Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Race in America--Part One

So, how are we doing when it comes to race in America?

Consider these facts:

  • Black household median income is 65% of white household median income, and given the rate of closure over the past 40 years, it will take 150 more years for the nation to reach parity.

  • One of 4 African Americans lives in poverty--for white Americans the ratio is 1 of 12.

  • Over any 4-year period 54% of blacks will have a run of poverty, while in the white community 28% will have the run of bad luck.

  • One-third of black children are poor, compared to 10% of white kids.

  • Black families possess 10 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth held by whites families.

  • Median inheritance for whites is $10,000, compared to $798 for blacks.

  • A person is considered "asset poor" if his/her access to resources is inadequate to meet basic needs for 90 days. The asset poverty rate for white families was 19.7% in 1999. For blacks it was 57.6%.

  • To arrive at residential racial integration, about 2/3 of black households would need to relocate.

  • Blacks make up about 13% of the U. S. population, but own only 5% of all businesses and receive less than one-half of 1% of business sales.

  • Unemployment rates for blacks is twice that of whites.

[from John E. Stapleford, "A Torturous Journey: The Condition of Black America," Christian Scholar's Review, XXXVII:2, Winter 2008, pages 232-233]




Charles said...

I know you've shown that LBJ's War on Poverty made significant gains until derailed by Vietnam. Did they also help improve these disparities? Has there been a point in time where these numbers were better than they are now?

c hand said...

Are these stats as important as those cited by Walter Williams?
He says: Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior

It turns out that race per se has little to do with the difference. Instead, it's welfare and single parenthood. When black children are compared to white children living in identical circumstances, mainly in a two-parent household, both children will have the same probability of being poor.


People can't change their color, they can change behavior.

Anonymous said...

A few points.

1. The same big government that you want to solve all society's problems is responsible for the drug war which incarcerates blacks at an amazing rate.

2. Welfare/socialism has entrenched poverty, not eliminated it. It creates a culture of dependency upon government. http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj16n1-1.html

3. I read somewhere that a cause of racial income disparity is the median age of races (older people have more assets). However I can't remember where I read that.

4. We spend trillions annually on entitlement programs. Newer better government programs aren't the answer.

Janet said...

c hand~
The problems are MUCH more complex than you lead people to believe.

"Graduate from high school." Some of the kids who are graduating from high school in our urban areas can't read....but let's take best case scenarios. Out of the 25-30 students I have worked with on getting into college, probably only about 5 of them have not had to take "developmental" classes. (fyi..."developmental" classes are remedial classes that cost money but give no college credit...I won't go into the problems associated with that here).

So...because of their lack of education, despite attending school just like the rest of us, they are at a disadvantage. The ones who do struggle through the college experience hopefully will get good jobs and make more than minimum wage. But so many of them get frustrated with the process, quit college because they can't make ends meet while in college...and don't see an end in site...so they do work "at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage" and they are stuck. Some of them engage in criminal behavior *while* they are working these minimum wage jobs so that they can make ends meet (not saying it's right...just stating a fact about them feeling a need to make ends meet) OR some don't make ends meet and don't believe criminal activity is the way to go so they struggle, stress, and deal with all kinds of things like lack of healthcare for themselves and their children, shortage of food, and so many other situations that become downward spirals.

Chris said...

Barack Obama tried to excuse Jeremiah Wright's denunciation of America by saying that blacks of his generation still had "memories of humiliation and doubts and fears that have not gone away." The truth is Jeremiah Wright was from a life of privelege. Both parents were professionals and he went to a high school which was comparable to the Bronx High School of Science or Boston Latin. According to classmates, there was no racial tension in his school. To always portray blacks or people in poverty as victims will not do them any good, and while we are at it, lets stop playing the race card. Liberals always see race in everything.

Chris said...

Relative wealth, constructive patterns of behavior, and the value of education were all part of my inheritance. As a white young man, I've truly felt like the world has been full of opportunities for me.

