Black Americans July 2020
"The US was born as one of the most un-egalitarian societies in the world," according to a 4 June 2020 NPR Throughline podcast about policing in America. Throughout our country's history, communities have been designed and built to separate the white and the black populations. Volumes have been written about Black-American problems; fingers have been pointed, blame has been assigned, and remedies are frequently suggested. Unlike Asians or Hispanics, after centuries, Black Americans continue to suffer a disproportionate number of assimilation challenges. Why?
Four words: Prejudice—Racism—Discrimination—Inequality
"Prejudice refers to a preconceived idea about a particular group, while racism involves an unequal distribution of power on the basis of race" (thoughtco.com/racism-vs-prejudice-3026086). Discrimination is an illegal act that pertains to business, employment, and the like, when someone (or a group of people) is excluded from opportunities due to race, gender, or religion. Inequality refers to the difference in size, degree, or circumstances between groups.
The effects of prejudice, racism, discrimination, and inequality are apparent when comparing basic demographics of Black Americans to those of all Americans.
|Members of Gen Z or Millennials||43||56|
|Bachelor's or post-grad degree||32||19|
|Employed in service industry||33||36|
|Live with parent(s)||11||19|
|Single, never married||29||50|
|Own a home||65||39|
|Own any vehicle||88||69|
|Median annual household income (HHI)||$75K||$51K|
In summary, Black Americans are somewhat younger than all Americans (their mean age is 42). Older (Baby Boomer and pre-Boomer) Blacks are not as prevalent in the population—simply put, as a group, they do not live as long because of limited access to, and ability to afford healthcare. Few have jobs with employee benefits such as healthcare insurance. In addition, many Black Americans live in urban neighborhoods, where food deserts and toxic living conditions are common. The prejudicial practice of redlining (the refusal of a loan or insurance in areas deemed a financial risk) prevents many Black Americans from securing affordable housing.
A high proportion of single (never married) Black Americans are women and many are single parents; only one-third of all Black Americans are married. Relatively low levels of college completion limit employment choice; somewhat more than one-third are employed in the service industry—an industry hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Not surprisingly, due to income inequality, home and vehicle ownership are comparatively low. Median household income reflects the inability of most Black Americans to build wealth or to save for retirement. (See the July 2020 MacroMonitor Market Trends Newsletter.) While data show more women than men among Black Americans, the data are a bit misleading because MRI-Simmons (like all commercial research companies) does not survey individuals living in group quarters, such as prisons. According to Pew Research, in 2018, black Americans comprised 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the US adult population.
Three US Constitutional Amendments have passed to provide Black Americans equal rights: the 13th Amendment emancipated slaves (1865); the 14th Amendment (1868) affords Blacks equal rights under the law; the 15th Amendment (1870) grants African-American men the right to vote. Since passage, enforcing these laws has been problematic. Initially, a loophole in the 13th Amendment allowed former slave-holding states to pass 'Jim Crow' laws (also known as Black Codes). Black Codes were not always enforced equitably and were often enforced brutally. Police brutality continues, leaving the Black Community little recourse but to call attention to the violence they are subjected to in search of a remedy. Beginning with a peaceful demonstration in St. Louis (1916)—misnamed as a 'race riot'—through the current Black Lives Matter (BLM) "I Can't Breathe" movement, some police perpetuate a legacy of prejudice, racism, discrimination and inequality.
Police history in the United States reads like a novel. In the 1870s' South, police "forces" were nothing more than mobilized vigilante groups in which all white men of military age were required to serve at least one year—effectively institutionalizing generational racism. The sole job of southern "police" was to keep slaves in check. For Blacks, most freedoms were criminalized; corporeal punishments were swift and brutal. The Klu Klux Klan, and others of their ilk, enforced the Black Codes.
In the North, the police-unit model came from England. Units were charged with: a) crime prevention; b) community control; and c) maintaining a strong, visible presence. Departments were often comprised of low-class white men—basically, thugs—thereby establishing a formalized hierarchy in which Whites could control Blacks. The first major police investigation took place in an 1894 New York State Senate probe of corruption in New York City. Systemic corruption and violence were found. Violence continues today but is largely unreported. Even though required by a 26-year old law, data about police violence are given by only about 40% of police departments. Police who are repeat offenders are able to move from city to city to seek another police job because there is no national database of wrongdoers. Not all police are part of the problem, but in order to change, police fight a cultural legacy of excessive use of force and a domination mentality.
What does VALS add to the discussion?
VALS goes beyond demographics to uncover peoples' motivations. From a VALS perspective, groups with different motivations can be described demographically but are not defined by demographics. In fact, VALS transcends age, gender, and race.
What makes one population—such as Black Americans—different from another population—such as Asians or Whites—is the distribution of the VALS types. The relatively low proportions of Blacks in upper-resource groups (Innovators and Thinkers) in comparison with Whites (Table 2), is a direct consequence of prejudice, racism, discrimination, and inequality. Higher proportions of Black Americans than White Americans fall into low-resource Believers and Strivers groups; but not Makers or Survivors.
|VALS Segment||All Adults (Percent)||Black Americans Only (Percent)||White Americans Only (Percent)|
Instead of losing support over time, as other more immediate concerns take center stage, BLM is gaining momentum. The high proportion of Black Experiencers help explain why traction of the BLM movement is different this time and will be more enduring than past protests have been. In the forefront are young, tech-enabled, and ethnically diverse Experiencers. Characteristically concerned about fairness, they record police brutality on their cellphones for broad and frequent distribution on social media. Experiencers are tenacious and used to getting what they want or (not literally) die trying.
For additional information:
- Race and Policing:
- https://www.askdifference.com/racism-vs-discrimination/ (18 March 2020)
- Police Reform:
- Discrimination and the Pandemic:
- Race and Life Expectancy:
- Race and Imprisonment:
Learn more about how to use VALS to target for the Next Normal. Contact us.