Black History Month is a Perfect Time to Address Racial Inequities
The United States is a prosperous country with abundant opportunities. However, many Americans struggle to gain access to these opportunities, and some people are shut out completely.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death have laid bare the inequities and systematic injustices that exist in America. And now is the time to make lasting changes to our unfair systems
But before we can make changes, we must fully understand the problem, and that starts with a definition of inequity. It refers to unfair, avoidable differences arising from poor governance, corruption, or cultural exclusion and it can take many forms – economic, education, housing, healthcare, judicial.
In 2022, the unemployment rate of African Americans in the United States stood at 6.1 percent. This was higher than the national average of 3.6 percent.
There are many reasons why the unemployment rate among minorities is different than the national average. When it comes to African Americans, a large part of this disparity is due to historical events, such as slavery and the struggle for civil rights, as well as the number of African American families living below the poverty level.
Even when African Americans are employed, their wages are often lower than their white counterparts.
According to the latest Labor Department data, median weekly pay for African American men is only 75% of the $1,096 that white men earn (it’s even less for Black women).
When it comes to wealth, the gap is even larger. The typical middle-class African American household has about $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household.
African Americans also have less access to quality health care and higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.
In the past years, Americans have seen brutal examples of the inequities that exist in law enforcement and the justice system. Between 2014 and 2020, police in the United States killed at least 7680 people. Twenty-five percent of those killed were Black, although African Americans only represent 13% of the population.
If African Americans survive their encounters with police officers, they are more likely to be incarcerated.
African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of white Americans, according to a report by The Sentencing Project.
These inequities have existed in plain sight, but many people chose to ignore them. However, we can no longer turn a blind eye.
To actively dismantle these institutional inequities, we must examine ourselves and acknowledge our own biases. Racism is a cancer that spreads rapidly if left unchecked.
However, the cure lies within each of us. It’s an equal measure of care, concern, respect, and awareness. We must take the time to educate ourselves and be vocally anti-racist. We must listen to one another with an open mind. But most of all, we must be committed to doing our part to make a difference.
Have hard conversations and uncomfortable exchanges. It is precisely those dialogues that strengthen our sense of community and help to root out ignorance.
Together, we can crush inequities and usher in real change.