When I was 16 years old, my entire family thought my little sister was going crazy (and by “sister” I mean my cousin who lived with us because black people do that, which could be the subject of an entirely different article). Every morning, she would tell us that there was a monster under her bed. She said she could hear it scratching at the floorboards, trying to “get her.” She said she could hear it clawing at the walls.
As the only “man” in the house, I tried to reassure her that it was her imagination. I looked under the bed with her to show her that nothing was there. I told her there was nothing to be frightened about, but she insisted she was not crazy. She knew it was there.
This is how black people often feel about racism. Whenever we bring up the subject, there are some who will say we are imagining things. They will tell us that we are projecting our paranoia onto something that is not there.
Unlike subterranean monsters, however, racism can be proved. Even though the concept is elusive, it is real. Instead of ranting about how it makes us feel (which, I admit, I am prone to do) and how we can see it around every corner, I present some real-world numbers that show the real-world implications of racism and white supremacy:
1. Black college graduates make less money than white high school dropouts.
If this country is anything, it is the concept of the American dream. The overriding belief is that we are a nation where anything is possible if you work hard and get an education. The main reason immigrants risk their lives and roll the dice to come to this country is the myth that they can turn their wildest dreams into reality with the magic wand of work ethic and knowledge. This is the promise of America, and it is true ...
... unless you are black.
While there are a number of complicated reasons for the black achievement gap, even if a black person achieves his or her educational goals and works hard, that black person is still compensated less than a white person with less education and experience.
Discrimination is the only logical explanation for this. There is no ladder to economic freedom if the best-case scenario for the average black child is that—no matter what he or she does—he or she will still be less than a white child who isn’t as smart or accomplished. It is the very definition of white supremacy.
2. Black schools are underfunded.
There might be an explanation for this. On average, black families earn less than white families, which means that they are more likely to live in areas with a lower tax-revenue base. Less tax money means fewer dollars for school funding. There, it’s settled.
But not quite.
Even when the school districts have the same revenue; even when black families have the same income as their white counterparts, the single determining factor in how much money a school receives almost always correlates to the percentage of black students at the school.
Data scientist David Mosenkis looked at 500 schools in Pennsylvania and found that “no matter how rich or poor the district in question, funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school. Just the increased presence of minority students actually deflated a district’s funding level.”
Another 2012 study (pdf), titled, “Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color,” analyzed the Department of Education’s data on school district spending. It showed how states use a provision in No Child Left Behind to hide disparities in “within-district spending.” What does this mean? It means that even in the same school district, schools with a large white population receive more money on the local level than schools with a large percentage of black students. When people use the term “systematic racism,” this is what they mean.
3. Black unemployment is consistently twice that of white unemployment.
A black person is far less likely to find a job than a white person with the same education and experience, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Let that sink in. Even with the same qualifications, a white person is deemed “more qualified” or more employable than a black person.
In fact, Pew Research shows that—regardless of the economic climate—since 1954, whites have been twice as likely as blacks to find a job.
There are other statistics that show how blacks are prosecuted more often for the same crimes, receive longer jail sentences and are more likely to die at the hands of police, but we knew this already.
One day, my mother had to call someone to repair a broken pipe in our home. No one could understand how it happened, but the plumber (and by “plumber” I mean my cousin Squeak, whose name could be the subject of an entirely different article) had to break through the Sheetrock wall to fix the pipe.
When he opened it, he found a fully grown ferret (and by “found” I mean we trapped it in a big Christmas popcorn tin and kept it as a pet for years, which could be the subject of an entirely different article) that had somehow gotten into the walls from underneath the house.
Ferrets sleep 18 hours a day, so my sister was the only one who heard it, but she was right all along. There had always been a monster beneath her bed, clawing to get out. She was not crazy.
And neither are we. The monster we have been telling you about for so many years has finally come out from under black America’s bed. It is a filthy little ratlike creature that we have always known was real. Never again can you say it is a figment of our paranoia.
And no, you cannot keep it.