Discrimination and Poverty in African Americans Abstract Discrimination and poverty are problems that many are currently facing in the United States. African Americans in particular are the most affected by discrimination and poverty. Currently the economic status of African Americans in the United States is 56 percent of that of Whites when comparing income, unemployment, homeownership, business ownership, median net worth and poverty rates. As Malcolm Gladwell discusses in “Black Like Them” (1996) African Americans are seen as lazy people and they are therefore blamed for their own fate.
This research investigates if discrimination reduces job and educational opportunities for African Americans. It was found that African Americans are indeed the most disadvantaged people in the United States and that this is in part due to discrimination. Discrimination and Poverty in African Americans The gap between African American and White economic conditions has been of long duration. Its roots are firmly buried in the institution of slavery. After receiving their freedom African Americans were left ill equipped to prosper as freed men.
As former slaves African Americans were not prepared by experience to function effectively on their own without the guidance of their slave owners. And even today, African Americans are still falling behind economic empowerment. Discrimination is reducing job and educational an opportunity for African Americans and this is leading them to poverty. Even though many claim that this has more to do with individual effort and that African Americans are by choice not doing what is necessary to accomplish economical prosperity.
Whatever the case may be it is a fact that already disadvantaged African Americans are still facing obstacles such as discrimination in employment and this undoubtedly is limiting their success in the United States. Economic conditions of African Americans In America the economic condition of the African American population has always been inferior to that of the White population. At its worst, in 1959, 55 percent of African Americans had incomes below poverty levels (Kain, J. 1969). Currently, African Americans have uprooted themselves in search of better jobs, and wider horizons.
In recent years, many have taken advantage of education and training programs. The fact that these opportunities exist, and that large numbers of African Americans are using them, proves that there are open routes of mobility in our society. While some find a way to improve their life conditions a large number still live in areas where conditions are growing worse. In part, the deterioration in poor African American neighborhoods reflects the fact that these areas are constantly losing their most successful people to better neighborhoods, leaving behind the most impoverished.
Although African American family incomes remains low in comparison with the rest of the population, the incomes of both whites and African Americans are at an all-time high and during the last year, the gap between the two groups has significantly narrowed, but despite these gains, African American income is only fifty-six percent of White income (U. S Bureau of the Census, 1994). This is due to the decline in Employment opportunities for African Americans. Unemployment rates for African Americans are twice those of Whites (Blake & Darling, 1994).
These are some of the reasons why African Americans are often homeless or involved in illegal acts such as drug dealing and theft. Table one demonstrates the percentage of unemployment by race and sex in 2001 and 2002. Table 1. Percentage of Unemployment by Race and Sex for 2001 and 2002. 20012002 |White |Men 10. 4 | 11. 2 | | |Women 8. 8 | | | | |9. | |Black |Men 16. 9 | 16. 3 | | |Women 14. 0 |13. 7 | |Asian |Men 10. 1 | 10. 4 | | |Women 10. 1 |11. 3 | |Hispanic |Men 13. 1 | 12. 8 | | |Women 12. 2 |12. 9 |
As shown in the above table, Black men have the highest rate of unemployment, followed by Black women; and Asians as a whole have the lowest unemployment rates, but White women have the lowest unemployment rates among all the races and genders. Overall, the economic status of African Americans will continue to be compromised until they are able to secure an education, and until they are trusted and given the chance to compete for good paying jobs in the labor market. New York Senator Charles Schumer addressed Black male unemployment and demanded for a new effort to fix the growing problem.
An article published this year in the New York Times “Plight Deepens for Black Men” (2006) stated that in the year 2000 sixty-five percent of Black high school drop out males in their 20’s were unemployed, and by 2004, that figure grew to 72 percent. Schumer said, “This crisis is profound, persistent and perplexing” while describing the situation. Schumer added “Yet, as shocking as these statistics are, some might yawn at this and ask, why another speech about unemployment? Haven’t we been there done that? Poverty is not new and African American disadvantage is sadly not new either. Schumer also said that “Overt and subtle racism, falling schools, incarceration rates, and dysfunctional families are a complex interplay of the disadvantages many Blacks face”. Schumer stated that these disadvantages that Blacks face have created “steeplechase of barriers” for urban African American men (“Plight Deepens for Black Men”, 2006). Discrimination in Education African Americans have been blamed for their high rate of unemployment because many have failed to prepare themselves to compete in today’s technological society. It was estimated that 44 percent of all African American males are illiterate.
Research has shown that African American men have less incentive than White men to acquire education (Staples, 1987). This is possibly one of the reasons why African Americans are not doing as well as Whites economically, but discrimination has definitely also played Its role. A gap in educational achievement between African Americans and Whites has always been apparent even in kindergarten young students. Classroom discrimination has negatively affected the achievements and self-concepts of young African American elementary and secondary school children (Kamin, 1998).
This academic achievement gap between African Americans and whites persists through their postsecondary school years and eventually results in difficulty getting hired for competitive jobs. Until African Americans stop being discriminated in schools and until they are rewarded for their merits, they will continue to have less incentive toward education and thus lack of education will continue to be a cause of African American poverty. Discrimination in employment The United States government outlaws employment discrimination but some forms of employment discrimination are still occurring today.
Employment opportunities for African Americans are sometimes limited to menial and unskilled low paying jobs. African Americans are usually employed in jobs that under utilize their ability and training. In turn this may affect their attitudes towards work and their performance. A worker worried about discrimination may lose the ability to concentrate on his work and therefore he can be seen as being less effective than a White worker. Also, a discriminated African American worker can easily become frustrated with his job and eventually quit and become just another unemployed African American.
Altogether, the uncertainty and disappointment caused by discrimination may lead to the point where the worker simply gives up. As Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in his essay “Black like Them” (1996) African Americans are portrayed as the “bad” Black people when compared to West Indians in the United States. They are seen as lazy, materialistic and criminals, while West Indians are seen as good people with strong ethics, with strong disciplined families and hard working. This shows how African Americans are disadvantaged even compared to West Indians who are of their same race.
This makes it even harder for African Americans to find jobs because having such bad reputation makes them a main target for discrimination. Many employers would prefer hiring a West Indian than an African American (Gladwell, 1996). Now not only do African Americans have to compete with Whites in the labor market, they also have to compete with West Indians who are members of their own race. A family friend was interviewed about an experience he had as an African American seeking for a job.
His experience is a living proof that discrimination still exists and regardless of governmental efforts to regulate this issue discrimination is still affecting African Americans. His name is Michael Jones he is an African American thirty-two year old male. He was discriminated by a company that refused to hire him because of his race. Michael had called the company inquiring about a job opening for department manager position that was posted on Craig’s list the day before and he was told by the company’s human resource department to submit his resume via e-mail.
Michael went home that same day and prepared his resume and e-mailed it to the company’s human resource department. To his surprise, the following morning he was called in to schedule an interview for the following day and was told by the person in charge that he had all the qualifications required for the position. The following morning Michael arrived for his interview about fifteen minutes early and was greeted by a secretary and was asked to wait outside for the interviewer to come for him. Meanwhile, the secretary informs the interviewer that Michael had arrived.
When the interviewer, which was a White male, called Michael in his office he asked Michael to have a seat and he immediately informed Michael that unfortunately the position had been filled the night before. The interviewer apologized to Michael and told him that there was a miscommunication between the interviewers working at the firm and that another interviewer had already hired someone for the position and that he was made aware of that only an hour ago and therefore, he didn’t have time to call him to cancel the interview Michael was scheduled for.
The moment Michael walked out of the interviewer’s office he had a feeling that the interviewer had lied to him and that he was a victim of race discrimination. Michael knew that employment discrimination is illegal and he wanted to confirm his suspicion that he had been discriminated against. Michael was quick to call Andrew Matthews a former college classmate, a thirty-year-old White male. Michael told Andrew about the discrimination he had encountered the day before and asked Andrew to apply for the same position. Andrew applied for the position and was immediately called to schedule an interview and a few days later he was hired.
This proved that Michael’s suspicions were correct and that in fact he was a victim of employment discrimination based on his race. Michael filed a lawsuit against the company and won the case. Are African Americans too lazy to work? Many argue that African Americans are just too lazy to work. Some authors claim that African Americans are members of an underclass that suffers from a “culture of poverty” (Jones & Luo, 1999). The culture of poverty hypothesis argues that demoralizing effects of long-term poverty along with the historically destructive effects of slavery have created a Black underclass that has not been able to improve itself.
This has created a belief that all doors are permanently closed for African Americans and that working hard to advance yourself as an African American either in school or the workplace would be pointless. Some blame the destruction of African American families for such mentality that African Americans have all their doors closed. African American children are more likely to live in single-female-headed families and because a father is absent and the mother is often away from the house working and children receive inadequate supervision.
These children are more likely to not pay mind to their studies and to find bad peers who encourage them to do bad things and to adopt gang-related lifestyles. Findings show that Black children who come from single-female-headed households have fewer years of completed education and lower household incomes than do White children raised with both parents (Rosenbaum, 2000). Marta Tienda and Haya Stier (1991) studied the labor market behavior of a large sample of residents of poverty areas of inner city Chicago that tend to have high rates of unemployment. Tienda and Stier asked the following three questions: 1. re you currently employed? 2. If you are not employed are you currently looking for work? 3. If you are not employed, and you are not looking for work, do you actually want a job? This is how Tienda and Stier attempted to determine what was causing the high unemployment rates in the inner city of Chicago. They wanted to know if it was caused by lack of job opportunities available for African Americans due to discrimination, laziness or other factors. They found that a person’s color significantly affects opportunity to obtain work and therefore, Chicago’s poor Blacks were worse than Whites, Puerto Rican’s or Mexicans.
They also found that Chicago’s poor Blacks were very highly segregated, both from other racial groups and from jobs. “Hispanics and other ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods do not exhibit the extraordinary levels of joblessness and economic deprivation that characterize Chicago’s Black neighborhoods” said Tienda and Stier. Another view is that many African Americans are depending too much on the welfare system and that welfare is only allowing and encouraging African Americans to withdraw from the labor market.
And that by giving them an alternative source of income without having to work for it welfare is corrupting the little effort African Americans were putting into work. But a finding by Tienda and Stier (1991) related to welfare behavior and employment stated that Blacks behaved no different from the rest of the urban poor people in terms of preferring to be on welfare rather than work. Among the jobless, Black fathers were more willing to work and to settle for a lower wage than White fathers (Tienda & Stier, 1991). This finding contradicts the popular stereotype that Blacks are too lazy to work and that they won’t settle for low wages.
Are African Americans not smart enough to compete effectively in the labor market? Another perspective that has been taken is the view that African Americans have lower IQ’s than Whites and therefore they are not intellectually capable of competing effectively in the labor market (Kamin, 1998). African Americans having lower IQ’s means that they would be less likely to obtain the educational credentials required for employment and less likely to perform jobs effectively; and therefore they are more likely to get fired or laid off.
This view of course has been very controversial and the causes of this IQ gap between African Americans have not been clearly defined. Generally speaking African American unemployment and poverty is due to an economy that does not generate enough work for everyone, and because of discrimination the jobs that do exist are not distributed fairly among all the races and ethnic backgrounds. Stereotypes that blacks are too lazy to work and that they prefer being on welfare have been proved to be false by research findings stating that poor people of races other than Black also prefer to receive welfare than to work.
Discrimination in education and in the workplace are factors that over time have lead to African American poverty. Even though this situation has improved in recent years many are still affected and much is still left to do. Further research on the area of poverty and discrimination is still required to come up with better strategies to overcome the problem. References Blake, W. and Darling, C. (1994). The dilemmas of the African American male. Journal of Black Studies, 24(4), 402-415. Gladwell, M. (1996). Black like them. The New Yorker Jones, R. and Luo, Y. 1999). The culture of poverty and African-American culture: An empirical assessment. Sociological Perspectives, 42(3), 439-458. Kain, J. (Ed. ). (1969). Race and poverty: The economics of discrimination. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Kamin, L. (1998). The Flynn effect in IQ testing: Why it’s important to African Americans. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 20, 112-113 Plight deepens for Black males. (2006, March 20). New York Times, p. D11 Rosenbaum, E. (2000). Urban children’s living arrangements and their economic status: New York City, 1993.
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