January 13, 2009
Most of my friends are surprised whenever I point out that black Americans are only 14% of the population. Even more surprising to many is that blacks comprise only 25% of those living in poverty in this country. Non-hispanic whites are by far the largest group with a much larger 44%.
The overestimation of blacks living in poverty is the direct result of the media. In fact, the media reports blacks rather than whites in stories involving the poor an average of 57% of the time, more than double the black share of the population. This disproportionate amount of negative coverage has serious consequences. For one it reinforces a misguided stereotype about blacks, and two, reinforces the idea that since blacks are “all poor” that they themselves are to blame for their predicament. Once one points out that the vast majority of poor are non-black (75%), people often change their story and say that the folks living in poverty are there because of bad luck rather than bad character.
The bottom line for me is a simple reminder that media often does this country little service. It also reminds me that
the vast majority of blacks in this country are in the middle class or above. Their success is an amazing story given the long and sad history of racial discrimination in America. It also says much about the character of this country that any demographic group that doggedly pursues education and isn’t afraid of hard work, can enjoy their share of the American dream. Is there another country where a once oppressed and discounted minority can earn such success? Any other country where their collective efforts could lead one of their members to pinnacle of power - such as the White House? I don’t think so.
The fact that America is about to have our first black President is a notable milestone. While not everyone will agree with his political agenda, we should all take pride and celebrate the fact that once again, America has proven itself to be so very unique . Is race still a issue? Sadly yes as long as the media continues to get it wrong and close-minded folks cling to hatred, bias and fear. As a nation however, we are about to cross a salient threshold that hopefully may yield a brighter, more prosperous future for Americans of all color.
Entry Filed under: Editorial. .