, just a realistic facing of the facts. That coupled with the fact that white folks are born on third base and wake up claiming they hit a triple. . .

Anonymous said...

c hand -

The analogy is about one game. Maybe a better analogy is that one team had its hands tied for the the last 50 seasons. Even when their hands are untied, they now have a long track record of (unfair) defeat and the team has no real experience at the game. Because, of course, we're actually talking about a time frame of 300 years, and both hands have only been "untied" some 30 years. It's pretty easy for the coach of the "other team" to say "we'll just start the game over tomorrow."