2009: The Year in “Post-Racialism”

In 2009, the United States inaugurated its first black president, Barack Obama. 2009 is also the year of Disney’s first black princess character. While these firsts represent real advances, the country still has a long way to go on the path to racial equality. Below are a few reasons why America did not become post-racial in 2009. This list is idiosyncratic and does not claim to be definitive. It is in no particular order.

  • In 2009, America’s schools were still separate and still unequal.

  • For much of 2009, college-educated blacks had an unemployment rate nearly twice that of college-educated whites.

  • In 2009, it was revealed that the country had been lax for many years in fighting racial discrimination. Find details here and here.

  • In 2009, the Restaurant Opportunities Center published a detailed report showing race and sex discrimination in fine-dining restaurants.

  • The Federal Reserve reported in 2009 that blacks started losing wealth before the Great Recession began.

  • In 2009, America still had a racially discriminatory 100-to-1 disparity in punishment between crack and powder cocaine.

  • The evidence suggests that in 2009, at every education level, whites were more likely to obtain “good jobs”—jobs with high pay and benefits—than blacks. See also this discussion.

  • In 2009, the AARP Public Policy Institute reported that the black foreclosure rate was nearly three times the white rate.

Share this article with a friend. Use the email icon below.
--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2005-2009 by Thora Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


The Bleak Future for Black Children and Youth

A New Lecture: “Anti-Black Discrimination in the Age of Obama” by Dr. Algernon Austin

The simplistic idea that impoverished African Americans have only themselves to blame for their poverty, due to their poor cultural values—a notion advanced by many, including black public figures such as Bill Cosby—is believable only if a blind eye is turned to those inconvenient things social scientists like to call “facts.” Algernon Austin soundly refutes the “culture of poverty” argument by paying careful attention to marco-economic data about long-term poverty trends and sociological case studies about persistent discrimination. In other words, unlike the glib punditry, Austin actually looks at the “facts.”
--Dr. Andrew Hartman, professor and audience member, Illinois State University

Contact Dr. Austin to arrange a speaking engagement.

The future for black children and youth is worrisome. Even during supposedly "good" economic times too many black children grow up facing severe economic disadvantage. This normally bad situation is being made considerably worse by the recession. If we do not act quickly and effectively we should expect to see significant increases in negative physical, psychological, social and economic outcomes for black children and youth over the next decades.

From 2007 to 2008, the country experienced a historic rise [PDF] in the number of households that did not have consistent and dependable access to sufficient food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls these households "food insecure." The number of food insecure households increased by over 4 million nationally to reach 17.1 million. In 2008, 10.7 percent of white households were food insecure, but 25.7 percent of black households were in this condition. Although the official 2009 USDA data is not yet available, it is likely that the number of food insecure households increased by a large amount this year.

Hunger is a problem in itself. But it also matters because of the long-term harm it causes, particularly in children. Children growing up in food insecure households are more likely to be in poor physical and psychological health. They have more behavioral problems and do worse in school. We want black children to do better in school, but academic improvements are not likely to occur when more and more black children are growing up in households facing hunger.

Recent economic research is more specific about what negative educational outcomes we should expect in coming years. University of California, Davis economists, Ann Huff Stevens and Jessamyn Schaller, find that children who have a parent who experiences a job loss are 15 percent more likely to be held back a grade in school. Black children in "good" economic times have a high rate of grade retention. In bad economic times, black workers are hit harder than average from job losses. Therefore, we should expect significant increases in black students being held back in the coming years. Children who are held back in school are also more likely to drop out of school. It is going to be even more difficult to reduce the black high school drop out rate in the wake of the Great Recession.

Black teens had the unfortunate circumstance of being the only major demographic group to see an increase in unemployment from October to November. While the country was pleasantly surprised by a decline in the unemployment rate from 10.2 percent in October to 10 percent in November, the unemployment rate for black teens rose from 41.3 percent to 49.4 percent over the same period. White teens experienced a decline in unemployment from 25.3 percent in October to 23 percent in November.

Unemployment today bodes ill for the future of black teens. The economist Andrew Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies point out [PDF] that "Less work experience today leads to less work experience tomorrow and lower earnings down the road. Disadvantaged teens who work in high school are more likely to remain in high school than their peers who do not work. . . . National evidence shows that pregnancy rates for teens are lower in metropolitan areas where employment rates for teen girls are higher." If we want black youth to have good economic futures, we need to get them jobs today.

The black unemployment rate has been in the double digits for over a year. Unfortunately, we can expect unusually high black unemployment rates at least until 2014. The black children and youth living through these years are have a rough future ahead of them. They are likely to do much worse that the black children and youth who were lucky enough to live through the Great 1990s when the black employment rate rose to historic heights and black poverty fell to its lowest level on record.

Share this article with a friend. Use the email icon below.
--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2005-2009 by Thora Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Will We Ever Get the Health Care System We Deserve?

Algernon Austin presents an excellent, concise, and wonderfully read scholarly examination of the complicated landscape of race, class and popular perception. Besides the prison industrial complex, black strides in education, poverty rates, crime and other indices contradict claims that blacks are “moving backward.”
--Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut and author of Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 2004 and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (University Press of Kansas), 2007.

Purchase Getting It Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals
Are Failing Black America
by Algernon Austin
Barnes & Noble.com Amazon.com


Source: Karen Davis et al., Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care, The Commonwealth Fund, May 2007, p. viii.

The United States, spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as the United Kingdom, yet a recent report ranked the U.K.’s health system first and the U.S.’s last among six nations. We pay the most to get the least.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care by Karen Davis et al. compares the health care systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The researchers compare the countries on the quality of care, access, efficiency, equity, and the promotion of healthy living. The U.S. scored last on access, efficiency, equity, and the promotion of healthy living. On quality of care the U.S. was second to last.

The report states:

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage. Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health insurance systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term “medical home.” It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. substantially underperforms other countries on measures of access to care and equity in health care between populations with above-average and below-average incomes.

With the inclusion of physician survey data in the analysis, it is also apparent that the U.S. is lagging in adoption of information technology and national policies that promote quality improvement. The U.S. can learn from what physicians and patients have to say about practices that can lead to better management of chronic conditions and better coordination of care. Information systems in countries like Germany, New Zealand, and the U.K. enhance the ability of physicians to monitor chronic conditions and medication use. These countries also routinely employ non-physician clinicians such as nurses to assist with managing patients with chronic diseases.

For decades, nations in the developed world have provided high-quality, inexpensive health care to all of their citizens. The U.S. stands alone with an expensive, low-quality health care system than covers fewer and fewer of its citizens each year.

Share this article with a friend. Use the email icon below.

--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.