Budig reminded readers of his article in USA Today (Feb. 13, 2013) that the previous month was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which for many of us also reminds us to review the progress so far in the fight for racial equality. However, he felt that we are living in a society where the reverse is the case, i.e. that racial inequality has become normal rather than unusual or exceptional.
Examples Budig gave to substantiate that view included education, where educational achievement even in higher education is significantly lower for blacks and Hispanics than it is for their white peers. His second example was financial status. Comparisons of median incomes per household showed again that whites were way ahead of both blacks and Hispanics on that score and that unemployment and poverty rates also reflected the white advantage by a substantial margin. In trying to evaluate overall equality, Budig referred to the NAACP index, which indicated on a composite basis of “economic, health, education, social justice and civic engagement data” that both blacks and Hispanics are on average about 24 percent worse off than their white fellow citizens.
He expressed greater concern that in general the situation has not improved over recent decades and in some instances has got worse. For example school segregation is increasing and levels of poverty have remained unchanged for 30 years. In respect of the schools situation, Budig expressed the view that the only realistic solution to the problem that we all face is for all U.S. educational establishments (schools, colleges and universities) to jointly agree a unified approach that will bring the practice of segregation to an end.
Budig considered there are no simple answers to this complex problem, and – bearing in mind that by 2050 over half the U.S. population will be non-white – stated that the problem must be tackled, and sooner rather than later.
How this article relates to class topics:
In terms of social mobility, with the disparities between whites and non-whites that Budig mentioned, the non-whites in the population find it harder to achieve any vertical mobility, being constrained by their race “labels” to fit only in the social circles their race dictates. In effect, the non-whites are trapped in closed societies mostly not of their own making, almost like the caste systems that exist in societies like India, but also sharing aspects of the class system where in this case the non-whites are categorized at a lower level of class because of their generally less affluent situations.
Similarly, the effects of that lower income/wealth level means that non-whites attend poorer and often run-down schools with inadequate resources and therefore have less opportunity to advance to a college education. Further, because race prejudices and stereotypical images tend to shape the lives of non-white citizens – what jobs they can get, what housing they will be accepted for, and so on, achieving any significant improvement in their situations can be a real uphill struggle.
Opinions of the article:
The article does appear to make some really valid points, although without going away and checking some of Budig’s quoted statistics, his figures have to be taken at face value. Overall, if his data are reasonably accurate, the picture is rather gloomy to say the least. One has to wonder for example just how long a non-white majority in the U.S. as a whole would tolerate being effectively “second-class citizens” in this country where our Constitution speaks of everyone being equal under the law.
Also, going back to all those racial troubles in the South when school segregation was banned, how can we be heading back towards segregation once again in this “progressive” nation? Budig is right that with all the economic and other problems currently faced by the Obama regime, it is not realistic to expect a high priority to be given by government to the nonetheless burning issue of racial equality. However, as he rightly said, something needs to done very soon. Racial equality is simply not an issue that can be ““swept under the carpet” or “put on the back burner.” Using another cookery comparison, if it is left to simmer for too much longer it is likely to boil over.
The article paints a sad picture of American society. We look down upon repressive regimes like North Korea, and talk about the people there being virtual slaves, kept in poverty and ignorance while the ruling elite live a life of wealth and opulence, spending most of the nation’s money on themselves and on a military system that threatens their neighbours and keeps the populace in check. Yet for many non-white citizens in America, are their lives so different from that of the average North Korean?
The importance of studying this topic:
For everyone living in today’s United States of America, it is important to be fully aware of the society we live in, and more especially of the important issues facing us as citizens and voters. On this particular issue of racial inequality, if we feel as individuals that things must change, the democratic way to achieve that change is through the ballot box when election time comes around. And to register a meaningful vote, we need to be fully informed so that we can come to a reasoned decision about the way we want society to change, and support those standing for office who share our goals. Doing nothing achieves nothing, but voters have power as the candidates for election know very well. Change can be achieved, but not if we sit back and let others make the running. If we want equality, we have to step forward and vote for it.
Budig, Gene, A. “No simple answers to racial inequality”. (Feb 13, 2013). USA Today. Web. 17 April 2013.