By Alan Caruba
The speech Barack Obama gave on the subject of race in America has received all kinds of congratulatory statements. I saw news reports showing Obama on a stage full of American flags behind him and, perhaps cynically, thought that this is what every politician does in moments of crisis. Get out the flags!
Since I cannot address any of the points he made, let me refer you to the National Urban League’s annual State of Black America report, issued in April 2007.
“Empowering black men to reach their full potential is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today,” said Marc H. Morial, the Urban League president, adding that is necessary, not just for blacks, but for the entire American family.
Here’s what the Urban League had to say in 2007.
African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males while earning 74% as much per year. Unemployment for black men was 9.5 percent, as compared to 4 percent for white men.
Black men are nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated, with average jail sentences about ten months longer than those of their white counterparts.
Black males between 15 and 34 are nine times more likely than whites to be killed by firearms.
Black males are nearly eight times more likely than whites to suffer from AIDS.
After attending elementary school, blacks “begin to fall behind on standardized tests.” (President Bush’s heralded No Child Left Behind). The Urban League reported that in fourth grade blacks perform at a level of 87 percent of whites. By the time they reach twelfth grade, their scores are at 74 percent of whites.
By high school blacks are more likely to drop out—15 percent, as compared with 12 percent for whites.
There’s no point laying out more statistics because none of this should come as any surprise to anyone in the black community and are understood by whites as a kind of cultural contagion, a pathology that defeats black males and presumably their female counterparts.
This nation went through a Civil War in the 1860s that cost hundreds of thousands of lives in order to keep the southern states from succeeding and whose great moral cause was to end slavery. After the war the states passed the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution to insure that slavery would never again exist in America and that blacks would be granted the rights of all citizens.
In the 1960s, a century after the Civil War, yet another struggle was waged to end the indignities of segregation, Jim Crow laws, and other impediments to blacks. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
Here we are nearly fifty years since those days and a black man, Barack Obama, is competing to be the nominee of the Democrat Party against yet another historical breakthrough, a white woman, the first to be taken seriously as a contender for that high office.
I would suggest that whites in America have thoroughly reformed themselves, though often because of the laws that broke the back of institutional racism. They have cheered the ascendancy of many blacks to positions of honor in this nation.
I would suggest, however, that there is a deep, frequently unspoken sadness and even anger among whites that the statistics cited by the Urban League in 2007 represent a black population that, in general, has failed to live up to the opportunity that America has provided, opportunity that people died to provide.
I know the exceptions to this and I count them to be as dear as my own family, but they are the exceptions.