African Americans Still Struggle for Equality
In the 150 years since the Civil War, African Americans have had to overcome many hurdles and challenges. Slavery was a major cause of the Civil War which nearly divided the United States in half in the mid-1800s. From slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era, blacks have long been a marginalized people in this country. Amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution to secure our freedom and the Civil Rights Act and other anti-discrimination measures were added to our laws to protect minorities. Despite this, African Americans remain the poorest, least-educated and most unhealthy race in our society today.
The National Urban League currently classifies African Americans as only 71.8% equal to the status of one white person. The 2010 Equality Index comparing the economic status of blacks to whites is considerably lower at 57.4%. In 2010, the black unemployment rate was 14.8% compared to 10.1% for whites and blacks are more than three times more likely than whites to live in poverty. Racial disparities like these exist in every other major category. African Americans are 8.3 percent more likely to be without health insurance, one and a half less likely to have a bachelorâ€™s degree and 25 percent less likely than whites to own a home. On the health front, African Americans have the higher rates of cancer, hypertension and diabetes than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The St. Louis region has a racial divide which has spanned across several decades as well. African Americans are grossly overrepresented in many social and economic risk indicators. Despite making up 18 percent of our regionâ€™s population, blacks accounted for 45 percent of individuals living in poverty, three times more likely to be unemployed and are five times less likely to be enrolled in college than whites, according to a 2006 East-West Gateway Council of Governments. African Americans as a whole are poorer than whites both locally and nationally. African Americans had the lowest median household income of any other race in 2009 with an average median income $32,584 compared to $38,039 for Hispanics and $54,461 for whites.
Although African Americans have come a long way in the struggle for civil rights, we still have a long way to go. With the election of the first black president there is no frontier African Americans have not surpassed. But yet, as a people, we are losing ground on a larger scale. We must not let the successes of a few African Americans distract us from the distresses of the majority.
In the words of the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., â€œMany of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten....America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness--justice.â€