An article appearing on a Fox news web site will have almost certain appeal to those “populists” harboring perverse racial resentment. The article suggests that health reform is reparation for slavery: Blacks will be on the receiving end of most care–at the expense of whites. If this isn’t absurd enough, President Obama, at the helm, appears not only as a dictator pushing this reparation, but the anti-debt, anti-health reform crowd at the “tea parties” have caricatured him as an African witch doctor, complete with feathers and nostril tusks.
Human nature often casts blame for personal failure on someone else. Those sinking believe they are drowning because someone else is clinging to them to stay afloat. The reality is that blacks are taking a worse beating in this recession. They are suffering a disproportionate rate of unemployment and foreclosures. The Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University and Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research organization, reports that 33 percent of the black middle class was at economic risk at the start of the recession.
During the years between 2000 and 2007, black employment had already started to decline, leaving one-third of black children living in poverty. Even black college graduates seeking work faced twice the level of unemployment as whites. More troublesome, a legacy of discrimination in hiring and lending has left blacks with far fewer resources than whites. In 2008, at the onset of the recession, blacks had one-tenth the assets possessed by whites. Whites held 43 percent of retirement accounts, compared to the 18 percent held by blacks and Latinos.
While people of all races fell victim to adjustable rate and subprime mortgages, black families were hit hardest—especially high-income blacks. Even those with down payments, or those who qualified for prime rate mortgages, were lured into sub-prime home purchases at double the rate of low-income whites. In fact, blacks lost $71 billion to $93 billion in the value of their homes due to subprime loans, according to the research and advocacy group, United for a Fair Economy.
Blacks were a ready-made target for lenders like Wells Fargo and Countrywide. Having been denied mortgages for racial reasons, black families were an easy mark. Banks intensively marketed to black neighborhoods under the auspices of serving those historically turned down for loans. But questionable loans are just part of the dismal economic picture.
While unemployment for whites stands at 8.9 percent, unemployment for blacks stands at 15.1 percent. An Economic Policy Institute spokesman, Lawrence Mishel says by 2010, African Americans will see periods of underemployment or unemployment reach 40 percent.
Clearly, pointing the finger at power-grabbing blacks is a right-wing misconception. Blacks are at risk of becoming more disadvantaged than before. Can our bi-partisan-striving president, himself a man of color, risk losing a large constituency by taking on this demise of the black middle-class? Not likely. All Americans need relief from economic stress, now, more than ever—but especially to prevent further distorted complaints from the far right.