How is America changing?
Part1: What were race relations like forty years ago?
Racism occurs when one dominant group actively tries to oppress another racial group. There have been racial disparities in America in the last forty years. The key areas of change in America include education, economic inequality, poverty and unemployment.
African Americans have over the last 40 years made progress in advancing their education with their rate of high school graduation increasing by over 200%. This means that African Americans will by 2018 reach educational equality with whites if the same rate continues. College graduation rates for African Americans have also increased by over 400% since the 1970's. This however means that at the same rate, college graduation inequality will persist until 2087. In regards to those high school drop outs, 67% of Whites as opposed to 38 % of African Americans are employed (Kassie, 1998).
Economic equality remains a dream for African Americans, to achieve economic equality will take more than 500 years if the income gaps close at the same slow rate since 40 years ago and 600 years for Blacks to achieve wealth equality with whites. A third of the African American workforce earns $385 or less per week. Currently a third of all Black children are living in poverty (Entman & Rojecki, 2001).
Poverty and unemployment
The highest level of income inequality is in America. Unemployment is the most dominant cause of poverty and it has been twice as high for African Americans as compared to White employment since 1968. Whites earn well over 20% more than their equivalent African American workers. The evidence that some of the employers discriminate against blacks is there even disregarding of their qualifications. One case is reported out of every 5 job interviews (Entman & Rojecki, 2001).
Part 2: What are race relations like now?
The worst part of racism in America can be said to be over, the institutions are indeed making good progress in promoting equality and also confronting racism. However, blacks still have significantly the lowest levels of education or lack of it, lower high school graduation rate, higher incarceration rates, the highest rate of crime, and notably are collectively in the poorest economic position as compared to any other race (Kassie, 1998).
Blacks have had 45 years of legal equality but a large segment is still living in poverty as compared to the Whites living in poverty. Statistics for measuring quality of life in society show that blacks are still lagging behind whites in all possible categories. This has clearly undermined the idea that racism could simply be a matter of prejudice that exists only on the ideological level (Kassie, 1998).
Access to healthcare remains a major problem for Blacks with over 20% having no health cover at all. Lack of health insurance and poverty mean that the Blacks will die on an average of 6 years younger than the white population. Infant mortality rates for blacks are more than two times those for white babies. The AIDS epidemic among the African Americans has also been fueled by the same with 6% of the infected population being made up of 68% of all new AIDS among the blacks (Logan & Freeman, 2000).
African Americans make up 13% of the total population but do represent well over 50% of America's prison population. The black men are 6% of the total population but 40% of those on death row. African American youngsters are also dealt with much more harshly than the whites in the juvenile system. They are also 6 times more likely than the whites to be sent to prison by the juvenile courts. Black youth are also 48 times most likely than the whites to be sentenced to prison for drug offenses, Should the rates stay constant, Statistics show that 30% percent of Black youth turning 12 this year will most likely spend time in a jail in their lifetime (Entman & Rojecki, 2001).
Part 3: How is the tight job market likely to affect race relations?
Even as the 1990's booming economy closed, the poverty rates for African Americans dropped to 23 percent and their unemployment fell to a low of 7% in 1999. This still did little to reduce the economic inequality gap which continues to separate whites from blacks. Statistics have also shown that African Americans always tend to be the very last to be hired even when the economy is booming. This means that they are also the first to be fired when there is a downturn hits (Freeman, 1998).
The losses of jobs have mostly been in construction and manufacturing and have now also hit retailers, the Jobs in those sectors are more often than not held by the African Americans. Clearly, Unemployment among the Blacks is increasing at a faster pace than in other similar periods since mid 1970s. Statistics have shown that more than 2.5 million jobs have disappeared over the last 2 years and close to 90% were in the manufacturing sector meaning that Blacks have been hit harder than their white counterparts (Wilson, 1996).
The impact of these layoffs hitting African Americans further show how racism makes worse an already very bad situation especially when the economy starts to contract. Major multinational corporations, during the recession cut African American Jobs at a more rapid rate than for their white workers.
Will there be a time when race will cease to be an issue in the U.S.?
In regards to equal treatment, education, healthcare access, justice system etc, there are still some major problems that face minorities in America to ensure equality is achieved. Even on social issues such as marriage, only 53% of people feel it does not matter which race the person they are marrying comes from. People of different races still prefer to live in their own racially integrated neighborhood (Entman & Rojecki, 2001).
The way forward is to ensure that African Americans have access to quality education and healthcare, are able to get and maintain jobs thus ensuring decreased poverty levels. However, worthy noting is that there is more tolerance and less racism as years progress he list goes on and on, which is quite impressive in terms of change and progress made in moving away from a racist society. What now needs to be worked on are the racism ideologies that are manifested in the ideas and ideals.
Johnes Wilson. (1996) Encyclopedia of African American education. Greenwood publishing
Kassie Freeman. (1998). African American culture and heritage in higher education research
and practice. Greenwood publishing group.
Robert M. Entman & Andrew Rojecki. (2001). The black image in the white mind: media and
race in America. University of Chicago press.
Sadye L. Logan & Edith M. Freeman. (2000). Healthcare in the black community. Routledge.