Two Nations, One Black, One White, Separate and Unequal
So it was said, almost 50 years ago, by the Kerner Commission, in their report on the riots of the 1960s. Their exact words were: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”
And so it remains today. Today most large urban areas are highly segregated, Baltimore being just one of many (to which I will return shortly). For example, a recent report noted that New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the country. The report noted that in general that “Segregation is by far the most serious in the central cities of the largest metropolitan areas; the states of New York, Illinois and California are the top three worst for isolating black students.” Moreover, “Black and Latino students tend to be in schools with a substantial majority of poor children, while white and Asian students typically attend middle class schools.” In Detroit, more than 80% of the city is Black, with the infamous “8 mile road” serving as the dividing line.
Nationally, about 3 million blacks attend schools that are 90% or more minority. A recent report finds that “African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago.” In his latest book, Shame of the Nation, Jonathan Kozol reports that black students in urban areas attend schools that are almost 100% black. More specifically, Kozol writes that: “In Chicago, by the academic year 2002-2003, 87 percent of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of children in the schools were white. In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were black or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were white. In St. Louis, 82 percent of the student population were black or Hispanic; in Philadelphia and Cleveland, 79 percent; in Los Angeles, 84 percent, in Detroit, 96 percent; in Baltimore, 89 percent. In New York City, nearly three quarters of the students were black or Hispanic.”
According to several recent reports, blacks are the most segregated racial group in America. Blacks are “hypersegregated” (e.g., clustered in a specific geographical area, rarely see anyone from another racial groups in their neighborhoods, etc.) in most of the largest metropolitan areas across the U.S., such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Hispanics are also highly segregated in many cities.
It goes without saying that in these areas the poverty rate is well above the national average. According to the National Poverty Center 38% of black children and 35% of Hispanic children live in poverty. The income and wealth gap between blacks and whites remains as large as ever, as recent data show. There are other large differences between blacks and whites, including how long they will live. Recent data show that white men live five years more than black men and white men who graduate from high school are expected to live 14 years longer than black men who drop out. Lack of educational opportunities continue to plague blacks and other minorities. For instance, blacks have a much higher dropout rate than whites and 13% of blacks between the ages 16 to 19 are not in school and not high school graduates, compared to 6% of whites.
Turning to Baltimore, a recent study at Harvard shows that “Among the nation’s 100 largest jurisdictions, the one where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty is the city of Baltimore….” A New York Times editorial notes “that those who grew up in recent decades in Baltimore earn 28 percent less at age 26 than otherwise similar kids who grew up in an average county in the United States.” The editorial continues, noting that: “As shocking as they are, these facts make perfect sense in the context of the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children.”
Racially segregated neighborhoods, poverty, poor schools, subpar housing, drugs, gangs and a history of racism becomes the context of what we have been witnessing. Throw into the mix a history of police serving as an “army of occupation” as if the neighborhoods were “internal colonies” (which I have discussed previously), plus the blatant murders of black males by the police (not to mention the high arrest and incarceration rates for blacks and other minorities) and you get the results we’ve seen.