I know for a fact that slavery and segregation have been abolished in America, so what racism are we talking about?
Although black and white Americans have equal rights, their daily lives are not the same.
According to various studies, even more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery, African Americans continue to face problems that seriously affect their position in society. First of all it concerns economic inequality.
The budget of the average African American family is 10 times less than that of a white household (2016 data, $17,150 vs. $171,000, respectively). In the U.S., 20.8 percent of the black population lives in poverty, compared to 8.1 percent of whites below the poverty line (2018 data). It’s important to keep in mind that white citizens in the U.S. outnumber whites by a significant margin – 76.5% of the total population versus 13.4%.
One study showed that resumes of job seekers with Anglo-Saxon names get 50 percent more responses than resumes with African-American names. African Americans, on the other hand, are five times more likely to end up in prison and be sentenced to longer terms.
Are you saying that someone intentionally disadvantages African Americans because of the color of their skin?
It’s not that simple. It’s not about individual cases of racism (which also happens), but about the fact that black people are worse integrated into social institutions in general. This is called systemic racism. Its pervasive existence in the United States is acknowledged by former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
For his part, Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently said that there is no systemic racism in America.
What exactly is meant by systemic racism? Here is one example: back in the days of racial segregation, American investors divided cities into favorable and unfavorable zones. Money was invested in neighborhoods where the working white majority lived, infrastructure was built, and banks willingly gave loans to locals. At the same time, in black neighborhoods densely populated by poor and less educated descendants of former slaves, investment was out of the question. Banks refused to give loans to African Americans, and agents would not sell them real estate in white neighborhoods.
As a result, many African Americans have lived for decades in neighborhoods that remain gray zones. The U.S. has a property tax, which pays for local schools, utilities, and police. Residents of poor neighborhoods do not own property, but use social housing, hence do not pay taxes. Because of this, local schools are overcrowded and underfunded, there are almost no students of different social status and skin color, public transportation works poorly in such areas, there are more security problems due to the lack of police, there are fewer job opportunities, as big businesses prefer to open in other places. It turns out that a white American born and raised in an upscale neighborhood, who went to a good school, took additional classes, and grew up in a safer environment, has a better chance of a prosperous future than his black peer.
It is important to note that not everyone in America agrees that such a term and phenomenon as systemic racism exists at all. Although even the White House recently said that they do not dispute the fact that systemic racism in the U.S. is not extinct.
Okay, but after all, America has had a black president, doesn’t that mean that everyone has an equal opportunity?
Certainly, the very fact that Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States is progress, for a country where half a century ago people of color could not be around in the same establishments. However, according to the BBC, apart from that, Obama’s contribution to the fight against racism has been insignificant.
“During Obama’s time, we saw an upsurge in police killings of unarmed black people. That’s when the Black Lives Matter movement emerged,” New York activist, publicist and social worker Femenista Jones told TASS.
Obama did try to enact reforms. For example, thanks to him, the Obamacare affordable health insurance program appeared, which reduced the percentage of uninsured African-Americans by a third. The president also fought against overcrowding in U.S. prisons, where the majority of prisoners are black. Between late 2009 and 2015, the number of people serving time in federal prisons dropped by 5 percent. In 2011, the White House issued a clarification that allowed schools and universities to use a racial criterion in admissions to make education more accessible to disadvantaged groups. Simply put, schools were advised to make sure that their classes were racially and nationally diverse.
To summarize, we can conclude that Obama has succeeded in fitting into the American system, but not in changing it. The same can be said about the U.S. police, where, according to 2018 data, 13.3% of officers were African-American, which does not save the structure from constant accusations of racism.
Speaking of Black Lives Matter. What does that even mean? Why do only black lives matter and not all lives?
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an activist movement that grew out of a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) on social media. It emerged after Florida sentinel George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in July 2013.
BLM activists believe that black Americans are in constant danger because of state and police prejudice. Therefore, they believe that the slogan “All Lives Matter” is inappropriate because it takes attention away from the problem that African-Americans face to a greater extent.
BLM became widely known in 2014, following the death of Eric Garner, who died after being choked by a New York City police officer while in custody. Garner’s case resembles the death of George Floyd in many ways. The man also screamed that he couldn’t breathe, and a video of his detention provoked protests. That same year, a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed Michael Brown. In both cases, the officers were not criminally prosecuted, sparking outrage among African Americans.
Activists in the movement, along with researchers and sociologists, have presented a special program called the “Zero Campaign,” with ten proposals for reducing American police violence. They are also fundraising for victims of racism and working on various educational programs.
Are U.S. police really killing unarmed African Americans more often than whites?
According to the research group Mapping Police Violence, African Americans are two and a half times more likely to be killed by police than whites. According to the same statistic, black citizens killed by police are 1.5 times more likely than whites to be unarmed.
In 2019, 24% of all those killed by police were black. In 99% of cases, no charges are filed against law enforcement officers for lethal arrests.
If you look at the actual number of people killed, there are more whites, but it is important to remember that black Americans make up only 13% of the country’s population. Thus, they are twice as likely to die at the hands of police officers as whites. According to a 2015 study, the number of African Americans killed by police is 7.2 per million, in the case of whites it is 2.9 per million.
U.S. authorities try to pay attention to racial disparities at different levels. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a special department that studies the health problems of racial and ethnic minorities. Experts work on vaccinations in under-resourced areas, give lectures and make recommendations to local physicians.
In addition, the U.S. government directs more than $1 billion to support minority business projects. The White House provides funds for scholarships for low-income students and members of African, Asian, Hispanic, Pan-Asian, or Native American communities.
Black universities and colleges also receive money from the U.S. Department of Education. There are various programs to teach indigenous history, indigenous languages, and to support bilingual education programs. In addition, the U.S. has had what is known as affirmative action, which involves separate privileges for minorities in order to overcome inequalities as quickly as possible. These programs tend to focus on access to education and employment.
However, the concept of “affirmative action” is controversial among minorities themselves. Such measures have been the subject of numerous court cases and constitutional review. For example, Asian students have complained that universities only give preference to African Americans based on their race. In 2018, Donald Trump’s administration repealed a rule introduced under President Obama that recommended that institutions of higher education use “affirmative action racial discrimination” when admitting applicants. At the same time, the White House promised to continue helping minorities.