FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Separate and Impoverished: America’s Black Poor

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate for president, shocked people when he noted that 51 percent of African-Americans aged 17 through 20 who have graduated high school or dropped out of high school are unemployed.

PolitiFact.com confirmed the statement as “mostly true,” suggesting that the numbers might even be worse than Sanders suggested.

This level of unemployment is a death sentence for a generation — representing for too many the dying of hope, of potential and even, in an age of mass incarceration, of freedom.

The figure is shocking, but the reality cannot be denied. For all the progress we have made on race in this country, there is still a stark difference between black and white poverty. As Emily Badger reports in the Washington Post, “The poverty that poor African-Americans experience is often different from the poverty of poor whites.” A poor black family is much more likely to live in an impoverished neighborhood. The concentrated poverty, as Badger writes, “extends out the door of a family’s home and occupies the entire neighborhood around it, touching the streets, the schools, the grocery stores.”

A new report on the “Architecture of Segregation” by Paul Jargowsky for the New Century Foundation details the stark differences that exist in cities across the country. In metropolitan Chicago, for example, more than one in three poor African-Americans live in what are called high-poverty census tracts (neighborhoods where the poverty rate is above 40 percent). That is 10 times the rate for poor whites. And it has gotten worse, not better, in cities across the country over the course of this century.

Separate and impoverished. We know the effects. Infants suffer bad nutrition, grow up surrounded by lead paint. Children navigate mean streets to go to impoverished schools. They lack after-school and summer programs. Families break apart. Guns and drugs come in; jobs go out. There’s no affordable transportation to get to where the jobs are. Houses are abandoned. Hospitals close. Decent grocery stores are nowhere to be found.

As Jargowsky says, this isn’t really an accident. It is the product of systemic discrimination, of zoning laws that shield off wealthy areas from the poor, of public housing that is concentrated in a few neighborhoods. Isolation in poor neighborhoods is an imposition, not a choice.

This could be different. In London, for example, every region must have some social housing for poor and working class people. Imagine if every suburb were required to provide a proportionate amount of housing for the poor and the lower-wage workers. Suddenly the poor would have access to better schools, better health care, safer streets, more role models and healthier (and less expensive) food stores.

This takes a plan, a plan that will meet great resistance. Dozens of Chicago’s wealthy suburbs, Badger notes, have ignored state deadlines to produce affordable housing plans.

Poor African-Americans are penned up, in poor neighborhoods and too often literally in jails and prisons. This is an imposition, not a fate, a policy choice that is morally indefensible and socially explosive.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail