OPINION: Why I am following Austin Channing’s tweets (and you should too)

Kevin Miller, Ph.D., gives his opinion of the recent events in Ferguson. He gives statistics to support his claims that we still live in a racist society.

Kevin Miller (Photo Provided)
Kevin Miller (Photo Provided)

One recent survey shows that white people in the USA believe that they suffer more anti-white bias than black people do anti-black bias. Another survey found that a plurality of white people, when thinking about the police shooting of an unarmed African American man in Ferguson, Missouri, believe that race is getting more attention than it deserves.

If you feel this way and are white, I want to ask you to consider the following numbers and then consider following a Christian thinker named Austin Channing on this issue and reading a blog she posted addressing this issue to white Christians. Here are the numbers:

The median household income in 2014 in the USA is about $60,000 for whites and $35,000 for blacks—a gap that is about 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967. The median wealth figure—that’s assets minus debt–for white households is $91,000, but just $6,000 for black households. Statistically I as a white person own about one dollar for every nickel my black counterpart possesses. To put this in context, the black-white gap in wealth in America today is greater than it was between blacks and whites at the height of legal apartheid in South Africa in 1970.

When it comes to life expectancy, actuarial charts show that a black male born today will die five years before the white male. At the human level that’s upsetting, but look at the wealth results for just Social Security payouts alone: In their retirement years Social Security is collected five years longer by the white male than the black male, giving whites significantly more years of income to bank on and to transfer to the next generation. This has been the case for generations with the cumulative benefits of a compounded revenue stream.

While a good education translates into higher income and a larger wealth accumulation, our schools are still largely separate and unequal. Back in 1968, the year before I went to kindergarten, three fourths of black children were in highly segregated schools with under-resourced facilities and programs and teachers. The number of black students today attending highly segregated schools? It’s still three out of every four black students.

When income by race is considered in terms of level of education degree attained, the picture remains troubling. The median annual income for a black male with a two-year associate’s degree is less than what a white male makes with just a high school diploma. A black male with a bachelor’s degree also makes less than a white male with a two-year associate’s degree. And when it comes to being hired, white high school dropouts have about an equal chance as black college student of landing a given job. Put differently, if you are black and want a job that a white person also wants, these studies show you had better out-credential your white peer by several years of education.

Just a few more facts:

  • Eighty two percent of new white college students in the USA have gone to the nation’s most selective schools (the top 468 universities of the nation’s 4,600 degree granting institutions), while 68 percent of new black college students are enrolled in “open access” colleges (regional and two-year community colleges).
  • There are more black males in jail and under the control of the criminal justice system today than were in slavery at the height of American slavery in 1850.
  • Today, as states move to legalize marijuana, white male entrepreneurs are positioned to reap tens of thousands of dollars in profits for selling the very same product that young black males who couldn’t find “legitimate” jobs in their inner-city neighborhoods were jailed for under draconian three-strikes sentencing laws that funneled them in mass numbers into our prisons at rates that surpass incarceration numbers in both Russia and China.

If you have read this far, you are probably ready to either challenge my implied interpretation of the facts or you are moved enough by them to care and to want to make a difference. Either way, I invite you to view an online PowerPoint presentation in which I give the sources for all these claims and also present more can-those-really-be –true? facts and statistics like the ones above.

Find it at huntington.academia.edu/KevinDMiller/ and click on “What Should I Do about Ferguson?” At the end of the presentation, I suggest three concrete steps you can take right now to become part of the solution. But most importantly, I link you at the end of the PowerPoint to a blog post by an African American woman—Austin Channing–who speaks as a Christian to white Christians about what you and I can do practically to love justice and practice mercy and walk humbly with our God in our racialized society. Her post may change your life. And consider taking this one step right now: begin following her on Twitter.

Dr. Kevin Millier is a Communications Professor. He can be reached at kmiller@huntington.edu. This column reflects the views of the writer only.

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