America has a history of slavery and institutionalized racism, which bred poverty in the black community. Poverty has been passed from generation to generation. We have made positive strides in moving forward, but we shouldn't ignore our past. The disease of poverty is contracted at birth, and it takes a healthy community to cure itself. A healthy community should be honest about the past and recognize the effect the recent past has on today.

So, race does have to do with the disparities of today! We aren't even 50 years from Jim Crow, and somehow people think that race doesn't impact wealth.

It isn't victimization to state the facts. We're all responsible for the future- black and white. But, if we're not honest about yesterday and its effect on today, then there is little hope that we'll be able to make a better tomorrow.

Chris said...

Just realized that I should I say the previous comment is from a different Chris than the one before that.

Daniel Gray said...

Robert, your comments are highly reductionist, at best.

This same big government you speak of is filled with Republicans and Democrats, both who have succeeded and failed. The reason "government" incarcerated so many blacks was because there was no funding/development of programs to rehabilitate drug offenders. We drug abusers criminals rather than providing something to help them kick their addictions and re-enter society after their prison sentence.

While age is a significant factor in wealth accumulation, there is plenty of data out there to show that at every age level, there are major disparities between black and white. To suggest that these disparities are merely a result of blacks being younger is a gross mistatement.

Government spending on entitlement in the trillions? Government spending is currently around 3 trillion. Unless your calling all government spending entitlement, then again, you've made a gross mistatement.

Chris, perhaps it's because most black people are forced to speak on behalf of and represent everyone of their race (unlike white people like you and me).

But why are we even talking about Rev. Wright? Clearly you are off-topic once again. Anyone can cite anecdotal evidence and claim it as fact. I'm not going to play that game. What you fail to acknowledge is a history of discrimination and oppression that have lead to massive disparities of race as a whole.

Topher said...

To prevent further confusion, I'm now Topher (Previously, I was Chris who favors recognition of historical racism as a factor in current disparities).

Discussing the root of the disparities helps me to sharpen my perspective on the issue, but it is largely an inefficient use of my time. The stats speak for themselves.

My question is for Larry and Janet and others who have dedicated their careers to reducing disparity. What can I directly do? I'm already politically active and willing to talk about such issues to anyone who is willing to listen and talk about them. I'm a student with limited time and resources, but wanting to help in my own way. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

To clarify- I'm not denying disparities exist, I believe more better government will not solve the problem.

Daniel, let me address two concerns-

"government" incarcerated so many blacks was because there was no funding/development of programs to rehabilitate drug offenders."

The reason government incarcerated so many blacks is because drugs are illegal. The same big government you want to rehabilitate people instead sends them to jail. How can you not see that that rehab and jail are two sides of the same coin? Statism.

2. On entitlements- A quick glance at the 2006 budget shows that Medicare, Medicard and "Income Stabilization" spending exceeded $1 Trillion. That is just 3 programs.

I guess I should have said trillion, instead of trillions. However, the point remains the same. If $1T in government spending has not helped poor people of all races, including blacks, then maybe, just maybe, another government program isn't the answer.

Why not try freedom?

Vouchers to get African Americans out of socialized education. Get rid of the payroll tax. Let all Americans, including blacks, invest their Social Security.
Quit subsidizing single parenthood so families will grow stronger. Quit locking up young black men by the thousands for petty drug crimes.

Daniel Gray said...

Robert, I see your main objection here is to state control.

Frankly, that's Larry's point. The private sector has not stepped up to solve these problems. And it will never be able to. Sure, the problem hasn't been fixed, and it probably never will, as long as we choose to do a mediocre job of promoting the general welfare of this country.

I find it interesting that you pull the "freedom" card in this discussion, because I really don't understand the point your making. Are you saying government shouldn't lock up drug abusers? Because that's the exact point I was making. Throwing someone with an addiction in jail without providing any counseling or treatment is hurting them, their families, and our economy. Claiming that it's the "government" doing this is simply absurd. It's the people who run the government, and therefore, it is "us" who are doing this to our fellow man.

How are we subsidizing single-parenthood? That seems like a rhetoric-laden remark -- it sounds good, but there's no substance to it. Just like the welfare-cadillac remarks of the Reagan administration. Those comments are entirely anecdotal and are simply meant to create a bad taste of government.

