So, we have the numbers. According to the Urban League’s State of Black America report (PDF), blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, but Hispanics fare better. The underemployment rate for blacks was 20.5 percent, Hispanics 18.4 percent, and whites 11.8 percent. (Why do Hispanics fare better job- and academic-wise that blacks?)
Such disparities are typical. On measures that range from academic achievement to incarceration, the usual line-up from better to worse is East Asians, whites, Hispanics, and blacks. What accounts for these seemingly as-sure-as-death-and-taxes disparities? Unless you have a far-reaching and inventive imagination, it’s difficult to believe that this EA-W-H-B pattern is the result of white people or any other people keeping black people down. The closest you could get is examining whether illegal immigration exacerbates unemployment among the low-skilled.
The first section of the 232-page report deals with statistics. The rest consists of essays (with more numbers) authored by such people as Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, various judges, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, musician Wynton Marsalis, and others.
Do any of the contributors mention family instability and lack of focus on education as factors that contribute to unemployment disparities? Well, teacher stability merits a mention, but there’s no emphasis on intact families.
In one essay, “Policies of Exclusion Perpetuate the Racial Wealth Gap,” Thomas M. Shapiro contends that “Personal ambition and behavioral choices are but a small part of the equation.” He says that white families buy homes earlier than blacks because they’re likelier to receive help from family or an inheritance. Even if true, what does he think should be done about it? Self-education? Change of the individual’s attitude toward wealth-building?
“Residential segregation places an artificial ceiling on home equity in non- white neighborhoods…Past policies of exclusion, such as discriminatory mortgage lending, which continues today, ensure that certain groups reap a greater share of what America has to offer while others are left out.”
But is the “racial segregation” based on people choosing to live where they can afford, or is it based on the government barring blacks from certain areas? It matters, because one is legal and the other is not. There will always be disparities based on something, and a racial disparity isn’t evidence of racial discrimination. And lending institutions must discriminate in order to make money. If those factors happen to disproportionately impact blacks, it doesn’t mean the bank is “racist” or biased.
The report’s facts and opinions won’t change anybody’s mind from what he or she already believes. We need more reports that exclude loaded words like “segregation” and emphasize what individuals can do to improve life outcomes.