Blacks Still Display Few Signs of Social and Economic Improvement

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By definition, to improve is to enhance in value or quality — to make better. Yet more than 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, there is still no noticeable improvement in the quality of life in the African American community.

A new report suggests that a large corpus of the African American community has made very little progress when compared to whites over the past few decades. According to a survey given to African American adults, seven out of 10 adults view today as very tough times for their children and perceive poor black youth as falling further behind. Yet, unlike adults, two out of three African American youth perceive current times as being “very good or OK.”

In addition to survey data, the report also provides economic data on opportunity trends. Four out of ten black children are born into poverty compared to less than one in ten for whites. Less than 40 percent live with two parents versus 75 percent for whites. African American children are statistically more likely to die before their first birthday or become obese in school.

More startling is the finding that 85 percent of African American children in the fourth grade cannot read or do math at their grade level, and almost half eventually drop out of school. A young African American male born over the past decade has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime.

It is essential that we remember that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was more than a dreamer; he was a catalyst. We cannot think we have it made, since the numbers show us otherwise. 

In 2010 the unemployment, underemployment and hidden unemployment rate for black 16 to 29-year-olds was 40 percent and 43 percent for black males. The large number of young black adults not working full-time jobs will severely limit their future employability, earnings and ability to support their families.

It was Dr. King who said, “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” –torrance stephens

Torrance Stephens, Ph.D.,  is author of blog

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