Legislative Black Caucus released its commissioned study on the
state of Black Californians last week. The brainchild of Caucus
Vice Chair, Assembly Majority Leader, Karen Bass, the study is
an expansion on the state of Black Los Angeles report released
by the Urban League and United Way in 2005. I swear, black people
have to be the most studied people in the history of the universe.
It’s not like we don’t know “the state” of black people. We know
all too well. What we don’t know is why “the state” continues
to persist. I’m sure other folk have their reasons, and they’re
not the same as what Black America believes. They’ll probably
label it “self-inflicted.” Black America maintains it’s been systemic
and institutional, from the very start. Black America was designed
three-fifths at the constitutional convention in 1787 when they
were essentially the compromise that moved the Constitution forward.
They were near “three-fifths” on the equality index of the Urban
League Report released in 2004. Blacks were nearly “three-fifths”
in the equality index in the Los Angeles report released in 2005,
and the state of Black Californians are fairing no better in 2007.
The “three-fifths” compromise is alive in the “Sunshine state,”
the fifth largest economy in the world.
The equality index
in the State of Black California study compares the extent to
which Blacks enjoy equal conditions in relation to Whites (1.00)
and other ethnic groups in the areas of:
1.00 means “less than equal,” and anything more than 1.00 means
“more than equal.” Black equality in California stands at 0.69.
Latino equality is also at 0.69. Asian equality, at 1.01, is equal
to that of Whites. So, on its face, it would appear that Black
equality has moved slightly closer to three fourths. But even
at 0.69, Blacks in California are less equal than the national
average of 0.73, the National Urban League reported three years
ago. The 0.69 equality index is also misleading. With a 0.66 index
score for housing, a 0.68 index score for health quality, a 0.69
index score for education, a 0.68 index score for criminal justice
and a 1.30 for civic engagement, one could easily miss the most
significant indicator of them all as the real basis for inequality
in America. The economic index for Blacks, based on four factors;
median income, employment, poverty and business ownership, is
0.59. Just under three-fifths of Whites. The sun doesn’t shine
on us in Cali the way it tans others. In fact, it’s a pretty pale
proposition for most of the state’s 2.2 million Blacks.
The sun isn’t
shining on just Blacks alone. Latinos faired just as bad-worse
in some instances—but their state is largely attributed to the
large influx of poor immigrants. African American’s state is attributed
to them, well…being black. I know, it sounds crazy, and certainly
it's an excuse that’s been so played out in the 1970s, 1980s and
1990s that people got tired of hearing it. But African Americans
still have the highest racial animus of any other race, religion
or culture. Society is less tolerate of African Americans’ social
condition, more punitive of African Americans in the criminal
justice system, more subjugated in the economic system and more
discriminated in the health, housing and insurance systems. Yes,
the state of Black Californians, as the state of Black America,
is partly systemic.
is the current day’s system of oppression. But our recent ancestors
overcame worse systemic forms of oppression, like slavery and
segregation. One generation removed from each system’s end produced
massive progress. As black people’s economics improved, so did
their quality of life. Racism has always been economic, as competition
for jobs, housing, education and business capital (or farming
subsidies) were always the basis for political and social exclusion.
Public policy and social construct had always subjugated African
Americans—and impacted others as well. But as the economy goes,
so goes the nation.
It’s the same
with Black America. Economics continues to be the area where Blacks
are most disadvantaged, and most unequal. Economics dictates housing,
health care, education and one’s ability to confront the criminal
justice system. Competition issues still dictate these socio-economic
factors as those with resources haven’t been willing to deconstruct
barriers that allow for full access to equality. With the economic
index of Blacks in the State of California study at 0.59, three-fifths
of white’s economic status, the chance of economic disparities
stand to become more deeply entrenched and the poverty question
become more important than ever. All other index indicators are
the residual fallout of the state of Black economics in California.
The status of
the overall equality index for Blacks is collateral damage caused
by the dismal economic condition in the state’s urban cores. Three
solutions that the study did not recommend (though they did recommend
many, both legislative and non-legislative) must occur before
inequalities in California can be remedied:
California voters must repeal Proposition 209. For as long as
California is perceived to be an “anti-affirmative action” state,
contracting opportunities, educational opportunities and employment
opportunities will be near zero. History has proven that socio-economic
changes don’t occur by the beneficence of those whose economic
interests are challenged
2) Closer regulation on check cashers, “pay-day” loan sharks and
other predator lenders that now dominate poor communities, exploiting
the poor and disenfranchised in ways to keep their income “hamstrung”
and to keep them wealthless
3) repeal the “Three Strikes” law. Blacks are disproportionately
over-represented in California’s prison, and when they are released—their
conviction doesn’t allow them to find work. Recidivist behavior
eventually causes them to go back to prison, and ultimately be
“thrown away” in the anti-redemption system.
Until some of
the systemic issues are addressed, the “compromise” will continue
as the disparities will be maintained, and inequality will be
perpetuated. And Blacks in California will be “three-fifths” of
Whites and Asians as it relates to economic equality, which drives
BC Columnist Anthony
Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of
Issues Forum and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality In America.
His website is AnthonySamad.com.
here to contact Mr. Samad.