It’s difficult to believe anything important has been missed about race and racism in the United States. What hasn’t been said? Yet we’re missing a great deal that is important when it comes to recasting them.
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.
–Go back to the late 1990s to the mid-2000’s. As an optic, 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)
Yet 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?
–Did this happened? To my knowledge, it did not.
Instead, as race and class continue to claim their own unique frameworks, it’s long looked like a methodological debate as in: Which is better? To address racism in these ways or in those ways?
Guess who the losers have been either way? 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 very different educations were to be made missing.
On the problematics of an undifferientated understanding of racism in the US, see Adolf Reed, Jr. (2022). “Afropessimism, or Black Studies as a Class Project,” Issue #39: Art/Race/Theory/Practice of nonsite.org (accessed online on September 8 2022 at https://nonsite.org/afropessimism-or-black-studies-as-a-class-project/)