Whites and African-Americans in America by the numbers

88% of African-Americans in a recent Pew poll said that there was “a lot” (46%) or “some” (42% ) discrimination against them.

Only 57% of whites agreed, and only 16% of whites said there is “a lot” of discrimination against African-Americans:

Average household net worth of whites: $110,000.

Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000

The wealth gap between white and African-American families tripled between 1980 and 2009, according to the Century Foundation:

1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men

Or consider it this way

25 Responses

  1. It is axiomatic that the privileged enjoy the luxury of blissful insouciance, secure in the belief that the “other” is are responsible for his or her own hunger, incarceration, lack of education, poverty, etc. As Blake said, “It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted and to speak the laws of prudence to the homeless wanderer. It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer sun and in the vintage to sing on the wagon loaded with grain.”
    People of color experience racism at every level. No matter how successful, they are subjected to the subtle assumptions of a racist society. From the worker stopped for “driving while black” to student whose professor asks, “Did you write this paper?” or to the young professional who on picking out a garment in an exclusive store is asked, “Can you afford this dress?” the racist assaults go on and on.
    Racism is like alcoholism in America and White America is dominated by the addicted. Like alcoholics Americans can be recovering racists but in this society there is no cure. One must constantly critically assess one’s motives and attitudes around race. Self congratulation is rarely appropriate.

    • I would argue, with great regret, that white supremacy is more like speed or caffeine or some other drug that makes you work harder to get more highs. In fact it is the most dangerous drug ever seen.

      Its potency is illustrated by the terrifying military prowess of the famous white supremacist states of the past: the CSA, South Africa, Rhodesia, and the Third Reich. Though all of them were eventually defeated by the insanity of their position vis a vis their neighbors, they put up a hell of fight. The Wehrmacht is credited with a 15 to 1 casualty ratio. The South tested the will of the North to keep fighting despite having only 2.5 million white men to draw its armies from versus the North’s 15 million of all colors and an increasing # of freed slaves.

      This should concern us, but we think of race war as something in the past. What matters is the ability of white supremacy to energize ordinary people into uniting to commit acts of historic and ambitious evil – in the case of America, the same acts over and over again, tirelessly revived and ingeniously disguised. We still can’t kill this zombie.

  2. Juan, your data sets are throwing me a little. Typically, median would be lower than mean (average) if you had extreme outliers at the upper end of the spectrum (take a sampling of 99 people with $1 + 1 person with $1000 and calculate the mean ($20) and median ($1) to see my point). The above data is mixing results from two different surveys (US Census Bureau mean net worth compared to IASP – Brandeis University median for total wealth for a sampling of 1,700 families studied over that period of time). The median net worth for whites in 2009 is actually about $113,000 and $5,677 for blacks, according to Pew (Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics. Pew Research Center,
    July 2011). While the comparisons are closer, I would assume the 2009 Pew median is higher than the 2013?? US Census Bureau data because of a significant loss in household value.

    None of the above changes your analysis, but the data are quite dissonant.

    • What Juan identified as average is actually median for 2010. (Apparently before the crasg, Asians were ahead of whites.) But the numbers didn’t come crashing down from those medians of the following chart, which are not national medians at all, but statistics derived from a longitudinal study of selected families.

  3. i’d be curious to see that done by age. people over or under certain ages, i think, would show different answers. just to see how younger or older people perceive this.

    when you consider the War on Drugs is also a War on Black Men, it seems so easy to grasp the differences in status in American Society. Keeping Blacks from voting mainly and keeping Black women in single parent households.

    • We should also recall that Temperance and Prohibition could be regarded as a War on Catholics, as detailed in Ken Burns’ documentary “Prohibition”. Attacking the one was a way of punishing the other, in Protestant eyes. Prohibition was repealed because of the massive Democratic electoral gains caused by that event which discredited so much of WASP conservatism, the Great Depression. Yet only TWO years later, marijuana was banned in turn. Apparently there must always be a war on someone.

  4. I really can’t understand how it comes to $110729 fro whites.

    – For example, how much of a leased car one owns, especially by the end of the lease?
    – What about credit cards, student loans, medical and other debts?
    – Even tenants of luxury apartments have no equity.
    – Do they count only paid equity for mortgages and car loans?

    • Remember the 1% whom everyone was protesting about a couple of years ago? They’re practically all white, and they alone own most of the wealth in our country. Thus the average.

      The problem is, so many poorer whites seem to regard their shared complexion with the oligarchs as proof of their own natural superiority, so the political effects are little different than if all whites really were that much richer. Since most of the 1%’s amassing has happened since Reagan came to power playing race cards, you could say that the elites used racism to scapegoat minorities and big government for their own worsening of the fortunes of many whites. Thus fooling the latter into destroying the very government barriers against vulture and casino capitalism that made our modern 1% possible.

  5. These facts are not evidence of discrimination, but instead they are evidence of social norms. When our black community stops glorifying the gangsta life and being a “thug” this will turn around. The change must begin within our community itself. When the community honors lawfulness and education, the change will happen. No program or money or anything other than a change from within will reverse the trends seen in the above graphics.

    • Should our white community stop glorifying heavy metal, punk rock, death metal, headbanging, general anarchy, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll? Will that boost their average household net worth to $200,279?

      Are the rotten moral codes of artists/musicians from a certain demographic/race really representative of that of the entire race?

    • When white media stop underwriting and flooding culture with “thug life” minstrelsy, when federal equal-access housing laws are inforced so neighborhoods cease to be segregated, when the legal system stops targeting black crime almost exclusively, when republicans stop praising the slavery era, when educational opportunities are funded for African-Americans instead of only for white suburban communities, when white vigilantes are not legally able to shoot down unarmed black people whenever they want, then that will be a good time for the black community to deal with problems of violence (and misogyny) that have been exacerbated by the “Reagan Democrat”-Southern Racist-Nothern Liberal political alliance which has quite deliberatly overseen policies designed to impoverish and criminalize African-Americans.

      A very large part of America’s white population is implacably and implicitely racist. Those who believe they are not look at Obama and assuage their conscience while refusing to insist on the structural changes (and sacrifices) necessary to create real conditions of equality.

    • Sarai, see my comment above about how the averages have been skewed by the financial crimes of the all-white 1% since 1980. No “values” had anything to do with it. Blacks were kept out of a position to participate in that orgy, and their blue-collar jobs were wiped out by deliberate agendas to punish high-wage cities and states, replaced by robots and foreign sweatshops.

  6. Back in the mid 1990′s, when I (as a young single white woman) was living in Los Angeles, I used to take the city bus to work. One morning, as I stood within a covered bus shelter and watched a stream of cars going past, I was baffled that virtually every driver who glanced toward me and the bus stop, gave a hard stare or even looked downright angry.

    There was a traffic light a few feet past the bus shelter. As vehicles stopped at each red light, and various drivers again looked my way, face after face inexplicably darkened. I heard the “thunk, thunk, thunk” of door locks clicking down as drivers locked their doors. “What is going on?” I wondered. I was used to seeing a variety of gazes as I waited at bus stops, some indifferent, some friendly, some clearly checking me out flirtatiously, but never had I felt such a wave of universal hostility.

    “Has something crazy happened in Los Angeles? Did every Angeleno get up on the wrong side of the bed?” I wondered. It was a very unpleasant feeling. At last, the city bus pulled up. The doors opened and as I stepped out of the shelter, a young black man stepped forward and went up the steps into the bus ahead of me. He had been standing, hidden from my view, on the other side of the bus shelter.

    In a flash, I realized, given the angle, that all those hard glances, all those abruptly darkened gazes, all those hammered down door locks were quite likely directed at him.

    It was the darkest epiphany. He was otherwise absolutely unremarkable. Just a tall young black fellow in jeans and a t-shirt. “My God,” I thought. “Is that what he always faces? Looks of suspicion, fear, and outright anger? I’d be depressed if I had to face such universal hostility day after day.” It was a true eye opener–the only time I ever felt that I had slipped into another person’s skin and known the world as that person did.

    For a few moments, I had intensely felt what had always been a rather abstract realization: that we each experience the world quite differently, according to the first impression reception that we receive from others. I can’t begin to fathom how such an ongoing hostile reception might change and shape who I would be. It’s no wonder there’s such a huge gulf between white and black experience; we walk the same earth, but we live on separate planets.

