The August 23 police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, triggered yet another round of community protests and national news coverage of a Black man. On August 28, the National Action Network served as a major organizer for a Commitment March, rededicating the yet unaddressed dreams of the historic 1963 March on Washington. Assembled again at Washington’s Lincoln Memorial, the day’s speakers included Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and attorney Benjamin Crump and the family members of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and others.
Despite the passage of nearly 60 years between the original march and its 2020 recommitment, many of the issues that have plagued Black America remain the same.
Why measurable forward strides in policing, or economic progress have remained elusive after decades of calls for reforms may partly be explained by the findings of a new policy analysis by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, Ana Hernandez Kent, a policy analyst with the St. Louis Fed, found that America’s racial poverty gap continues to suppress social and economic justice. Moreover, Wisconsin, not a Southern state, claims the dubious distinction of having the largest poverty gap in the nation.
Nationally, the St. Louis Fed found that in 2018, Black households earned 61 cents for every $1 of white household median income. Further, the Black/White median household income gaps ranged from 87 cents per dollar in Maine and Hawaii, down to 32 cents per dollar in the District of Columbia. The disparity in median translates into 22% of all Black Americans living in poverty, a gap of 13% compared to whites who are poor. Wisconsin’s gap is 23%.
“White people had more favorable outcomes than Black people in every state,” wrote Hernandez Kent.
Poverty’s racial disparity extends to other key measures such as median incomes, homeownership and retirement.
Even with the enactment of the Fair Housing Act more than 50 years ago, today’s Black homeownership rate is dwindling. According to Ohio State University professor, Trevon Logan, “The homeownership gap between Blacks and whites is higher today in percentage terms than it was in 1900.”
Logan’s position is bolstered by findings from a 2020 report by the National Association of Realtors, A Snapshot of Race and Homebuying in America that found 62% of Black mortgage applicants were rejected because of their debt to income ratio, compared to only 5% of whites, and 51% of Blacks are first-time homeowners, compared to only 30% of whites.
Moreover, since the Great Recession that heavily hit Black homeowners a decade ago, today’s Black homeownership rate has yet to return to pre-recession levels.
The ability to prepare for retirement is hindered as well. Social Security figures each worker’s retirement benefit on the basis of a taxpayer’s 35 highest-earning years. With lower incomes and a corresponding lack of monies available for savings or retirement, Black Americans rely on Social Security more than other races and/or ethnicities. Now, for much of Black America, Social Security is a financial lifeline and often the major retirement benefit.
President Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson co-authored a recent op ed in the Wall Street Journal that portrayed mixed income neighborhoods as “social engineering.” The redlining of Black communities, racial covenants, real estate steering and restrictive zoning laws that together perpetuated segregated housing were never acknowledged in the guest column.
In response, Nikitra Bailey’s the Center for Responsible Lending recently spoke with ABC News, saying that the suburbs “intentionally created opportunities for white families while holding back opportunities for families of color.”
Last December, the Journal of the National Medical Association, the professional organization of Black physicians, published an article titled, “The Relationship between Racial Residential Segregation and Black-White Disparities in Fatal Police Shootings at the City Level, 2013–2017.”
The authors concluded that “Racial residential segregation is a significant predictor of the magnitude of the Black-White disparity in fatal police shootings at the city level. Efforts to ameliorate the problem of fatal police violence must move beyond the individual level and consider the interaction between law enforcement officers and the neighborhoods that they police.”
Before the thousands gathered this August, Rev. Sharpton spoke to this same concern.
“You act like it’s no trouble to shoot us in the back. You act like it’s no trouble to put a choke hold on us while we scream, ‘I can’t breathe,’ 11 times. You act like it’s no trouble to hold a man down on the ground until you squeeze the life out of him.”
“Our vote is dipped in blood. Our vote is dipped in those that went to their grave. We don’t care how long the line, we don’t care what you do, we’re going to vote, not for one candidate or the other, but we going to vote for a nation that’ll stop the George Floyds, that’ll stop the Breonna Taylors.”
Let the church say Amen.
Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at email@example.com.