I wonder what Roseanne Olsen and “the many white people” she references mean when saying they are “tired of being spanked in the media for their shortcomings as to African Americans” (Letter: If we come together, change will prevail). I think she might enjoy reading sociologist Robin Diangelo’s trending book, “White Fragility,” which explores why white people are often defensive about racism.
If we add an economic lens, we more clearly see that systemic racism exists. Socioeconomic data reveal enormous white privilege (even if not all white people feel privileged) and they unmask the endemic racism in our social institutions.
Consider pre-pandemic Census Bureau data. Median weekly earnings were $922 overall, but only $725 for African Americans. White unemployment was 3.8%, compared to 7.5% for Blacks. High school drop-out rates were 4.6% for whites and 6.5% for Blacks. Bachelor’s degrees were awarded to 21% of whites and 15% of Blacks. Poverty rates were 8.8% for non-Hispanic whites, vs. 22.0% for Blacks. Home ownership rates were 73% for non-Hispanic whites and 42% for Blacks. Among non-Hispanic whites, 6.3% lacked health insurance, whereas 10.5% of African Americans were uninsured. The white infant mortality rate was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 births and was 10.7 for Blacks. COVID has exacerbated all the disparities.
Red-lining, zoning laws, and other filtering systems prevent African Americans from acquiring wealth in the form of housing. Inequity in education prevents African Americans from acquiring human capital (wealth) in the form of quality education. Restricted wealth serves to restrict income. All these interact with structural inequalities embedded in our health care, education, housing, and criminal justice systems.
The effects of police violence and racism harm the physical and mental health of African Americans, as they stress body and mind. This includes children experiencing rising suicide and mental illness.
My little grandchildren are bi-racial and they present as African American. It hurts my heart to think of the trauma they will endure. I implore all Americans to work to address systemic inequity and racism.