  7. The amount of racism might be hard for some whites to grasp because they live in areas where there are very few minorities and therefore do not have the opportunity to observe many interracial interactions.
    When I was young I thought African Americans were mostly paranoid. Over time there were eye opening experiences, such as the 20-20 Report many years ago that showed with a hidden camera white couples and black couples applying to live in the same appartment complex. The black couples were often told that there were no vacancies when there were in fact vacancies.
    Another reason that it was hard for me to accept racism as being widespread is because it so irrational it was hard for me to understand how a well educated person could hold racist views. Even now the only way that I can make sense of racism is to understand it as an insidious tactic of class warfare to prevent unity and trust amongst people who have a common interest in changing society.
    In fact I would being willing to speculate that the reason that Fred Hampton was murdered by the police and William Kunstler was not was a Psy Ops tactic as William Kunstler was the most dangerous threat to the illegitimate system of power.
    When I was young a black man was four times more likely to be in prison than a white man. At that time a black man was also four times more likely to live below the poverty line.
    To me that was evidence that in America there was a correlation between poverty and crime. Earlier today I read at counterpunch.org that now a black man in America is eight times more likely than a white man to be in prison. I do not know what the current comparison of poverty rates are.
    The reason that I point this out is not to see if the correlation of poverty and crime is still true. It is to publically ask another question. Do things happen because we in America are ruled by idiots who are making things up as they go along, or are we ruled by intellegent sociopaths
    who have a 5 year plan and a 30 year plan for where they want the society to be at that time.
    If we are ruled by idiots who are just playing to win 2 year and four year election cycles black men could just be unintentional victims of fate be crushed by uncontrolable historical trends in which huge numbers end up in prison not because they are black but because the historical legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws left them economically disadvantaged. If we are ruled by intellegent sociopaths there could be more to it. Have I become irrationally paranoid?

  8. I’m interested in the 1984 v. 2009 numbers and what happens to the wealth gap in constant dollars vs what it means that over the same period African American wealth went from 20 percent of whites’ to 34 percent (African American rise in nominal dollars of slightly more than 15 times vs white rise of slightly more than 9 times).

  9. By the way your stats on average and median white net worth do not make any sense. Because multimillionaires and billionaires skew the numbers it is to me self evident that the average net worth would have to be higher than the median net worth. Yet the median numbers that you posted are much higher than the average numbers. It seems to me that someone screwed up with their numbers, No?

    • I agree.

      In Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for example, the per capita income is $79,000 – however this small Michigan city was the home to Lee Iacooca and many other auto executives, professional sports figures and entertainers – leaving the “average” a lot higher than the “median” per capita income.

  10. You have left out the Bill Gates walks into a bar aspect of this. The vast majority of poor people in the US are white. In fact I think you make the problem worse when you point to black poverty and ignore white poverty. I believe, but can’t provide evidence that it is a common belief that black people are a larger portion of the society than they are, and that they get most of the government benefits.

  11. Doug I believe you are wrong. If the white population is 210 million and the white poverty rate is 13 percent, that equals around 28 million poor whites. If the non-white population is 90 million and the non-white poverty rates run about 30 percent, that equals around 27 million non-white poor people. 51 percent is not “the vast majority”… link to kff.org

  12. I may have missed something; however, the graph of incarceration shows approximately 3% incarceration rate for black men (3000 of 100 000) and 0.5% for white men. The ratio of the two shows the large racial discrepancy though.

  13. Juan, you have me confused. How much story is missing when you use the terms white and black? Not so long ago you wrote this:
    “The better outcome would be to just stop using the word ‘white’” and “Best of all if we can just say that in the US, we are all Americans and stop categorizing people with regard to their adaptation to ultraviolet waves.” (see: link to juancole.com

    • Because it still determines who has the power to shoot whom and get away with it, on average. And that ought to be a matter of concern between us citizens and all levels of our government. So stop being disingenuous and act as though you value Trayvon Martin’s life when you wish to obscure what killed him yet would not have killed a white boy.

  14. It is a mistake to equate race with poverty when it isn’t a race thing it’s a class (money) thing.

    Poverty isn’t limited to poor black or brown people and framing the issue in this way is counter productive.

  15. I have obtained the book “Invention of the White Race”, by Theodore Allen, a groundbreaking history of the process by which the early American colonial oligarchy manufactured the concept of the “white” race as an economic strategy of exploitation and oppression. It turned rebellious Scotch-Irish servants into loyal, brutal attack dogs of the English planter aristocracy. But it also carries the implication that this monstrosity was the first “American” identity to ever exist, the bedrock on which the United States was built and made successful.

    This should shut up the closet racists who whine about anyone bringing up racial injustice simply “prolonging” the problem or covering up class injustice, or that “black history” is unfair because no one is allowed to teach “white history”.

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