Black Americans should be inspired to convert the anger provoked by the comments and actions of President Trump into an action plan, starting with the truth, because presenting a false narrative lures people into complacency and lowers their expectations.
As much as I admire Oprah Winfrey, Madam C.J. Walker, and Annie Malone – all self-made millionaires – and the relatively few black millionaire actors, business people, rappers, and sports figures, the glass ceiling they broke regenerated itself. As such, they do not represent a change that warrants complacency, lack of unity, and a blind allegiance to the status quo.
Shockingly, California’s African Americans suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, under-employment, mental illness, incarceration, and wealth, health, education, and employment inequities, and the lowest homeownership rate.
Black people were underemployed (working below their capacity and for less) at a rate of 12.7% in November 2017, and 9.9% were unemployed, while the national unemployment rate was 4.1%, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis.
It’s worse when you take into consideration long-term unemployment of blacks, which is intentionally excluded from the unemployment rates quoted by the President.
In regard to black wealth in California, for each dollar of increase in the average income of African American households between 1982 and 2009, just $0.69 in additional wealth was generated compared to $5.19 in wealth for white families, according to the Institute for Policy Studies and the Corporation for Economic Development.
Of the 8 million Californians living below the federal poverty levels of $24,600 a year for a family of four, 23% were black, according to a 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation study, and the Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that 50% of the homeless population in the United States is black. In Los Angeles County, blacks are only 8% of the county’s population but account for 39% of the homeless population, according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).
Social scientists, economists, and other experts attribute this injustice to poor public policies that create institutional and systemic inequities.
Interestingly, not only are these policies failing people of color, more and more of our white brothers and sisters are suffering as well. You might wonder why California doesn’t simply build more colleges and pass legislation to address these inequities. Frederick Douglass’ answer was: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Here’s a thought: the dynamic women who have marched in the streets should join with the dynamic men and women who clean the streets to pass legislation that establishes affirmative action policies in California. Together they can prioritize pay, employment, contracting, and education equity for women and people of color, demand more resources for public and higher education in communities of color to offset inequities created by wealth disparities, build more colleges, and break the cycle of prison and poverty. They could also advocate for tax reform that modifies property, sales, and income tax policies and credits to prioritize funding for these policies.
As President Barack Obama has reminded us, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”