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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Disparity By The Numbers (Part 2)

This is the second half of our examination of the stark numerical realities of race in the United States. Having previously looked at income, employment, and education, lets see what other arenas are disparately affected. There are a lot of statistics here, so I'd love to hear any stories that might give life to the numbers in the comments section:

Click to enlarge
Families of color are more likely to live near landfills and hazardous waste treatment facilities. Children of color are 60% more likely to suffer from asthma, and twice as likely to experience lead poisoning. When renting, Latino, Black, and Asian American renters are much less likely to be told about and shown potential properties than white counterparts. Renters of color are more likely to be quoted higher rates, or are offered shorter/less secure leases.

In homeownership, Black owners receive 18% less value for their houses than do white owners. Indeed, for every $1 Black families spend on a house, they will receive 82¢ for what their white counterparts receive, a phenomenon known as 'segregation tax.' Black and Latino homeowners are also more likely to receive bad mortgage deals (53% and 43%, respectively) than white homebuyers (18%), and thus are more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure. 

Though Black folk represent only 13% of drug users (paralleling national racial demographics), they account for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of those sent to prison on drug possession charges. Indeed, even though 72% of drug users are white, black men are 13 times more likely to be sent to prison for a drug offence than white men.

Almost 50% of prisoners serving life sentences, and 38% of all prisoners, are black (iconograph). Again, these numbers reflect neither total US population demographics, nor the demographics of actual crime being committed (eg. marijuana convictions). Furthermore, courts are more likely to impose the death penalty when the victim is white, clearly demonstrating which lives are more valued.

Physical and Mental Health
Differences in health and healthcare access across race go beyond what can be accounted for by class. Babies of color are at greater risk for low birthweight, as well as increased infant mortality. Babies born to black women are three times as likely to die in infancy as those born to white women. High blood pressure is twice as common among blacks as whites, and is even worse among Latinos in the United States. By far, people of color die younger and with more disease complications that white Americans. 

There are also severe mental health disparities resulting from the constant toll of racial inequality. Rates of stress, depression, mental illnesses, and suicide attempts are significantly higher for Asian Americans than for other races in the USA. American Indians have the highest rates for completed suicide: 25 per 100,000 population at age 21, compared with 14 for white persons of the same age. Black and Latino residents of low-income areas are also more likely to be committed to mental health institutions by law enforcement than any other racial group.

Putting It All Together 
On practically every measure, there are substantial disparities between racial groups in the United States. There are historical and societal reasons for these establishment and persistence of these differences (see posts: Generational Advantage and Slavery by Another Name). Accumulated advantage is passed down through the generations, and subtle biases prevent substantial restitution or gains in equality.

In the face of these disparities, we're left with a choice. Do we believe there are inherent differences between these groups that causes one set to be more lazy, stupid, or undeserving? Or are there other factors at play to create an uneven playing field?

When we put today's racialized world in historical context, it becomes clear that there has never been a moment in United States history in which everyone has had equal opportunity. We continue to live in such an unequal setting today. The legacy of these disparities will continue for centuries without conscious and deliberate efforts to counteract them.

Watch this video to see how accumulated disparity can have profound effect on our lives.  What can you do in your life to begin to combat some of these injustices?

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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