That’s what the data in the Census Bureau report and a report the Federal Reserve Board released earlier this month show. For example, while the overall poverty rate is 14.5 percent, and 9.6 percent for Whites, 10.5 percent for Asian Americans, and 23.5 percent for Hispanic Americans, Blacks’ poverty rate is 27.2 percent. While the overall median household income was $51,939, the comparable figure for Blacks was $34,598.
That that’s the way it is today (and the way it’s always been) is embodied in one statistic: the Black unemployment rate, now at 11.4 percent, more than twice the 5.3-percent rate for Whites. Many today still sing the same tawdry refrain that Blacks’ disproportionate unemployment rate is a product of poor Blacks’ unwillingness to “start at the bottom” and take available low-wage jobs. They forget, or ignore, the extraordinary development that occurred in 1999, at the end of the 1990s’ nearly decade-long economic boom, when the Black unemployment rate fell to a record low of 7.6 percent.
I agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Conservatives and liberals alike prefer to focus on perceived deficits in black and brown people than on structural racism and the concepts of white supremacy that undergird it as the principal reasons for disparate conditions and outcomes for many blacks and Hispanics. White privilege means not having to think about the many ways the lives of those who are classified as white are enhanced and protected by the subjugation and exclusion of racial minorities. White privilege provides white ethnics escape from the stigma of poverty. As historian Nell Irvin Painter aptly distinguishes, “Not all black people are poor, but among the people in America defined by race, black people tend to be the poorest.”
Americans don't want to imagine that our racist history is actually an ongoing, racist reality. We like to look at racism as a thing that has gotten better (if not gone away completely) and that the way black Americans are treated in society is actually colorblind. So, if forced to pick between the idea that our country's structures and systems are biased toward white people or the idea that black communities are flawed, many pick the latter. Some doing so, of course, because they're racist.
Despite five years of economic recovery, poverty is still stubbornly high in America.
More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000. But the level of poverty is still higher than 12.3 percent in 2006, before the recession began. (Story continues after chart.)
A peek under the hood, however, reveals the dismal realities of the modern U.S. economy. Other than the population over 65 and under 18, wages and economic mobility are frozen solid. The national safety net is barely keeping up with need. And years of austerity politics — cutoffs of unemployment benefits, premature termination of low-income assistance programs, resistance in some regions to bringing healthcare coverage to low-income residents via Medicaid — have kept millions of Americans mired in near-poverty or in economic stagnation.
Among the 25 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., California’s Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, fared the worst, with 18.2 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. (Last year, a household of four that earned less than $23,830 was considered poor; one person bringing home less than $11,890 was below the threshold.)