So we do away with all forms of government? That seemed to be to focus of the Reagan administration. It didn't work. Reagan promoted laissez-faire capitalism and trickle down economics. His tax policy reform was supposed to increase federal revenue by decreasing tax rates, which in turn would create a stronger economy, and lead to more "freedom." It did the opposite. We had a major two-year recession, and a minor one towards the end of his term. Government revenue dwindled, and the national debt soared. I think I've had enough of Reaganomics protecting my "freedom."

I think government does a pretty good job of protecting freedoms. (Except, yet again, with the current administration.) Like any system (or business), it needs constant reform to meet the changing needs of a society. Unfortunately, there are people who would like to hold it back...

Larry James said...

I suppose that we are just jaded by our work, huh, Janet?

Topher, thanks for your question. Keep doing what you are doing. Look for opportunities to volunteer or work in an urban setting. Get a good education and then apply your craft to justice.

Robert, the point Daniel made well, implied that treatment should have been an option rather than jail. Many states, including even Texas are waking up to the cost benefit reality of a more sane, humane way.

BTW--know what Jeremiah Wright did after hearing John Kennedy's "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" speech in 1961? Joined the U. S. Marines.

Scrape away all of the libertarian rhetoric and deal with the street reality and you'll come out at a different place.

BTW--Robert, you planning to refuse Medicare and Social Security when you get older?

Anonymous said...


On the private sector- I believe charities, families, churches etc should lead the way in "sovling problems." I can see how that idea confuses collectivists.

However, Private Companies lift more people out of poverty through employment than any government program.

On Drugs- I believe drugs should be legal. The government shouldn't arrest, incarcerate or rehabilitate anyone for using, selling, or being addicted to drugs. I don't advocate jail or rehab. I advocate freedom. Once again I can see statist confusion on this issue. Drug addict's lives are not yours to incarcerate or rehabilitate.

On Reagan- If Reagan was an anarchist that is news to me. As for "doing away with all government". I would do away with centralized (commerce clause) federal control. We started out with a limited government and we should return to those principles.

Single Parenthood- I was going to discuss the Great Society/War on Poverty effect of the % of single parent households. Moving on.

If you think government does a pretty good job of protecting freedom you aren't paying attention. Or your definition of freedom is being told how to spend your money and live your life by bureaucrats who monitor all your financial statements, email and credit card purchases.

Read up on the Commerce Clause and the growth of federal power. Google the War on Drugs and Bill of Rights. Google DWI and the Bill of Rights. Read this http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2008/04/12/the-helping-hand-of-government/


JFK asked the wrong question. As an objectivist I believe our highest duty is to take care of ourselves and our family. Collectivism and Nationalism can not be the highest ideal. That's North Korea.

As for street reality- I am a criminal defense lawyer. I know more than a little about street reality. Government incarcerates the poor at an alarming rate. The answer isn't better government or more government.

On Medicare/SS- As soon as I get on the federal dole watch out! I'll be at the doctor every day. Where are my prescription drugs! I want surgery!

Why stop there! We should lower the retirement age to 30 and provide free housing, vacations, and convertible muscle cars!! Sign me up.

Until then I have to pay for my own insurance and retirement.

Daniel Gray said...

Robert, first of all -- you put words into my mouth. I never said Reagan was an anarchist. And you're really stretching your arguments here -- government invades my privacy very little -- they don't read my e-mail or credit card statements. You're clearly buying into libertarian conspiracy theories.

Like Larry said... you're playing into the Libertarian rhetoric... Libertarianism is great if you're in the middle or upper class and you have power. If you're poor, then you're out of luck, because you have no power.

Why do you seem to think that people who support a valid form of government are anti-capitalist? That's clearly your assumption. There is nothing wrong with having a free market blended with a healthy government.

While we're on the subject of failed government, why don't we talk about failed capitalism?

