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Statistics suggest America is not ‘post-racial,’ speaker says

Published: Thu, February 13, 2014 @ 12:08 a.m.



By Ed Runyan



Many people have started to question whether we are “post-racial America” now that a black president has been elected, and some wonder whether Black History Month is still needed.

But Idris K. Syed, a lecturer in the Kent State University Department of Pan-African Studies, says the economic conditions of black Americans indicate little improvement in the past 50 years.

“When we look at the society, we can hope that it’s post-racial, but we have to look at the realities that exist on the ground and recognize that just having one black face as the head of our country does not make things better for the multitude of black faces that exist in our communities,” Syed said during a Black History Month presentation Wednesday at Kent State at Trumbull.

On the White House website, President Barack Obama’s administration suggests that conditions have gotten better for blacks since he took office. It says the administration has “made strides in restoring opportunity for all Americans” and will celebrate Black History Month in February by highlighting factors such as health care and economic mobility “as creating pathways of success and security for African Americans.”

But in the 50 years since the March on Washington, “economic mobility for blacks has “remained relatively stagnant,” Syed said.

Black Americans are “on the bottom rung of economic mobility in society [and] have a median income of $32,068,” which he said is “relatively flat.”

The unemployment rate for blacks “has also remained relatively flat and relatively stable ... about double the amount of unemployment [of] their white counterparts.”

In 1960, blacks earned about 55 cents for every dollar earned by whites doing the same job.

“Today, they make 66 cents to the dollar, so we’ve improved about 11 cents on that dollar in the past 50 years,” he said.

More problematic is the incarceration rate for black males, he said. It has risen 2.3 times since 1960, while the incarceration rate of white males has increased 1.6 times. The rate of incarceration of black males is 4,347 per 100,000 black males; for white males, it’s 1,313 per 100,000, he said, citing the Washington Post.

In fact, the odds of a white male with a felony record being employed are greater than the odds of a black male being employed who has no felony record, he said.

Black History Month began in 1976, endorsed by President Gerald Ford.

James M. Ritter, director of enrollment management and student services at the Trumbull campus, participated in a question-and answer session at the end of Syed’s talk, adding that education affects one prison-related statistic — the rate at which convicts return to prison.

Of those who go to prison, 80 percent who get a college degree do not return to prison. But of those who do not get an education, 90 percent return to prison, he said.

Ritter visits inmates at the Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg, some of whom are receiving a college education while in prison, he said.


1walter_sobchak(1909 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

While this may be the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it is also the same for some other occurrence in the US. Any idea, Mr. Syed? Slavery is slavery whether it is by means of chains or by means of a government check! Once again, the victim mentality rears its ugly head.

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2Bevan(7 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Unfortunately, Professor Syed's well researched statistics do not persuade Americans with deeply ingrained "beliefs"(really only camouflaged prejudices) about the myths of equality, equal opportunity, and the end of slavery in this country.

As an educator, I have long been troubled that students at all levels of learning do not in fact LEARN. Of course my statement is itself a sweeping generalization, but 40 years of teaching in public schools and universities convince me of the sad state of 'education' in America. We have turned 'education' into 'obtaining a diploma/degree; getting a "good" job--aka high pay with lots of perks--so to buy a home away from crime and poverty,' then believe you've built the American dream by your own hard work. The reality of white privilege and "rights" to a mythical superiority persist throughout America. The most ignorant tout it blatantly as "white supremacy"; those with a modicum of learning rationalize their acquisitions and status as "achievement. "

And did I mention that, like the South African apartheid supporters, we often do so in the name of God, as if God actually condones our myopic preservation of privilege while people of color bleed, starve, and die around us, in disproportionate numbers to their percentage of the population. "Slavery" may now be illegal, but the mindset that crafted that institution has deep, deep, roots not yet eradicated. On no other "enlightened," "advanced" and endowed culture on earth is there SUCH persist obsession with the color of one's skin contributing to one's access to or restriction from social standing, the benefits of the social order, or, often, simply personal respect. I fear that God has given up on US, because of our hard-heartedness.

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3mondaymoon(2 comments)posted 7 months ago

Wow! Reading some of your comments is amazing. You get bits and pieces of a lecture and you think you have a grasp on what was said. I was at the lecture and I was amazed at many of the things I learned that day.

Eivo - I would have thought the same thing about racism not being as prevalent as it once was. I was wrong, as are you. I have friends from every part of the world, I know that many, living in the US, still get a lot of grief because of what they look like and where their ancestors are from.

Also, instead of going online and blasting each other, you may want to take a few classes and educate yourselves. It may help with the grammar and spelling issues I am reading. It may also enlighten you with a little bit of knowledge.
Just saying....

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476Ytown(1241 comments)posted 7 months ago

"President Barack Obama’s administration suggests that conditions have gotten better for blacks since he took office"

Unemployment for black young to age 16 - 19 is 38%. That's improvement? http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsi...

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