America is a country in debt to the black community and reparations for slavery have become buzzwords where people typically envision large sums of money being paid to individuals in the black community. But concerted efforts toward community equality are another way to think about reparations.
There are two very important areas that America needs to address in order to secure a reasonable foundation for bridging the racial gap. A gap that is becoming more and more of an unmanageable void the longer we ignore them. America needs to address Health and Education.
The current state of the union has created Safety Deserts of predominantly African-American and other communities of color. A Safety Desert would be a vulnerable area that is consistently marginalized and prohibited by circumstances and/or community racial make-up from equal access to necessary resources. These communities are neglected in every state and city of this country. Suffocated by the vicious cycle of forced poverty that leads to collapse and an inability to participate in the social agreement of our society.
Redlining, lack of equal access to health care, redistricting, hiring practices, police interactions, and lack of investments in general in these communities are a few of the major players in an old but ongoing problem.
Among one of the more baffling trends in this country is that we are a first world nation where far too many of its inhabitants are living in third world conditions. We’ve watched this played out in the news with the water crises in West Virginia and in Flint, Michigan.
But the issue is more comprehensive than that. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a report in September of this year that shows the pregnancy mortality rate in the United States is increasing rather than decreasing. This trend is the opposite of what is happening in the rest of the world. The results are more drastic for black mothers as the CDC reports that “considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist.” showing that mortality rates are 41.1 of 100,000 live births for black women, nearly four times the mortality rate for white mothers at 11.8. The numbers are just as grim for infant mortality, where the CDC reports in 2013 the highest rate, 11.11 per 1000 live births, was for infants of non-Hispanic black mothers. The trend is the same for many chronic diseases where the instance of or mortality rate from is higher for African Americans.
Furthermore, a topic we rarely look at as a health issue but most definitely falls in the health category; interactions and relationships with law enforcement. With the increased focus on the shootings of unarmed black men in the United States, these shootings have become more than a physical tragedy but also a psychological one.
When we see police response rates slower or lower in African-American and Latino neighborhoods, when we see where calls for assistance end up with the death of the very people calling for help, as is alleged in the case of Alfred Olango. It should come as no surprise that law enforcement comes under suspicion in these communities making it less likely that these citizens will call for assistance. This situation leaves them trapped in neighborhoods where crime is allowed to proliferate and a feeling of hopelessness as to what to do about it. The Pew Research Center published and article on police confidence by race and states that there is a dramatic difference in how the black and white communities see police in regard to fatal encounters. Statistics are starting to surface that show black communities are less likely to call 911. This is problematic because it is forced isolation of a segment of people creating a higher need for the services they are denied, not given in a timely manner, or are afraid to request. Creating unsafe environments with no recourse.
The underlying issue seems to be the misperception of black people in general and one that is promulgated by the lack of a full and comprehensive inclusion of black history in the educational system in this country.
For too long our school systems have chosen to promote misleading information by focusing on an overcoming slavery narrative as the totality of black history. This narrative begins with an unspoken and incorrect assumption that black people first and foremost needed to be civilized. This idea continues to permeate interactions with the black community on every level. From being legally able to deny employment based on styling our hair in a way that is congruent with our natural hair type to the aforementioned toxic, and too often fatal, interactions with law enforcement.
When our culture is treated as undesirable for the black community to demonstrate, based on a eurocentric world view of propriety; our country becomes mired in a rut of repetitive themes and one track ideologies that are crippling to the nation as a whole. When the corporate ladder refuses a foothold to the talent and input of a whole group of people based on superficial ideals of beauty, we give in to the idea, time and time again, that black people must be civilized first and foremost and are unfit to participate fully in the American dream. It teaches us all that success is very narrowly defined and is only for those who embody whiteness.
Funding that specifically targets healthcare and education in African-American communities while avoiding gentrification, and rather focuses on the unique qualities and specific strengths already available in those communities would be a possible long-term solution to the ongoing struggle for equality.
America continues to excuse itself by repeating “blacks have the same rights and opportunities that everyone else has!” It is simply not true. Until we have the same opportunity to exercise and profit from those rights, we remain at a disadvantage. Though policies and inattention may initially affect selected areas and individuals, the chaos of neglect can not be contained to just those areas and those individuals. Black communities and other communities of color are American communities and until they are properly and equally invested in, the strain in those areas will affect all of America.
Every time this country has called, Black Americans have answered. For every war, every crisis, domestic or abroad, we have supplied warriors, pioneers, scientists, and innovators and it’s time that this country pays our community what it is due.