It’s difficult to believe anything important has been missed about race and racism in the United States. What hasn’t been said or seen before? Yet, if my argument about recasting policy and management holds, we’re missing a great deal that is important.
–To see how, I focus on a past period about which we now know more than we did by way of what we missed then.
We needn’t return to the Watts Rebellion or earlier revolts. For our purposes, go back to the late 1990s to the mid-2000’s. It’s not so far past that some readers won’t remember it, but far enough away for added perspective. Start with some statistics reported then about African-Americans:
Black Americans, a mere 13 percent of the population, constitute half of this country’s prisoners. A tenth of all black men between ages 20 and 35 are in jail or prison… (cited 2007)
Something like one third of our young African American men between 18 and 25 are now connected to the juvenile justice system or the federal justice system. They’re on probation, they’re in jail, they’re under indictment or they’re incarcerated. (cited 2002)
…the most striking thing is the high portion of black men with zero reported income: about 18 percent of black men, compared to about 7 percent for whites and Hispanics. (cited 2007).
After declining throughout the 1980s, employment rates of young, less-educated white and Latino men remained flat during the 1990s. Among black men aged 16 through 24, employment rates actually dropped. In fact, this group’s employment declined more during the 1990s (which fell from 59 percent to 52 percent) than during the preceding decade [of lower economic growth]… (cited 2004)
The most dramatic, the most unfortunate of the several disastrous outcomes is the high rate of paternal abandonment of children: 60% of Afro-American children are being brought up without the emotional, economic or social support of their fathers. (cited 2002)
If so, even then you’d have had to ask: Why ever were we not interviewing those nine-tenths of young black men who were not in prison, those two-thirds who were not enmeshed in the criminal justice system, those four-fifths who did not have zero income, that half who were employed, and those four out of ten who had not “abandoned” their children—all in order to find out what they are doing right?
If one out of every two African American males between 18 and 45 were enmeshed in the criminal justice system, as in some of large American cities then, why ever wasn’t that other African-American male on the cover of Newsweek and Time—rather than O.J. Simpson—as a model for us all if only because here is someone who survived against very high odds?
One well-meaning observer said that, if he had a magic wand, he’d wave it so that every black would have a master’s degree, as degree holders were more likely to have higher incomes, better health and more positive outcomes. Before I waved any such wand, I’d want to know what kinds of educations were to be made missing.
–In brief, many good people with good data failed to acknowledge that the data did not go far enough and by stopping short of that, we all ended up in gross exaggeration.
Suppose, though, we had undertaken the additional research, interviews and analysis. (For all I know, some such studies were made.) Is there any reason to believe we wouldn’t have also misconstrued the new information?
Were that so, we have nothing new to say about US racism because we efface anything that is new or emergent. We insist instead on a history that, well, keeps repeating itself with “protests” and “street riots” and “looting.” Bullshit. Racism in this country remains the original corruption, that of willful ignorance willfully institutionalized.
Related blog entries
“Revolts,” “Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos and the next Constitutional Convention”
Frederic Rzewski’s “Coming Together”:
The words and background to “Coming Together”: