A Post-Racial Era?

Five years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, the Antiplanner noted that blacks had made a lot of political progress since then, but hadn’t made much economic progress. For example, black per capita incomes as a percent of white incomes had grown from 55 percent in 1963 to 58 percent in 2011, the last year for which data were available at the time I was writing. (According to tables B19301B and B19301H of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the actual percentage in 2011 was 56 percent.)

There have been some improvements in the last five years, but they are small. Black per capita incomes in 2016 — the last year for which numbers are available now and five years after the 2011 data I cited in 2013 — are 2 percent greater, as a share of of non-Hispanic white incomes (58 percent in 2016), than they were in 2011. According to tables B19013B and B19013H, black household incomes have grown from 60 percent to 61 percent of non-Hispanic white incomes. (The ratio is a little higher because black households have more people.)

Black wealth took a big hit in the Great Recession. Unlike incomes, this doesn’t appear to have improved since 2011.

One reason is homeownership rates, as homes are the primary source of wealth for low- and moderate-income families that own their homes. Black homeownership rates reached 49 percent in 2004 (compared with 76 percent for whites), but fell to 43 percent by 2011 (compared with 72 percent for whites). By 2016, black rates had fallen further to 41 percent (compared with 69 percent for whites–see tables B25003B and B25003H). Note that blacks (and low-income people in general) took a bigger hit than whites because they were more likely to lose their homes.

In other areas, blacks have made a little more progress. In 2011, only 18.4 percent of blacks over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or better, compared with 31.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites (tables B15002B and B15002H). By 2016, the black share had grown to 20.9 percent (a 14-percent increase), which was an outstanding gain compared with non-Hispanic whites, which had grown to 32.7 percent (a mere 3 percent increase).

Politically, black progress is also stagnant. The measure I used in 2013 was the number of blacks in the Mississippi legislature, which was zero when King gave his speech. The first black in the post-reconstruction era was elected in 1967. In 2013, I wrote that “more than a quarter” of the legislature was black. The exact share was 27 percent. This year, that has grown to 29 percent, but this still falls short of black’s 38 percent of Mississippi’s population.

Curiously, there are more blacks in the Mississippi legislature than women, which is especially strange considering that women make up more than half the population of Mississippi. Also curiously, exactly half of the women legislators are black.

When Obama was president, some people said we lived in a post-racial society in which discrimination was a thing of the past (and therefore we could get rid of anti-discrimination and forced-integration laws). I think recent events have proven this to be wrong. I’d like to believe that our president, while crude, isn’t really a racist, but for some people his rhetoric has made racism appear respectable again.

Perhaps this is a good thing; drawing racists out from under cover reveals to everyone the problems that blacks still face today. Perhaps the me-too movement can prove a model for the civil rights movement by making it clear that racism will never again be acceptable.

Eliminating overt racism, however, won’t be enough to bring black incomes, wealth, homeownership rates, and other economic measures equal to whites, as there remain major obstacles to all low-income people, regardless of color or ethnicity, who want to enter the middle class. High school graduation rates for low-income people are much lower than for middle-class students. The costs of higher education have grown prohibitive for anyone whose parents aren’t wealthy. One path towards wealth is homeownership, but policies that make housing unaffordable to many families are actually forcing blacks out of many urban areas. Until we remove these obstacles, blacks and other low-income minorities are not going to see a fair deal in our society.


11 thoughts on “A Post-Racial Era?

  1. CapitalistRoader

    “I’d like to believe that our president, while crude, isn’t really a racist, but for some people his rhetoric has made racism appear respectable again.”

    The previous president was an overt racist, with his “typical white person”, okie-doke, and bitter-clinger comments. Worse was his and his DOJ’s pandering to minority criminality which drove up African American murder rates in large cities throughout the US.

    Minorities are objectively much better off under President Trump than in any time in history:

    Almost unnoticed by the mainstream media, unemployment rates for Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians have not only fallen, but are now at all-time lows. That’s right: Unemployment has never been lower for minorities, at least not since 1972, when such records first started being kept.
    Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped 17% for Hispanics, 14% for African Americans and 11% for Asians.
    More significantly, the jobless rate for African Americans fell to a record low 6.8% in December from 7.2% the month before. And it was the first time ever that unemployment for African Americans ever fell below 7%.

    Hispanics, too, have seen unemployment drop to record-low levels. For Hispanics, unemployment fell below 5% for the first time ever in October. It stood at 4.9% in December, just a tick above its all-time low of 4.8% in October and November.
    Don’t Look Now, But Minority Unemployment Is At Record Lows Under Trump

  2. JOHN1000

    After Trump was nominated, he invited blacks to join him and the republican party, saying “what have you got to lose?” since blacks in cities (like Baltimore) constantly claimed they were still discriminated against and left out of money and power.

    Trump noted that Baltimore, like most places where blacks were suffering, had been controlled by democrats for over half a century. His remarks were hitting home.

    The next day, the media, the democrats and selected “black leaders” started calling Trump a racist with no basis. it was a blatant maneuver to keep blacks under control of the white Democratic leaders and a few black power brokers. They succeeded.

    Blacks are doing better under Trump despite the democratic racists, the black “leaders” and a racist media which treats blacks as little more than useful inferior pawns to attack Trump.

  3. CapitalistRoader

    There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.
    — Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (1911)

  4. Frank

    Some may question if Trump is a racist. It’s unequivocal that he’s a misogynist at the least. After all, he walks right up to women and just grabs them by the pussy!

  5. Sandy Teal

    Why is economic measures somehow a measure of “racism”? Every black child in DC gets a free $20K a year education, but almost half don’t complete the free $240,000 education to get a high school diploma. And the city is run by blacks from the teachers to the principals to the school board to the city council to the mayor.

    Blacks were poorly served by the movement to make home ownership so easy that people with bad credit and limited finances were loaned money and promised it was just going to grow in value. They bought in at the top of the bubble and they lost a lot of wealth. That is not racism, just democracy giving people what they want.

    By any measure racism is a tenth of what it was a couple generations ago, maybe a hundredth. It is so scarce that people have to go to bizarre extremes to claim racism. Anybody would rather would have a professional working black family move next to them than a poor white family — the class issue matters much more now than race.

  6. LazyReader

    Regarding that Sh*****hole comment. Haiti received it’s independence in 1804, if after 200 years you cant feed your citizenry, perpetually plagued by corruption, what would you call it? A success hole?

    Trump probably did not say it. Two people in the CLOSED DOOR meeting said he didn’t. Vs. the racebaiting media who hates him who said he did. Hmmm……This was a set up. Second, how did CNN assemble their premium race baiting panel for Don Lemon so damn fast? All of them, especially Ana Navarro, repeating the same exact race baiting crap they have been doing since he got elected that they have had to hold their tongue on until this immigration legislation issue comes up. Trump has been in the mainstream media for over 30 years….not once was he called racist until he started going after the democratic regime and the mainstream media.

    Unemployment among blacks and hispanics is at it’s lowest in decades since the govt kept track of it. And he’s desperately trying to fix the plagued inner city that ruins so many black lives “that are supposed to matter”. Trumps done more for blacks than the entire democratic party. So why don’t they Pray Trump finally severs that pipeline that puts so many black youths in the that concrete shithole called prison.

    Abortion on demand: Democrats CARE about women’s rights. Gun control: Democrats CARE about American lives (those whom survived abortion anyway). Minimum wage: Democrats CARE people have a “livable wage.” And of course, government subsidized programs, because Democrats CARE about providing a plump government nipple for the nourishment of helpless sucklings. Democrats supported tax reform until Trump actually did it.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said last year he favored cutting the corporate tax rate to make U.S. businesses competitive worldwide.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was on the same page: “It is long past time for tax reform that would lower the corporate rate.”
    Expanding the child tax credit? Former Sen. Tom Daschle and Pelosi called on President Bush to do just that in 2003.
    How about axing the Alternative Minimum Tax? None other than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wanted to replace it with a simpler flat rate during his presidential run.

    Why else do Democrats race to podiums to decry losing control over you.

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