Part II of Andrew Heaslet’s (Coordinator, Peace Economy Project) talking points, dealing with Racism.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
While the election of Barack Obama represents a giant landmark in overcoming racial barriers, Racism is far from behind us. The income and healthcare gaps illustrated above show clearly that minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics, are significantly disadvantaged compared to their white counterparts. The following statistics further show the distance still to be overcome by minority citizens in order to be at a level of prosperity equal to their white peers.
Criminal Justice System
Racism runs rampant throughout the “justice” system and must be stopped.
“At year end 2007 there were 3,138 black male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,259 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males and 481 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males.”
Dr Manning Marable, a Columbia University Professor and director of the Center for Contemporary Black History, has written, “In practical terms, by 2001, about one out of every six African-American males had experienced jail or imprisonment. Based on current trends, over one out of three black men will experience imprisonment during their lives.” (Incarceration vs. Education: Reproducing Racism and Poverty in America)
An organization called “the Rights Working Group,” explains how immigrants are often targets and victims of profiling by law enforcement officers: “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regularly conducts warrantless and aggressive raids on homes and workplaces to round up hundreds of immigrants, often sweeping up legal residents and citizens. Raid victims are often detained without access to counsel or a phone call to contact family members…
“Individuals detained by DHS, including vulnerable populations like the elderly, infirm, refugees and children, are being held in inhumane and overcrowded conditions often without charges for months and even years.”
The Washington Post tells us that between 2003 and 2008, “Some 83 [immigrant] detainees have died in, or soon after, custody.” Conditions are dangerous and inhumane. The same article quotes a former detention center nurse saying, “Dogs get better care in the dog pound.” In a recent case of blatant disregard for human dignity by law enforcement officials, “more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence” under the orders of Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (NY Times 2/5/09)
Since 2001, Arab Americans and Muslims have been victims of racial and religious profiling by local and federal law enforcement, especially via the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Operation Front Line.” The Yale Daily News notes, “’Though Operation Front Line claimed to target terrorist suspects, it was actually targeting people from Muslim majority nations…’ But in looking at a random sampling of hundreds of cases, it became clear that there were no crimes or immigration violations shared by those targeted… In fact, 250 of the 300 random sample cases given to the [Yale] Law School cited no immigration-related violations. The only feature the targeted group shared was that 79 percent of those targeted were from mostly Muslim nations.”
Black and Hispanic Poverty
Estimated Median Income 2007: White $52,115 – Black $33,916 – Hispanic $38,679
(2007 Census data, pg 7)
“Predatory lending practices and slumping real estate markets threaten hundreds of thousands of American families with the imminent loss of their to foreclosure. Given the disparate number of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority Americans who have been and continue to be targeted by predatory lenders, the foreclosure crisis is certain to be especially severe in communities of color across the nation.” NAACP letter to the Senate, Feb. 22, 2008 (Center for Responsible Lending)
“A United for a Fair Economy estimate in January (2008) put the wealth loss for people of color at between $164 billion and $213 billion, roughly half [emphasis added] the nation’s overall loss. “
(The Subprime Swindle – How Banks Stole Black America’s Future, by Kai Wright.)
Thirty percent of white adults had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2005, while 17 percent of black adults and 12 percent of Hispanic adults had degrees.
(MSNBC: Census report: Broad racial disparities persist)
Statistically, African-American youths are two to three times more likely than whites to be suspended, and far more likely to be corporally punished or expelled. Also from the ACLU study, “nationally, African American students comprise 17 percent of the student population, but account for 36 percent of school suspensions and 31 percent of expulsions. (Incarceration vs. Education: Reproducing Racism and Poverty in America)
Just because a minority has reached the highest level of power, this nation cannot allow itself to become lazy when it comes to confronting the very ugly reality that racism and disparity between races that exists. Continuing with Affirmative Action, supporting home-ownership among minorities, investing in education, especially in urban centers, a re-evaluation of policies imprisoning non-violent offenders, and widespread, frank discussions of the realities that exist regarding attitudes towards minorities may represent a path towards overcoming racism and racial inequalities.