Friday, November 16, 2007

An Elusive American Dream

This is a challenging, disturbing article. It forces me to realize that economic mobility and gains are not the same for blacks and whites. In a way, that's not surprising given what I know and what others have discovered and written/spoken about more eloquently over the last decades. What is harder for me, perhaps because I'm a scientist, are the numbers in the Brookings study, a brief synopsis is given in the article below. My friend, Julia Isaacs, a fellow Quaker and a Brooking's Institution scholar in Washington, DC is the author of the study papers cited below. To read more on the actual study, click the following link to the Brookings Institution.

The Roanoke Times
By Leslie Taylor
November 14, 2007

Pundits, sociologists and self-proclaimed experts have long lamented the plight of black America -- the deterioration of the black family, the proliferation of drugs and crime, the negative influences of rap music on young black people.
Their strong suggestion that black America is approaching, if not already in, crisis was fueled by facts and figures this week. A Brookings Institution study concluded that the American Dream is eluding black Americans at a far greater rate than whites.
The think tank's findings are startling:

 A majority of blacks born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s grew up to have less income than their parents. Only 31 percent have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children in the same income bracket.

 Almost half of black children whose parents were solidly middle class, are among the lowest fifth of the nation's wage earners, compared to 16 percent of white children.

 Fifty-four percent of black children born to poor parents stay poor, compared to 31 percent of white children.

 The lack of income growth for black men, combined with low marriage rates in the black population, has had a negative impact on trends in family income for black families.

Disparities continue to widen the gap, with blacks faring poorly. We might expect a call to action to follow, a battle cry for black parents to step up to their responsibilities.
But that would be knee-jerk, as would assuming that black parents are failing to encourage their children to do better than they have.
Such studies trouble Terry Kershaw, associate professor of sociology at Virginia Tech.
They "reinforce the notion that black folks are deficient," he said. "It gives the impression that black folks are their own worst enemies.
"It's very easy to blame the victims. But we have to be careful of the impact the larger society has on these people's lives. We'd be letting America off the hook by putting the blame on parents."

Or put more succinctly, we cannot ignore the fact that race still matters.
Comedian Bill Cosby has been blasted for his jarring truth-telling in his book "Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors" where he tackles the plight of the black family, black on black violence, parental responsibility and other issues.
But he raises ugly truths that must be acknowledged if black people are to overcome institutional racism.

Where is the revolution, he asks? Where is the outrage that 70 percent of black babies are born to single mothers? Or that one out of three homeless people is black? Or that blacks -- 12 percent of the nation's population -- make up 44 percent of the prison population?

Black people "must realize that the revolution is in their apartment now," he told "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert last month. "The revolution is in their house, their neighborhood. They can fight strongly, clearly, the systemic and institutional racism."

Or they can sit back and watch study findings continue to chronicle their decline.
The Brookings Institution, Cosby and plenty of other individuals and organizations have laid bare the facts. Now is the time to figure out why these troubling trends are happening and begin meaningful work to turn them around

1 comment:

Suzy said...

I hardly think this is an accident. Payback perhaps, for Civil Rights victories? Or just the same old same old. Reconstruction revisited.