Recently, I have been reflecting on the news about the plight of the Black community. From the news that I read, the direction of our social and economic progress seems mostly backward.
I have learned not to over-react to anecdotal accounts of alarm or joy. I have learned not to believe the hype. However, the noise levels of bad news continue to rise and drown out the good news.
Is that the new reality? Or, is there actually more positive news than bad?
Here are some samples of bad news.
- Black unemployment is nearly double the national average -- 15% vs. 8%.
- Black homicides are 6 times higher than whites and 4 times the national average per 100,00 population.
- Black fathers continue to be absent from their children's lives.
- Single Black mothers send 70% of our children to schools every day.
- Black divorce rates are 50% higher than the national average.
- The number of Black women who never marry continues to rise.
- Blacks make up nearly 50% of federal inmates.
- Black dropout rates are as high as 50% in some urban high schools.
- Home foreclosure have dumped thousands of Black families out of the middle class, and the gains of the 20th century are at risk of reversal.
- African American wealth dropped 53% from 2004 to 2009.
- HIV/AIDS, obesity, hypertension, and heart disease kill Blacks at higher rates than the general population.
And here is some good news.
- Black enrollments in higher education are at an all-time high.
- The number of Black elected officials has increased from 1,469 in 1970 to over 10,500 today -- including over 600 mayors, more than 650 state legislators, 39 congressional representatives, and the President of the USA.
- As of 2007, African Americans owned 1.9 million businesses, an increse of 60% over five years earlier.
- For three years in a row, 100% of the Black male graduates of Urban Prep Academy in Chicago have been accepted into 4-year colleges.
Are we approaching a cliff from which there is no return? Will future progress be limited to a small number of elites within the Black community while the masses continue to decline? How can we increase the positive indicators enough to produce a positive trend for most Blacks? I have more questions than answers.
I am in search of indicators that we can turn around the declines of the past 10 years. The declines have been so precipitous that it appears that future generatoins will be worse off than their parents and grandparents. I fear that it is increasingly less likely that a resurgence of Black solidarity, or even collaboration is possible. I see a trend of individual assimilation into the general population by those with the best opportunities. There is less identification with the clarion call of the 70's "Say it loud. I'm Black and I'm proud."
Studies suggest that there is an incresing identification with class as opposed to race. The result is a few highly visible Blacks at every class level within our society that suggests progress. But those who are not upwardly mobile are actually decliing at an increasing rate. The recent recession has been like a dagger in the heart of the Black middle class. The resulting gaps in wealth, income, education, and employment are actually widening.
This new normal is starting to settle in. I see more dysfunctional families, chronic unemployment, disproportionate exposure to the criminal justice system. The result is a permanent underclass.
While I fear this new reality, I feel powerless to reverse the decline for all but a few. I feel empowered when I am spending time with a my 14 year-old mentee. But I feel helpless when talking with my ex-felon relative.
I still hold out hope for a more positive trend. But I fear that the new normal has reached a point of no return. What do you think?