2013 Pretty Much Sucked for Black People

The past 12 months were promising, frustrating, tragic, ironic, infuriating, distressing, uplifting and inspiring.


Oh, sure, 2013 started on an optimistic note. President Obama, having won re-election by a landslide, was sworn in at the beginning of the year, setting the stage for his second term with soaring, progressive rhetoric filled with big vision and big promises. (And a lip-synching Beyoncé.)

But there were times along the way that 2013 just felt beat-down hard, like it was a really, really bad year to be black in America. It was certainly a tough year to be voting while black in some states in America, thanks to voter-ID laws and the Supreme Court striking down key portions of the Voting Rights Act. It was also a bad year to be shopping while black—in particular, to be shopping while black in Barneys. (And Macys.) It was an even worse year to be asking for help while black. For Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell, seeking help literally meant a death sentence.

2013 marked the 50th anniversary of a particularly bloody year that saw Medgar Evers shot in his driveway, the assassination of a president, the lynchings of three civil rights workers and a bombing in Birmingham, Ala., that took the lives of four little girls.

But in 2013, it seemed like not much progress had been made in the value of black lives. An 8-year-old boy playing outside was shot in the face by a 46-year-old white man. The man’s reason for shooting Donald Maiden: “Because I wanted to.” Hadiya Pendleton twirled her baton at the presidential Inauguration, only to be gunned down in a neighborhood park in Chicago a few days later. And baby Jonylah Watkins was shot to death while her father changed her diaper in a minivan.

When a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, communal grief seemed to bubble over. “Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY,” Trayvon’s father tweeted.

It was a tough year to be black and out of work in a tough economy, with the African-American unemployment rate remaining double that of whites. On the other hand, as fast-food workers walked off the job and into the streets to protest their low wages, this was the year that people began seriously talking about income inequality in the U.S., and that is a good thing. According to the Pew Research Center, the wealth gap in the country is the highest since 1928. The sequester and the subsequent government shutdown underscored our continued economic vulnerability: African-American workers were disproportionately affected by the furlough.

It was a really hard year to be Obama. (Heathcare.gov. Ouch.)

In so many ways, 2013 felt like living in a perennial Friday the 13th, with the bad luck piling on top of bad luck. Detroit went broke. Charles Dorner went on a murderous rampage against the LAPD.

It’s turning out to be a horrific year in South Sudan and the Central Republic of Africa, as both countries erupt in flames. It’s not a good time to be Haitian in the Dominican Republic, even if you were born there and your parents were born there—and your grandparents and your great-grandparents. This year, the Dominican Supreme Court ruled that you were no longer a citizen.