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Friday, March 21, 2008

Race and Poverty in America

Yesterday, in an email, Newt Gingrich challenged me to take Senator Obama up on his offer. Here is how Newt put it...

The sections of his speech on race and poverty were eloquent -- but they were fundamentally inaccurate and inadequate.

As such, they create a real opportunity to engage Sen. Obama in a national dialogue about why poverty exists on the Southside of Chicago, why Detroit has been a disaster and why there is so much crime in Philadelphia.

This is the best opportunity conservatives have had in our lifetime to engage a serious politician of the left on a national dialogue about how to help every American pursue happiness.Sen. Obama's analysis in his Philadelphia speech was so filled with inaccuracies and was so inadequate in its proposed remedies that it must be responded to. However, the event could be the beginning of a major national effort to discuss how we can help poor people, poor neighborhoods and impoverished Americans.What Would Sen. Obama Do About the Tragedy of Detroit?

In Real Change (which with your help has now entered its ninth week on the New York Times bestsellers list), I outline the disaster of Detroit, which has dropped from 1,800,000 people in 1950 to fewer than 900,000 today (the first American city to drop below one million in our history). Detroit had the highest median income of all major cities in America in 1950. Today it ranks at No. 66 out of 68 major cities in media household income.

The tragedy of Detroit can't be blamed on the decline of the auto industry alone. Grand Rapids -- another Michigan city dependent on the auto industry but one with good government -- is prospering.

African-Americans in particular have been impoverished by the bad government policies of Detroit. What would Sen. Obama do to reform the bad city government, failed public safety policies and terrible school system?

I addressed the issue of racism the other day with this piece...and now I will address the issue of poverty...

To me, you cannot start any discussion of poverty in the African American community without identifying some very revealing statistics. According to the 2000 census, nearly 70% of all African American babies were born out of wedlock. In fact, only 44% of African American households are married. That is compared to 80% for Whites and 70% for Hispanic.

There is one more even more revealing statistics. In married African American households, the median income is 82% of that in married White house holds. Here is how Bill O'Reilly espoused on the matter...

According to the latest census, black married couples earn 82 percent of what white married couples make. For married blacks, the median income is $50,729. For married whites the median is $60,080. And because the majority of African-Americans live in the South, where salaries and living costs are lower -- that income figure gap is really closer in reality than it is on paper.

I am a numbers person because numbers don't lie. In today's society the numbers bear it out. The root of poverty in the African American community can be directly traced to the break down of the African American family. The race baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will continue to perpetuate a narrative about a lack of economic opportunity in the African American race. In fact, that is the narrative that Obama himself perpetuated. The simple fact of the matter is that as our society stands, the roots of poverty in the African American community can be traced directly to the breakdown of the family unit. Here is how Linda Chavez put it...

Nearly seven in 10 black babies are born to single mothers today. These children will fail in school at higher rates than those born to two parents. They are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. Their poverty rates will be higher. And they are far more likely to repeat this pattern by giving birth to or fathering a child out of wedlock themselves.

Barack Obama could talk about this problem in a personal way. While his parents were married, his African father abandoned his mother in his infancy and he was raised primarily by his white grandparents, including the grandmother whom he admits is "a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world."

But instead of confronting the problem at the core of the black/white economic divide, he chose to repeat the litany of liberal explanations. Even while acknowledging the role of welfare policies in the erosion of black families, his main emphasis was on "[a] lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family. ... The lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods -- parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement -- all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us."

Politicians in general -- black, white, and brown -- have avoided talking about illegitimacy, even though it now threatens not just the black community but increasingly Hispanics and poor whites as well. Nearly half of Hispanic babies are being born to single mothers today -- a big increase in just the last few years -- and one in four white babies are born out of wedlock. And when you factor in high divorce rates, substantial numbers of American children will spend a major portion of their childhoods in female-headed households.

The breakdown of the family unit can be traced at least in part to society making such behavior acceptable. One of the main reasons that out of wedlock births have exploded in the African American community is because the community at large makes it socially acceptable. Thirty, forty, and fifty years ago single mothers would have been shunned by society. There are likely many causes for the more libertine attitude in society, however I firmly believe that the explosion of hip hop in the African American community plays a very significant role in explaining out of wed lock births. The other part of it is the leader's of the community's reluctance to address the core issues, and their insistence on finding red herrings for blame. Here is how Juan Williams put it...

