Kellan Grady


Black Identity in the United States as a Locus of Disadvantage


The United States has a long history of racism, segregation, discrimination, and legalized oppression of people based on their skin color  (Hanks). In particular, black identity in the United States is seen as a locus of disadvantage in the United States today. Black U.S residents  are disadvantaged in many ways specifically related to unequal pay, victims of police brutality, unfair prison sentences and the lack of opportunity to go to prestigious academic institutions because of systematic oppression (Solomon).

Unfortunately, wealth in this country is unequally distributed by race—and particularly between white and black households (Hanks). Black identified families, relative to white families in the United States are economically insecure with far fewer opportunities to improve or prosper (Hanks). Black families are disadvantaged since less wealth translates into fewer opportunities for upward mobility which is thus compounded by lower income levels and limited possibilities to build wealth (Solomon). There are various reasons African Americans suffer from wealth inequality. For instance, black americans have far less access to tax-advantaged forms of savings, which is in large part a result of long history of employment discrimination( Hanks).  There is well documented history of mortgage market discrimination means that blacks are significantly less likely to be homeowners than whites (Weller). This discrimination means African Americans have less access to the savings and tax benefits that come with owning a home (Smith). This general segregation against blacks forces them into less advantageous occupation (Hanks). Therefore, African Americans have less access to solid jobs, sufficient wages and retirement benefits (Weller).

The wealth gap in the United States between white identified U.S residents versus black identified residents is astounding overall. African Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth of white residents (Hanks). In 2016, the median wealth for non retired black households 25 years old and older was less than one-tenth of the same situated white households (Smith). Overall, African Americans are also in greater need of personal savings than white persons (Johnson). This entire injustice towards black identified persons is a result of systematic challenges (Smith). The wealth gap persists regardless of households’ education, marital status, age, or income (Hanks). For instance, the median wealth for black households with a college degree is equal to about 70 percent of the median wealth for white households without a college degree (Hanks). Over time, the gap only worsens for black individuals (Weller). In 2016, blacks between 50 and 65 years old and near retirement had only about 10 percent of the wealth of whites in the same age group (Smith). Furthermore, African Americans have fewer assets than whites and are less likely to be homeowners, or own their own business or to even have a retirement account (Smith). To further illustrate the point of black disadvantage in wealth, when blacks did own such assets, they were worth significantly less than assets owned by whites (Weller).

Another aspect of black identity as a locus of disadvantage in the United States is the unfair treatment blacks suffer from police officers. Many studies suggest that racism and prejudice have much to due with police brutality towards black identified persons. Much of this unfair treatment is usually because of the implicit racial biases of the individual police officer involved towards black people (Mock). Black people are much more likely to be shot than white people (Lopez). “An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox’s Dara Lind found that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population” (Lopez). With that said, the unfair treatment black persons endure from law enforcement is even existent when unarmed. “The disparities appear to be even starker for unarmed suspects, according to an analysis of 2017 police killings by the Guardian. Racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the general population in the US and 46.6 percent of armed and unarmed victims, but they made up 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police” (Lopez). These statistics clearly depict the unjust treatment towards black United States residents and exemplifies how their identities simply cause cause disadvantages (Gaee. Additionally, Black people are much more likely to be arrested for drugs, even though they’re not more likely to use or sell them (Sanders). And black inmates make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population. The general treatment blacks suffer from law enforcement is unfair, and an issue that needs to be resolved.

In conclusion, racism and unjust treatment of black identified residents is still a major problem today in the United States (Hanks). Black nationals are undoubtedly initially disadvantaged simply because of their identity.  In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote: “Depressed living standards for Negroes are not simply the consequence of neglect. Nor can they be explained by the myth of the Negro’s innate incapacities, or by the more sophisticated rationalization of his acquired infirmities (family disorganization, poor education, etc.)( Martin Luther King). “ They are a structural part of the economic system of the United States.” (Martin Luther King). The United States should strive to reach the ultimate goal of equal treatment with zero inherent disadvantages, like being a black identified person. Unfortunately, for now this problem still exists and being a black identified United States resident is still a locus of disadvantage. (Hanks)


May 7, 2018