I just recently stumbled upon the tweet by the writer/comedian Elon James White that says, “Oh? The NYPD are treating you badly? Violent for no reason? Weird.” – Black People. At first I couldn’t help but laugh at the truth behind this simple statement and the nonchalant voice of “Black People” welcoming Americans, more specifically Occupiers, to the issues our race has been facing for decades. I found this tweet especially interesting because of all the talk I’ve heard of Occupy Wall Street – and that is a lot – I’ve never heard this argument made.
It seems that just now Americans are paying attention to and getting upset about police brutality in the OWS protests when police brutality, especially in the city of Chicago, has plagued the black community for as long as most people can remember. I would argue that the majority of black youth have either experienced police brutality themselves or know someone who has experienced it. This idea that Americans are now waking up to the issues blacks have faced for decades made me curious about other problems white Americans now pay attention to and worry about for themselves. Crowds protest against high unemployment rates, too many people living at or below the poverty line, and how the lower class seems to get poorer as the rich seem to get richer. Sound familiar? It should. Blacks have faced these issues since the government started tracking these figures by race in 1972.
To prove that this issue has been relevant since before the Great Recession of 2008, I’ll turn to the information from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. In 1990, the percent of blacks below the U.S. poverty line was 31.9% while 10.7% of whites faced the same issue. In 2000, 22.5% of blacks fell below the poverty line while 9.5% of whites also could not meet the poverty line. And, in 2007, just before the Great Recession, 24.5% of blacks fell below the poverty line while 10.5% of whites were below the poverty line. While this is info most people have heard before about black inequality, these figures still startled me.
The issue of unemployment has taken center stage in today’s OWS protestors. However, black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites since 1972. In the August 2011 jobs report, black unemployment surged to 16.7% – the highest its been since 1984. Sine 1984, white unemployment rates have actually fallen slightly by 8%.
In saying all of this, I am not trying to prove that OWS protestors are wrong in what they are doing. I actually support the movement in that I’ve never seen so many young people feel so passionately about government change. However, I am asking that Americans realize the issues they are now facing have been a reality for blacks for as long as many generations can remember. With all of that, I say welcome to the jungle.