LAST week, the Pew Research Center published the 'astonishing finding' that 37 percent of African-Americans polled felt that “due to a widening income gap . . . the values of poor and middle-class blacks have grown more dissimilar over the past decade; and in contrast, the values of most blacks and whites have grown more alike.” I'm still trying to figure out who was 'astonished' by this 'finding'.
How did this happen? Well the old theories, slavery and segregation, surely laid the infrastructure that still exists benignly to this day. The new theories? The decline of factory jobs, crack cocaine, draconian drug laws and outsourcing to be sure.
It's jobs - which creates both stability, an important foundations from which to take risks and create wealth - which are the most significant tool that's needed, the keystone. Economic stability in the black community is the lifeblood, as in any community, that pours life and keeps us safe from the other ills.
The problem is the lack of jobs, and the segregation of opportunity that comes without it, that still marks the overall black community in the United States. This is no doubt emulated in many other parts of the world, but the U.S. must focus on its culpable acts over the years, not worry about what others may or may not do. This nation has a dismal record on its own standing as not to have to concern itself with how the rest of the world handles its problems (Darfur perhaps an exception). You wanna reduce crime, improve schools, and have a more harmonious society with less political division? Easy - use our great potential as a nation to close the gap between rich and poor, not just financially, but spiritually.
A Harvard study of the family trees of 20 successful African-Americans, shows an astonishing pattern: 15 of the 20 descend from at least one line of former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920 — a time when only 25 percent of all African-American families owned property.
Imagine how different black-white relations would be had “40 acres and a mule” really been official U.S. government policy after the Civil War. The gap between the black middle class and underclass shows that ending discrimination would not eradicate black poverty and dysfunction. Further intervention to promulgate a middle-class ethic of success among the poor, while expanding opportunities for economic betterment among every level through promoting upward mobility as a family value at all socioeconomic levels. But who is to do that? Black people, it's your problem you better start before you ask somebody else to do it.
Margaret Thatcher, in the 1980s, turned 1.5 million residents of public housing projects in Britain into homeowners. This was a positive (and liberal) step for the conservative PM Thatcher. It has had mixed results, apparently. But its core benefit is that it has created a stake in the land for these U.K. citizens they didn't have before.
The telltale fact is that the biggest gap in black prosperity isn’t in income, but in wealth. According to a study by the economist Edward N. Wolff, the median net worth of non-Hispanic black households in 2004 was only $11,800 — less than 10 percent that of non-Hispanic white households, $118,300. Sadly, in the wake of the subprime mortgage debacle, an enormous number of houses are being repossessed. But for the black poor, real progress may come only once they have an ownership stake in American society.
Some scholars say that the civil rights movement may be reborn, with the focus to thumbmark the causes of entrenched black economic struggling at all levels, both those afflicted upon and those self-inflicted, and take action. If there is a correlation between land ownership and success of African-Americans that is reflected in current socioeconomics, and partly the result of social forces set in motion by the dismal failure of 40 acres and a mule, then a correction - which means economic and social advancement in one's fellow man support - is surely needed before we really have 2 - or 3 - separate and unequal nations.