How about the need for the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Anti-trust legislation. Free market capitalism unchecked is a detriment to society. Ever heard of Standard Oil, Microsoft, ATT/Bell? All companies which gained a monopoly on an industry and stifled competition. Shame government had to intervene to protect the people... How about Enron? Arthur Andersen? There's plenty of free-market fraud to go around.

What about Wal-Mart? Great prices, lots of employment... They must be lifting people out of poverty. Walmart makes the situation worse... they cost the government millions of dollars in tax credits, health care, housing assistance, and other support. Why? Because they keep their employees in poverty by not paying them a livable wage.

Capitalism has its flaws. Government does too. When corporations decide out of the goodness of their heart to solve poverty by paying "all" of their workers a fair wage worth living on, then I will gladly sit with you at the feet of the almighty free market. Until then, I'll rely on the government to keep unfettered capitalism in check and ensure that everyone, black or white, rich or poor, young or old, has the basic human right to life.

Libertarianism feels good. It goes way down into your heart and pulls on those feelings of human achievement and independence. But as long as we live in a fallen world, we have to have forces that protect powerless people from being oppressed.

By the way, you're flippant remarks to Larry say a lot about your ideology. The only oppression you see is someone taking your money away. You obviously don't see the oppression of people in poverty, who work hard, and simply can't earn a living wage. And it's obviously you think people on federal programs are lazy bums who want a free ride.

And whatever you think is derogatory about calling me a collectivist, I'm happy to be one. I'm glad my body is full of collectivist organs. My family -- also collectivists. The Constitution, church, God -- all a bunch of collectivists. Like Plato said, society is the individual writ large -- society is just like the body, it has to function together. Besides, life is too exciting for individualism and selfishness.

Daniel Gray said...

By the way, Robert. There's a program at CDM called LAW (Legal Action Works). They do all kinds of legal assistance for low-income households who can't afford to pay for services. I'm sure Larry would love to have you come down and volunteer some of your legal expertise/time to help the residents they serve.

Anonymous said...


On Reagan and Anarchy. You stated "So we do away with all forms of government? That seemed to be to focus of the Reagan administration."

Doing away with government is anarchy. Look up the definition if you don't believe me. Your idea, I just defined it for you.

On Libertarianism being a feel good philosophy- I think liberalism actually takes that title. Liberalism/socialism let's you feel like you are helping people by using the State as Savior to the Poor.

Libertarianism doesn't make the false promises of socialist utopia. Libertarianism only promises freedom.

On Market Failure- I'm sure your history 101 class taught you all the failures of capitalism.

Have you ever considered how many billions of dollars were made from the efficiency gains with Microsoft products?

Monopolies rarely exist without government intervention. If monopolies are bad Daniel, then how can you support the ultimate monopoly- Government. Public schools are a huge monopoly for most low income people. Oh, I get your logic, private monopolies are bad. Public monopolies are "good" because they "help people."

Your Wal Mart example also show a typical socialist misunderstanding of economics. Wal Mart's employees are all voluntary. They are paid a market rate for their work. Wal Mart saves Americans billions with lower prices and employees thousands who would otherwise may not have a job.

Are you going to hire these workers Daniel and pay them a "living wage." Until you run a business and have to hire someone, spare me the moral outrage.

Wal Mart, like all corporations works with voluntary transactions. Customers give Wal Mart their money voluntarily. Whereas, the Government takes money without consent.

Enron is actually an example of the market working. Companies that commit fraud and inflate earnings should go out of business. That is how a market works.

Compare that with the government. If a public school fails year after year we usually increase funding. Read the great John Stossell article on firing a bad teacher in New York. Then tell me markets are bad.

Failing government agencies rarely close. Failing business close all the time.

As for fraud in the free market. Litigation and even law enforcement are a proper remedy for fraud.

Have you ever considered the massive frauds of our government? The War on Drugs, War in Iraq perhaps? Who is being arrested for that fraud? Whom can I sue for the Iraq War?

Again, you can see that markets are responsive in a way government is not.

Your remarks about oppression are also typical. Socialists commonly see freedom as "selfish", as if only those who support statism feel compassion for the poor. You don't know me well enough to judge my compassion.

I can tell you alot about government compassion though. Texas jails are full of it. In front of the local courthouse homes are auctioned off to pay for your brand of compassion.

Believe it or not Daniel, there is a way to help people without statism. If government did not steal to provide you would still want to help people. You would still volunteer. You will still help the poor. Real charity exists without coercion.

Also, if you don't believe your credit card statements are being watched google "the patriot act" you may learn something.

Anonymous said...

So typical... when it's politics, libertarians are all in your face about "volunteering" and doing away with government imposing on their rights

Ask a libertarian to talk on and on about politics and the role of government, and how everyone should give freely from coercion

but what is mr guest actually doing with his life? when it comes to the opportunity to volunteer, he goes right on arguing his beliefs

mr. guest you got a chance to do something, and yet you ignore it, go use your law degree to help the poor, go volunteer at cdm... then come back and see if you can still spew your selfish, bs, keep-my money mentality around here... you go fight for the little guy and see if its really fair, but don't be talking that freedom stuff until you actually live it and do something for someone in need

Anonymous said...


When did I miss my opportunity to volunteer? Is it because I don't support statism? I must be a horrible selfish person.

My first job was as a public defender. Don't talk to me about the little guy or helping the poor.

I help the poor by keeping them out of jail and protecting their rights. I fight against the War on Drugs every day.

Just because you do not, or can not understand my position is no reason for ad hominem attacks.

Daniel Gray said...

Robert, you've put way too much garbage out there to even bother addressing. So much of your logic and reasoning is incredibly misconstrued. Libertarian philosophy works and makes sense for a majority of people in our country. However, there is a significant part of the population that has no rights, has little or no power to change their lot in life, and much of it is because they have suffered great oppression. It's a fact that any free-market society is going to create an underclass that experiences oppression. Marx saw it, and so do many other economists.

You and I probably came from a similar, white middle-class background. Neither of us have experienced that oppression. We don't see and understand the forces of oppression The only thing I can suggest to you is to get out there, interact with poor people, and try to see their lives from their point of view. Frankly, you're not going to understand the full impact of our economic system until you experience it first hand with those who are at the bottom.

We're not going to agree on these issues, and as long as you only try to see life through the lens of your own, there's no sense in continuing such a fruitless and bitter discussion. But seriously, look into the LAW center at CDM – it'd probably be a great way for you to be involved in a private, charitable organization.

Anonymous said...

All private efforts at poverty reduction combined do not amount to 1% of government efforts. Americans average about 3% of income given to charity (and the lion's share of that goes to their church and college alma mater). Looking at numbers like these, how is anyone going to make a dent in poverty without some government intervention? Arguing against ANY and ALL government intervention is just arguing that poor folks should be left to fend for themselves. It's just silly to pretend otherwise. Maybe that's why poeple tend to react to strident libertarians as though they have little compassion. Kind of hard to blame them. Their extremist arguments make the "collectivism" they so despise seem tolerable.

Anonymous said...


Don't call my arguments "garbage" just because you don't understand them. A discussion is only "fruitless" if you quit discussing. I'm learning a lot about socialist philosophy.

On Marx- You're right. Communists Russia was a great place to be poor. No oppression there.

As to forces of oppression and the underclass- have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, government could be an oppresive force. Is that possible in your world view? Or are only corporations evil?

What is your definition of poverty reduction? Giving money away?

Corporations, markets, private business reduce poverty by actually creating jobs. You must only consider wealth transfer as poverty reduction.

To claim that "all private efforts" are less than what our Dear Leaders provide is nonsense.

Do you work for someone? Do she pay you money? That is very definition of poverty reduction.

Daniel Gray said...

Like I said, I'm done with your rhetoric and reductionist response to my points.

But I definitely recommend you contact Larry and volunteer with their LAW center.

Anonymous said...


It is not that Daniel or anyone else "doesn't understand" your arguments. We just don't buy them.

I understand them perfectly well, having read every work by Ayn Rand I was aware of in high school and college. I just also slowly realized her strident ideology bore little relation to the real world. Libertarian or Communist - at either end of the spectrum, it's all just Extremist.

