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Issues And Challenges African American Communities are Facing
While the Civil Rights Movement did much to change the racial landscape
of America, it remains scarred by the legacy of decades of inequality and
injustice. Though African Americans make up just 13 percent of the population
of the United States, they comprise the overwhelming majority of those
incarcerated and murdered, along with suffering from the highest school dropout
rates, the most fatherless homes, drug addiction issues, sexually transmitted
diseases, high unemployment rates, and poverty.
While recent events, such as the killing of Trayvon Martin, have brought
attention to the deep bias against African Americans that exists within the
criminal justice system—there are more black people in incarceration today than
there were enslaved in 1850, and many of them are non-violent offenders—the
host of issues which plague the black community and form the root causes of
this cycle of poverty and crime remain largely unexamined and unaddressed.
This is not due to a lack of attentiveness or willingness on the part of
African Americans, many of whom are profoundly concerned about the current
state of racial injustice in America. However, the present confluence of
disadvantages, outlined below, make it difficult for many members of the black
community to make themselves heard and action change.
Economic Isolation And Unemployment
Many African Americans live in areas of incredibly poor infrastructure,
particularly rural towns in the deep South and inner-city ghettos which have
been largely abandoned by officials. Those in rural areas have extremely limited
employment opportunities due to isolation and the decline of the family farm (the
prior backbone of both black and white rural communities), and those in urban
areas have been hardest hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs in once-bustling
industrial cities like Detroit, Michigan. These issues are compounded by poor
access to quality education, which has made it all but impossible for many
African Americans to enter the professional sphere. Today, the unemployment
rate for African Americans is 10.4 percent, vs. the 4.7 percent unemployment
rate experienced by white Americans.
High Rates of Violence
Where hopelessness and a lack of economic prospects exist, anger and
criminal activity soon follows; today, black Americans are killed at 12 times the
rate of people in other developed nations. The lack of economic opportunities
available to African Americans forces many young black people to make a living
by any means possible, and they thus turn to drug dealing and prostitution in
order to get by, fuelling these disproportionate rates of violence.
Not only is this profoundly tragic and disheartening to black communities,
many of the victims of this violence are young black males, meaning that this
violence directly contributes to the high rates of fatherlessness experienced by
African American families.
Negative Stereotyping in the Media
Many Americans are shocked to learn that African American men are the
primary victims of violent crime across the nation, as the media has so
thoroughly portrayed them as instead being the perpetrators. In fact, a recent
study by Color of Change revealed that, while just 51% of the people arrested
for violent crime in New York City are African American, 75% of the news
reports about such arrests focused on black perpetrators.
This media bias does not merely affect how white Americans view people
of color; according to the Harvard Implicit-Association Test, 48 percent of
African Americans also have implicit racial bias against black people due to
stigmatization in the media. This further fractures and divides black
communities, seeding an attitude of suspicion and fear which makes it difficult to
come together and tackle racial injustice.
Fractured Black Families and Communities
With so many African American fathers slain or pulled away from their
families through the perils of crime, incarceration, and addiction, and so many
African American mothers forced to work extremely long hours (often very far
from home), many black children are left almost entirely without parental
guidance. Likewise, when mothers are unable to find employment, fathers must
often leave the family home in order for them to qualify for welfare aid.
Generations of these issues have eroded the support networks that should
form the bedrock of black communities; where there are fewer parents present,
there are fewer grandparents available to aid the next generation, fewer aunts
and uncles, and so on (a reality exacerbated by the many health issues that
African Americans face due to poor nutrition, which cut lifespans unnaturally
The public education system has so completely failed African Americans
that many children who strongly wish to learn are not even equipped with the
basic tools and supplies they need to do so (e.g. pens and pencils, paper,
computers and printers). Not only does this cause nearly half of all African
American students to drop out before completing high school, those who do
manage to weather the system hardly benefit from it; just 11 percent of black
males who leave a New York City high school with a diploma are adequately
prepared for college.
This lack of access to a quality education has dire implications; even if a
black youth manages to survive the high rates of violence, drug abuse, and
familial issues which plague African American communities, he or she has very
little hope of escaping the cycle of poverty within them.
Without an adequate education, meaningful employment—already in itself
scarce—is placed out of reach. Without meaningful employment, African
Americans are unable to escape communities broken by crime, violence, and
inadequate infrastructure, unable to provide for their children and form cohesive
family units, and ultimately unable to prosper and fight back against the many
challenges and injustices they face. For African Americans, knowledge truly is
power—and access to it is essential to creating positive change.
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