I've been a reporter in Washington, D.C., for a long time, and lived through the Marion Barry years where you had a corrupt, drug-addicted mayor who played on his civil rights credentials to make himself a hero to people. He led a city government that lacked accountability and failed to deliver on its promises.

In the '80s I covered Jesse Jackson's two campaigns, where arguably it wasn't about winning the presidency but about raising issues that were of concern to people of color and the poor and forcing the mainstream political parties to pay attention to those who had been left behind by Reaganomics. In the years that followed, I looked back at the phenomenon of Jackson's presidential bid and his ensuing work and the question occurred to me, What has he accomplished? He was supposed to raise issues of justice for the poor and disadvantaged, but ultimately what his campaigns amounted to were an airplane for him to fly around in and jobs for his friends and political cronies. His campaigns seemed to have accomplished very little in terms of changing the condition of the disadvantaged.

Both Jackson and Barry led me to wonder, what had become of the civil rights movement and its struggle to achieve American ideals and Christian values in our nation? I just didn't see it. Instead, I saw a lot self-serving people who were posturing as advocates for the poor, but who really, it seemed to me, were enriching themselves.

I would be naive and irresponsible if I claimed that racism didn't exist, and if it didn't account for some of the poverty in the African American community, however unless its own leaders confront the roots that currently account for most of the problems, the poverty will continue.


Gail said...

We are missing the obvious here.

Any racism that still exists is strictly personal. It does not affect job hiring or promotion; it does not affect sales of merchandise, real estate or investments; it does not affect collee applications. It only affects who you invite into your home for dinner. That's it. That is all that is left of racism, and frankly, there isn't much of that left either. I mean, who wants to have dinner with a racist anyway?

However, the issues that Wright brings up are important. Not becaue they are true, but because apparently, a significant percentage of blacks believe they are. He has made his fortune convincig blacks that they are already set up to lose and that nothing they can do will overcome the liability of racism.

Suppose you go to a job interview and you already know that person is personally so racist against the color of your skin that they won't hire you? How are you going to perform in that interview? Are you going to appear bright, interested in the job and competent? No, you are going to appear untrusting, withdrawn, nervous, self conscious and/or propitiative. No mocked up, false front behavior will fool a skilled human resource specialist. If you don't trust them, they will know it; they won't know why, but they will know. You won't get the job. You already knew that before you walked through the door, and you will be right.

You threw that job away, not because you didn't believe in yourself, but because you didn't believe in the other guy.

There are a lot of people making a lot of money telling blacks that they are failing because of racism. They are selling racism and getting rich off of it.

The people who claim to be 'helping' the black community are pillaging it, and keeping it poor so they can continue to do so, one dollar, nickel or dime at a time.

End of story.

Anonymous said...

If any racism that still exists is "personal," then why is there such a n obvious record that sub-prime lenders targeted AA borrowers at a disproportional rate than white people? There is still institutional racism and the facts support this.

mike volpe said...

I don't want to get into a debate about institutional racism, however where is your evidence that sub prime lenders targeting African Americans? Unless you provide some sort of back up, I am calling nonsense. I work in the business. I never saw any racism of any kind on any sub prime. I was once involved in what I believed was redlining on a commercial mortgage but I never once saw anything close to racism on any residential loan.

Kristen said...

That's funny that you think lenders target African Americans. That is acutally hilarious considering the fact that Acorn would use their "resources" to force and minipulate bank(ers) into giving bad loans. There have even been cases where they would go to the lenders home and threaten them.

There is still racism, actually the most discriminated "person" in the country is white males.

And all that stuff about "family" being the breaking factor with AA is complete and utter crap. No one is forcing these kids to have sex. I could go have sex and have a baby but I don't. I work 3 jobs and go to school full time, that I pay for, to better my situation. If we saw more of that drive then we defenitely wouldn't have the problems we have right now.

Racism is a cop out. If you don't like the way your life is going do something about it. Get off your ass and go to school, get educated. The funny thing is if you are black, with a single parent who doesn't make much income school is pretty much free for you. I persoanlly pay $10,000.00 for my education.

I'm sick of hearing of this rasicm bullshit. Get up and do something don't put the blame on others for your laziness or situation.