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African Americans

The New York Times - which is often seen by MAGA supporters as being run by an East Coast elitist, liberal clique - said the idea behind the 1619 Project was to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the national narrative.” It then teamed up with the Pulitzer Center to develop a school curriculum based on the project.

Traditionalists feel the 1619 Project is political correctness gone mad and should not be mentioned anywhere near a classroom. ?In May 2020 New York Post columnist Gerard Baker wrote that the point of the 1619 Project was to define America defines America “as a nation built not on the lofty ideals of freedom and self-government laid out in the document written by the Founding Fathers, but as one built on the degradation, dehumanisation and persecution of black people.”

The historical experience of African Americans will always be unique. As the flames of anger fueled by George Floyd's death spread in the US, political correctness triggered a series of responses - a statue of a Confederate general in Virginia was toppled by protesters; Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman expressed regret for the lack of racial diversity on the TV series; top Pentagon leaders said they were open to discussing renaming 10 US Army facilities; and Gone With the Wind, the US Civil War epic considered a classic of American cinema, was temporarily pulled from HBO Max. However, all of these will definitely fail to touch the core of the deep-rooted racial inequality in the US.

The 2010 United States census indicated that there were 43.21 million African Americans, constituting 14 per cent of the United States population. The July 2015 estimates indicated that there were 46.28 million African Americans, constituting 14.4 percent of the United States population. Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, a systemic ideology of racism ensuring the domination of one group over another continues to impact negatively on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today.

Racial discrimination continues to be systemic and rooted in an economic model that denies development to the poorest African American communities. More than 10 million (26 per cent) of African Americans remain mired in poverty, and of that figure, almost half (12 per cent) live in what is known as “deep poverty”.

The history of people of African descent in the United States is well documented. The first enslaved Africans were brought to the American colonies in the early part of the seventeenth century. Slavery became an entrenched institution, with Africans making up one fifth of the population of the American colonies by 1775.

The issuance in 1863 of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all enslaved persons within the rebellious states were free, was followed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which outlawed the practice of enslavement, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in 1868, granting full United States citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including African Americans, and the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in 1870, prohibiting denial of the right to vote on the basis of race.

The removal of federal troops from the South accompanied the end of Reconstruction and helped lead to the restoration of the Democratic Party’s control of state governments. With the redemption of the South, many reforms enacted by Reconstruction governments were repealed. Racial discrimination was institutionalized with the passage of Jim Crow laws. These state laws and local ordinances included provisions to require racial segregation, prohibit miscegenation, limit ballot access and generally deprive African Americans of civil rights.

The prevalence of “Jim Crow” laws — laws at the state and local levels that enforced racial segregation and persecution, primarily in the southern states — perpetuated political disenfranchisement, social and economic exploitation, violence and the overall subjugation of people of African descent until the 1960s. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

The Great Migration of African Americans to northern cities heightened racial tensions there and led to a series of urban race riots in 1919. Lynchings and the enforcement of Jim Crow legislation continued in the South during the post-war era. Racial intolerance also was seen in the revival of the Ku Klux Klan across the United States.

The Harlem Renaissance was a celebration of African American culture and contributed to social change. The themes of African American art and literature gave pride to people of African heritage and increased awareness of the struggles related to intolerance and life in large urban centers. Jazz flourished during the Harlem Renaissance and became an established American music genre. The large numbers of African Americans moving to northern cities during the Great Migration increased competition for jobs, housing and public services.

The civil rights movement from 1954 to 1968 was another important era in the struggle for rights by people of African descent in the country. The Montgomery bus boycott, the Selma to Montgomery marches, and many non-violent protests and acts of civil disobedience throughout the country led to further legislative developments, including but not limited to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited, among other things, discrimination based on race or color; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sought to overcome the legal barriers to the exercise of voting rights by African Americans; and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination in the purchase or renting of property.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2015, of the more than half a million homeless people in the United States, African Americans constituted 40.4 per cent. They also constituted 27.8 per cent of the homeless people who were unsheltered. Despite the recovery of the United States economy, the impact of the 2008 and 2009 recession on African Americans is still very much present. The unemployment rate among African Americans is almost twice the national unemployment rate.

Civil rights laws are not being fully implemented, and even if fully implemented, they are insufficient to overcome and transform the institutional and structural racial discrimination and racism against people of African descent. Mass incarceration, police violence, housing segregation, disparity in the quality of education, labour market segmentation, political disenfranchisement and environmental degradation continue to have detrimental impacts on people of African descent, despite the application of civil rights laws.

The meaning and role of culture has been at the center of much controversy in research and public policy dialogues about the African American family. Dodson (1997) divided this contentious literature into two primary camps: ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. A number of prominent ethnocentric studies presumed the two-parent nuclear-family structure of white middle-class America represented a cultural ideal. Accordingly, this perspective maintains that female-headed households are central to a tangle of pathology that constrained African American families within a culture of poverty.

The civil rights movement and the larger sociopolitical sensitivities led to a revisionist perspective that celebrated the female-headed household, extended family, and fictive kin traditions as cultural adaptations indicating the strength of the African American family. Moreover, much of this cultural relativism holds that these family forms are rooted in African tribal beliefs and practices regarding the central importance of extended family.

Since 1960, the percentage of African American children living in two-parent households plummeted from two-thirds to a low of one-third in the mid-1990s. Conversely, the prevalence of African American children living with their mother only increased from 20% in 1960 to over 50% in the 1980s and 1990s. The prevalence of white children in mother-only households also increased from its historically steady level of 6% (Ruggles, 1994), but by 2002 still comprised less than 20%.

This decline of African American children in two-parent households reflects a general decline in marriage among African Americans. The percentage of African American women age 15 and above that were married declined from 62% in 1950 down to 36% in 1998.

Numerous African American families have struggled for generations with persistent poverty, especially in the inner city. These conditions were further strained during the 1980s and 1990s by the widespread use of crack cocaine. For many, crack use became an obsession, dominated their lives, and superseded family responsibilities. This behavior placed additional pressure on already stressed kin support networks.

At least one out of three black children in America lives in a household with an income below the poverty line. About 49 percent of children in urban areas, 9.7 million children, live in low-income families, and black families are more than twice as likely to experience economic hardships than white families. Studies have found that growing up in poverty contributes to the development of stress at a level that can affect children’s health, brain development, and social and emotional well-being. Youth that grow up in poverty are more likely to experience multiple traumas and significant adverse life events, and to thus develop complex symptoms of traumatic distress at disproportionate rates.” Studies of children living in poor inner-city neighborhoods estimate that anywhere from 70 to 100 percent of those children experience high rates of exposure to trauma.

Many black Americans experience trauma in their everyday lives. This trauma can stem from living in poverty, violence, maltreatment, or events like losing a loved one or a house fire. These traumatic events affect the mental, emotional, and social well-being of black Americans, and many black Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. The trauma experienced by black Americans increases the likelihood that black Americans will come in contact with the criminal justice system, causing racial disparities in the system. Anticipatory anxiety causes symptoms much like those associated with PTSD: fears, preoccupations, nightmares, vigilance, avoidance, and enactments.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2022 16:44:33 ZULU