“When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes, rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart, mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people accurately is compromised.”
– James A. Forbes
Allow me to tell you something many brown and black Americans know: the game is rigged! The justice system is rigged, the education system is rigged, the housing system is rigged and the political system is rigged! I know, but the President is black and African Americans are better off today than they were 50 years ago, but that does not hide the fact that systematic inequality is spreading through American society like a cancer and is destroying lives.
Justice is colorblind, well that is what they tell us but in actuality the justice system sees color very well. Nicole Flatow; columnist at ThinkProgress, wrote an insightful article on the inequality of America’s criminal justice system. Here is some of her reporting:
- The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. More than 60 percent of people in prison now are racial or ethnic minorities, according to the Sentencing Project.
- Black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to Department of Justice statistics.
- Black men receive sentences 20 percent longer than white male defendants who are similarly situated, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found earlier this year.
- Blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, even though they use the drug at similar rates, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Civil Liberties Union published earlier this year.
- Racist drug sentencing disparities remain embedded in our statutes. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the vast disparity in mandatory minimum and recommended sentences for crack cocaine, which is more common among African Americans, and power cocaine, much more prevalent among whites.
- In states with Stand Your Ground laws, whites who kill blacks are far more likely to have their killings deemed “justified” than blacks who kill blacks or whites.
- Black youth are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and arrested by harsh school policies that criminalize student discipline.
- One in four young black men recalled unfair treatment by police within the last 30 days, in a recent Gallup poll. While this data relies on self-reporting, it suggests that the number of minorities having adverse interactions with the police is even higher than those who end up subject to arrest or incarceration.
The criminal justice system isn’t the only American institution effected by this inequality. Unfortunately, the American education system has developed a school to prison pipeline threatening minority students disproportionately. According to a recent Department of Education report:
- Black students accounted for 18 percent of the country’s pre-K enrollment, but made up 48 percent of preschoolers with multiple out-of-school suspensions.
- Black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students.
- American Indian and Native-Alaskan students represented less than 1 percent of students, but 3 percent of expulsions.
- Black girls were suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys.
- Nearly one in four boys of color, excepting Latino and Asian American students, with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
- One in five girls of color with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
- A quarter of the schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students did not offer Algebra II.
- A third of these schools did not offer chemistry.
- Less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students had access to the full range of math and science courses, which consists of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics.
- Black and Latino students accounted for 40 percent of enrollment at schools with gifted programs, but only represented 26 percent of students in such programs.
- Black, Latino and Native American students attended schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers (3 to 4 percent) than white students (1 percent).
- Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.
- Latino students were twice as likely to attend such schools.
Housing inequality has always been present in America. Securing housing in a good neighborhood often times determines the quality of school your children will attend. The racial gap in the likelihood of changing from ownership to renting began to widen in the 1990s. During the next two decades, African-American homebuyers were consistently some 45 percent more likely than whites to transition out of homeownership. The findings point to a historical shift in the racial stratification of American housing markets, from overt exclusion to, more recently, market exploitation. African-American homeowners’ heightened subprime rates were not only due to their relatively weaker socioeconomic position, but also because lenders specifically targeted minority neighborhoods. Economics suggest that the crumbling of the housing market is largely to blame for the inequality. The AP reports that the main asset among the predominately younger minorities in America is their homes, whereas whites, on average older, have holdings in the stock market. The housing market crash greatly devalued the homes of minorities, whereas white stockholders rebounded in 2009 (http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/07/study-blacks-lose-homes-more-today-90s).
The gap between the rich and the poor is at its highest level in nearly 100 years with the richest one percent controlling 35% of the nation’s wealth. Not since the mid-1980s has America seen such a wide gap in wealth among whites and minorities. A recent Pew study released says that, on average, white households in the US are 20 times wealthier than that of black and Hispanic households. While the median net worth of white households decreased from 2005’s statistic by around $20,000, the worth of black households was more than cut in half. The findings reveal that, on average, the wealth of white families was at around $113,149, with the median of black households being only $5,677 (http://rt.com/usa/minorities-white-households-wealth/).
When the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act Chief Justice John Roberts essentially stated that racism is no prevalent in American society citing the election of President Obama as evidence that we have moved beyond our racist past. Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision many states begin implementing strict voter id laws that would disproportionately affect black and brown Americans. Forget for a moment that these laws aren’t addressing a particular problem, voter fraud is nearly nonexistent in America, the real issue is a systematic attempt to disenfranchise a population who fought hard and in many cases died to obtain the right to vote.
The game is rigged! The system does not only discriminate based on color, but income inequality is affecting poor whites as well. How do you win a game that is rigged on nearly every level? You rewrite the rules of the game!