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 percent in November 2017, and 9.9 percent were unemployed, while the national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis.
It is worse when you consider 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 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 per 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. For example:
- The federal policy of issuing work and education visas for foreigners, who occupy up to 16% of college positions and receive many of the high paid tech jobs, while we argue about the Dreamers who are part of the fiber of America.
- California is one of ten states that ban affirmative action in education, employment, and contracting that would combat the wealth, health, education, and employment inequities attributable to discrimination, yet we are a predominantly Democratic state.
- California has the highest income, sales, and gas taxes in the nation, which raise the costs of transportation and goods and the prices of the products consumed. This disproportionately favors the wealthy while doubling the negative impact on the poor and middle class.
- True, the $52 billion gas tax increase will create more short term quality transportation jobs, but the promise of employment for African Americans is false. There is nothing in the legislation that requires the government to take action to train, educate, and outreach through minority media. This should be shocking given that women and Blacks are significantly underrepresented in the construction industry.
- Then there is the public policy of institutional slavery, according to a United State Supreme Court decision that found that California is incarcerating men and women without adequate mental and medical care, housing, job training, reentry assistance, and supervision in violation of the 8th amendment of the Constitution, thereby saving the state billions.
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 does not 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 inequity 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.”
Board of Equalization District 3