Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Economist on Race Relations in America

Probably the best thing I've read on the 50th anniversary.

See, "Chasing the dream":
HIS name adorns schools, streets, bridges and colossal biographies. Almost as soon as they can talk, American children are taught to revere Martin Luther King. His message was a simple clarification of America’s founding promise, that “all men are created equal” and have a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. That means everyone, he explained. He put it best on August 28th 1963, ad-libbing before a crowd in Washington, DC: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In the 50 years since then, America has changed beyond recognition (see article). Under Jim Crow, blacks in the South risked lynching if they tried to register to vote. They were forced to use separate and inferior water fountains and schools. They were locked in lowly occupations: in 1940, 60% of black women with jobs were domestic servants.

Now, African-Americans are more likely to vote than any other racial group, at least if Barack Obama is on the ballot. White bias against non-white candidates is hard to detect. The governor of lily-white Massachusetts is black; Mr Obama won more of the white vote in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004. In King’s day, inter-racial love was illegal in many states. Today, 15% of new marriages cross racial lines; for black men, the number is 24%. In King’s day, segregation was the law in the South and the norm in the North. Today, “all-white neighbourhoods are effectively extinct”, finds a recent study by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor, and segregation is declining in all 85 of America’s largest metropolitan areas. No one today finds it odd to see blacks running big cities (Washington, Philadelphia, Denver) or big companies (Merck, Xerox, American Express) or playing God on the silver screen (Morgan Freeman). Black earnings shot up after the civil-rights revolution, both in absolute terms and relative to white.

Progress, interrupted

Yet in recent years economic progress has stalled. Between 2000 and 2011, black median household income fell from 64% to 58% of the white figure. The wealth gap is even more alarming. Because mortgaged homes make up more of poorer people’s wealth, the gap widened dramatically after the housing bubble burst. In 2005 white families’ median net worth was 11 times that of blacks; in 2009 it was 20 times. On other measures, too, blacks fare poorly. Many struggle in school: the average black 17-year-old reads and manipulates numbers about as well as a white 13-year-old. Many fall foul of the law: by the age of 30-34 one black man in ten is behind bars; the figure for white men is one in 61. And the traditional black family has collapsed since King’s day. In the 1960s many thought it a crisis that nearly 25% of black children were born out of wedlock. Today it is 72% (for whites, 29%), and most of these children are being raised by mothers who are truly alone, not cohabiting.
Continue reading.

Don't care much for the proposal for "prison reform." Otherwise, an excellent leader.