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Racial Inequality in Modern Day America

Sample Paper 3 by Lynsey Benton - Fall 2012

After watching the video "The House We Live In", and witnessing the media coverage of the occupy movements, it has been impossible to ignore the severity of inequality in America today. This inequality speaks of income inequality, social inequality and racial inequality, to name a few.

The most severe form of inequality in this country is racial inequality. The statistics speak volumes. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2007 that the median income for a white family was $64,427, compared to only $40,143 for a black family. Only 10.6 percent of the white population in 2007 lived below the poverty line for a family of four, whereas 24.4 of the black population lived below this line; that's double. Only 46 percent of black Americans own their homes, compared to 72 percent of whites. The unemployment rate of blacks in 2007 was nearly double that of whites. (Reuters)

Other than income, what does this profound inequality mean for blacks? To name just a few of the many consequences, infant mortality for babies of black women is 2.4 times that of babies of white women, reported by the CDC. Life expectancy is approximately 5 years less for blacks than whites. Women with early-stage breast cancer are less likely to receive radiation therapy after surgery, according to a study by the Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. (CNN) Furthermore, the male population of blacks that are incarcerated is four times that of their white counterparts. Public schools have yet again become increasingly more segregated- a problem that is expected to worsen. And many segregated schools struggle to gain qualified teachers and staff, leading to a high drop-out rates. Segregation of schools also puts at risk the quality of education received by non-white students, who make up 43 percent of the total student body in America. (Reuters)

Racism has been present in America since the beginning, and the United States government has systematically held black citizens back. As shown in "The House We Live In", the government made a clear effort to provide returning soldiers with affordable housing. But what this really meant was providing homes to white soldiers; this opportunity was denied to the nearly one million black soldiers. Even with the creation of the Federal Housing Administration, a mere 2 percent of mortgages were granted to black citizens. So while blacks were granted the privileged to serve for the freedom of "their" country, they were not granted the rights their country offered to whites. It wasn't until 1968 that the Fair Housing Act was signed, that blacks were given the right to purchase homes and property without discrimination. (Cheng) That said, it has been less than 50 years that black families have had the same privileges as their white citizens.

American citizens who were black were not really granted the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. This act meant that blacks were no longer required to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote. So again, as with being able to purchase homes, blacks have only had the right to vote for less than 50 years.

Africans were first brought to America in 1619, nearly 400 years ago as slaves. Blacks lived as slaves, with absolutely no rights for nearly 250 years. Slavery was not abolished until 1865, and even then, it took many more years before blacks were really free. And in a mere 50 years of "having" the full and equal rights as whites, society still seems to be in disbelief as to why they are struggling. They've had only 50 years to accomplish what whites have had forever to.

With the election of the first black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, it is easy to fall prey to the idea that inequality has been conquered; that black and white people now live in equality and have equal opportunities in our country today. A report by Urban League emphasized the importance of continuing to fight for equality. (CNN) The report acknowledged that according to their equality index, blacks are 71 percent that of whites. "The analysis shows that while important gains were made, both for blacks and whites, in each of these areas during the 1990s expansion, there was actually a loss of ground in median household income, poverty and home ownership during the 2001-2007 expansion, known as the jobless recovery," the report explained. Policy recommendations of the report include increased funding for job training programs, passing a bill that would help educate future home buyers, studying healthcare as in the criminal justice system as it relates to black inmates, funding the No Child Left Behind Act in full, and the guarantee of access to high quality education for 3 and 4 year olds.

It is easy for the average white American today to turn a blind eye to modern racism, with the assumption that equality is reality and that racism is no more. Americans today want to be part of "a colorblind society, that values the content of character over the color of skin.... but, is colorblindness the same as equality?" Looking at statistics, it is clear that our goal of equality is going to require much more action to be accomplished. In a society that has always practiced and been defined by racism, we sadly have a long way to go in order to give our equal black citizens true equality.

Works Cited

Cheng, Jean, dir. Race: The Power of an Illusion: The House We Live In. Historical Documentary. California Newsreel, 2003. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

"Racial Inequality in the United States." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 18 Jan. 2009. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.

"Report Sees 'Sobering Statistics on Racial Inequality." CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.