Even in a place as overall blue as Portland — we’re talking political inclinations, not summer skies and Casco Bay on a calm, clear day — that even progressive white people often think we people of color overstate just how steep a hill we have to climb in American society. Especially Black people.
I've come to believe this from personal experience talking to white people and from gut feelings (not to mention the copious anecdotal evidence from POC I talk to).
Now, there are any number of ways we can break that down. Black people not only have to climb a steep hill, but they have to do so with heavy weights chained to their ankles while white people on the same path just get to sport some nice L.L.Bean boots and a light daypack. I could break down economic history in the United States, the lingering generational effects of slavery into modern times, the expansive nature of systemic racism and the myriad ways white privilege plays out, etc. Well, to be honest, I couldn’t properly do any of those things in the amount of space I have here. I’ll refer you to The Atlantic and the article “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for a start on those topics.
How about we stick to one statement that I’m pretty sure prompts even open-minded, liberal white people to think, “Well, it’s bad, but not that bad...”
That statement would be the one that goes something like, “Black people have to work at least twice as hard to get the same amount of credit.” Or, as it goes in a similar vein in the series Scandal (I am a fan) from the mouth of Rowan Pope to his daughter Olivia: “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”
In June of this year, a report from the nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research notes that Black women are drastically underrepresented in political positions, despite voting at higher rates than any other group in 2008 and 2012 (and more than any other group except white men and women in 2014). They have worse job prospects (and higher student loan debt) even though the number of them getting college degrees has increased by nearly 24 percent since the early 2000s. And they are second only to Native American women in the chances of living in poverty, despite participating in the workforce at higher rates than other women.
In 2014, the Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that in 2013 (the most recent periodfor which unemployment data were available by both race and educational attainment), 12.4 percent of Black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 were unemployed. For all college graduates in the same age range, the unemployment rate stood at just 5.6 percent.
And how about an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data three years ago showing that a Black man with an associate’s degree has around the same chance of getting a job as a white male with a high school diploma? (I’ve also seen the data interpreted as being that a Black man with a college degree has the same chance of landing a job as a white high school dropout. Either way, it’s pretty telling.)
Also in 2014, a study showed that when law firm partners read identical memos, those partners were far more critical if they thought the author was Black rather than white — in fact, the partner evaluators found an average of 2.9 spelling and grammar errors for the supposedly white authors and 5.8 such errors for the Black ones.
And please don’t tell me you think much has changed between 2014 and now, especially with the atmosphere created by the campaign and the post-election actions of Donald Trump.
So, yes, Black people typically do have to work at least twice as hard. It’s not hyperbole. Maybe in some cases, it’s a very slight exaggeration, but it’s pretty much on the nose.
Read more from Shay Stewart-Bouley at http://blackgirlinmaine.com/