I write to you as a fellow member, disturbed by a new development in our ranks.
According to the latest polls, most of you believe that anti-white racism – or “reverse racism,” as many of you refer to it – is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism. That, apparently, is the majority view in White America.
The view looks very different, however, in Black America.
In Black America, the unemployment rate is 16.8 percent, twice the unemployment rate in White America. 35 percent of black households have zero or negative net wealth, compared with 15 percent of white households — and the gap is growing. The average white household is 20 times richer than the average black household — the largest gap since the government started recording this data a quarter century ago.
The recent recession widened these gaps. In the twentieth century, most blacks had trouble getting mortgages. Banks discriminated against poor black neighborhoods. During the housing bubble, this discrimination took the opposite form: predatory lending. The void left by mainstream lenders was filled by pawn shops, payday lenders, and check cashing services that charged high fees and usurious interest rates. Blacks were far more likely to receive subprime loans and then to experience foreclosure. Even if a black household had the same creditworthiness, default risk, employment, income, and demographics as a white household, the black household usually received much riskier, more expensive loans.
But it’s not just the recession. The unemployment gap has existed as long as blacks have been free to find jobs, even among blacks and whites with the same education level. Employers are far more likely to call back job applicants with white-sounding names. They are significantly more likely to hire white job applicants with a criminal record than black job applicants without a criminal record.
In Black America, infants are twice as likely to die as in White America. That gap has also grown over the last three decades. Even if blacks had the same background characteristics as whites — maternal age, educational attainment, etc. — two-thirds of that gap would still exist. If Black America were its own country, it would rank 67th in infant mortality, just below Qatar and Uruguay.
In Black America, 4 percent of the male population is in jail, compared with 0.7 percent of men in White America. Blacks comprise 40 percent of prisoners in America, though they comprise only 13 percent of the general population.
And it’s not because they’re more likely to commit a crime. According to recent research, blacks are significantly more likely to be arrested than whites for the exact same crime. On average, a black criminal who murders a white victim will receive a significantly harsher punishment than if the murder had been committed by a white criminal, regardless of the characteristics of the victim or the quality of legal counsel.
White drug users outnumber black drug users four-to-one. According to one study, “White students use cocaine at seven times the rate of black students, use crack cocaine at eight times the rate of black students, and use heroin at seven times the rate of black students.” Another study reported that “white youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely to have sold illegal drugs than African American youth.” Yet blacks are three times more likely to be arrested on drug charges.
As a result, blacks are unfairly disenfranchised more than whites. In the recent case Farrakhan v. Locke, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals openly admitted that “the statistical disparity and disproportionality evident in Washington’s criminal justice system arise from and result in discrimination,” yet they did not uphold the Constitution’s prohibition of racial discrimination in voting.
No wonder Congress won’t take their calls. Literally. Just like employers, legislators are less likely to respond to requests from blacks than from whites.
And they need to be heard. In a country where 13 percent of the population is black, only 10 percent of the House of Representatives is black, and there are zero black Senators.
In Black America, equal representation, the cornerstone of democracy, does not exist.
So while I understand your distaste for affirmative action and other diversity programs that seem like “reverse racism,” I urge you to remember that whites receive affirmative action too — only, we call it by a different name: everyday life in America.
Your fellow White American,
Anthony W. Orlando
This op-ed was published in today’s Hazleton Standard-Speaker.