Systemic racism holding back Black Americans: Civil rights group

National Urban League says median household income for Black people in US is 37 percent lower than that of white people.

Black people in the United States are trailing white people in critical areas, including wealth, education, social justice, health and civic engagement, the National Urban League said in its annual report released on Tuesday.

The civil rights group said its Equality Index – a compendium of average outcomes by race in many aspects of life – showed that Black Americans, despite making economic and health gains, still only get 73.9 percent of what white people enjoy in the country.

That demonstrates how difficult it is for people of colour to overcome systemic racism, the organisation said.

“These numbers change so little and so slowly. What it tells me is that this institutional disparity based on race seems to be built into American society,” National Urban League President Marc Morial said.

The index showed that the median household income for Black people, at $43,862, is 37 percent less than that of white people, at $69,823. Black people also are less likely to benefit from homeownership, the engine of generational wealth in the US.

Census data shows Black couples are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be denied a mortgage or a home improvement loan, which leads to just 59 percent of the median home equity white households have, and just 13 percent of their wealth.

“In that area of wealth, we’ve seen almost no change, none, since the civil rights days,” Morial said. “The wealth disparity has gotten wider.”

Among dozens of health measures, one stands out: Life expectancy has declined slightly for Black Americans, where a child born today can expect to live to 74.7, four years fewer than a white baby.

Lifelong inequities also loom: Black women are 59 percent more likely to die as a result of bearing a child, and 31 percent more likely to die of breast cancer. Black men are 52 percent more likely to die of prostate cancer.

The report comes nearly two years after the nation underwent a major reckoning on racism in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground for several minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd’s death ignited nationwide protests and demands for equality and an end to police brutality against Black people.

National Urban League President Marc Morial said the report’s findings demonstrate how hard it is for people of colour to overcome systemic racism in the US [File: Jacquelyn Martin/AP]

Although some states moved to make reforms in policing after several unarmed Black people were killed by police, the report shows that Black people have been more than twice as likely as white people to experience threats or uses of force during police encounters.

They are also three times more likely to be jailed if arrested. In 2020, they were 93 percent more likely to be victims of hate crimes.

Educational gaps abound: Black and white preschoolers are roughly equally prepared, but the classrooms they enter are starkly different.

Schools with more minority students are more likely to have inexperienced, less trained and even uncertified teachers. Fewer of these students are enrolled in STEM classes that can lead to higher-paying jobs. Black students are less likely to graduate from college.

Meanwhile, drug overdoses afflict people of all races about equally, while white people are 55 percent more likely to drink themselves to death through cirrhosis or chronic liver disease. Among people 15-24, white people are more than twice as likely to die by suicide, while Black men are nine times more likely to die by homicide.

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