Anonymous said...


I already volunteer for Larry. Last time I checked his budget was 50% "public funds". I recently sent in my annual donation to the federal government, I'm sure that all went straight to Dallas charities.

On Ayn Rand/Extremism-
I agree extremism is bad. I'm not an anarchist. I just don't believe in a centrally planned socialist utopia. I don't see that as extreme.

Anonymous said...

"I just don't believe in a centrally planned socialist utopia. I don't see that as extreme."

No one is arguing for one here. Why you've been lead to these assumptions is what is perplexing. The people on this blog simply realize the importance of guaranteeing basic human rights and needs to people who are powerless at the bottom of the system. How that is construed as socialism is beyond me. You definitely ate the Libertarian pill... because your dialog is so argumentative here, that you aren't willing to accept validity in any one else's positions except your own.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having me in the discussion. I appreciate everyone's opinion (especially Daniel's).

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...

"I already volunteer for Larry."

1. A person who performs or offers to perform a service voluntarily
1. To perform or offer to perform a service of one's own free will.
2. To do charitable or helpful work without pay

I'm sorry, but claiming to volunteer by "paying taxes" -- something which everybody does -- is just wrong. The notion of volunteering involves some physical presence and service provided, not writing a check to government.

Robert, thank you for your generous, gracious volunteer work. Just don't call it that. Leave the real "volunteering" the the poor community members who work in the food pantry, to the countless doctors and lawyers who take time away from their practice to do pro bono work in the community. They are a lot more deserving of the volunteer title (even though they don't want the recognition), because they speak with their actions.

I'm sorry but you hit a hot-button with me. Claiming to volunteer/support an organization by paying taxes is about the biggest fraud to charity.

Anonymous said...

The "gang up" mentality of the usual suspects on this blog to any one staking a different position that the usual " I have it right and I am great because I can spout off poverty statistics" is sickening. Instead of calling this a blog, you should rename it the " Inner Circle of Great Minds and Incredible Giving Human Beings". just go back through these entries and see for yourself how you put down and condescend any one who dares take a contrary position that the little fraternity that writes here every day. You guys are turning off alot of people with good hearts. I am not even going to take the time to spell check!

Daniel Gray said...

Anonymous, I see you're point, and I probably was a little harsh in my posts. But sometimes it feels like the people coming on here with different views come with certain assumptions about people on here. Sorry, I'm not trying to speak for Larry, but I'll offer my own opinions.

I feel like people who disagree with the dominant opinion here assume that I'm anti-capitalist, hate corporations, and dream of some ideal, government-run socialist utopia. Not saying they think that -- but that's how their comments come across.

I am completely in favor of capitalism. I think the free-market is the best system for a society to be based on. However, I feel that the free-market is not fully accessible to some people, and they do not enjoy the same rights as the dominant society. That's where I think the role of government plays an important role. That being said, I'm also in favor of looking for ways for government to provide incentive for free-market solutions to issues of poverty whenever possible.

People who disagree think government should play a nominal role in society.

Larry's blog is about poverty and community development. At the very heart of his blog (i.e. Community Dev. 101 on the right side) is the idea that the private sector alone cannot fully address the issue. Larry's blog deals with poverty as a large system, and because of that, the discussion typically centers around policy and societal issues. Because of that, I think people assume this is a statist, socialist blog -- which is far from it.

I know I get frustrated and may be negative towards certain people, but it is primarily because I feel people make certain assumptions about what I (or Larry) believe without trying to understand our complex point of view. Some people have advocated here that all government is bad, and that is frustrating, because some of us try to come from a perspective of developing strong public-private partnerships.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:39:

I'm not sure why you picked on those more inclined to agree with Larry. There is a whole host of strident libertarians and general right wingers who come across as (1) having predetermined the outcome of any discussion based on their rigid ideology and (2) incredibly intolerant of and condescending to other's points of view. The "I have it right and I am great because I can spout off ________ statistics" attitude is certainly not limited to one side of the debate that unfortunately recurs here with mind numbing frequency - no matter what the actual topic of the day's blog was.

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