Disparity by the Numbers (Part 2)

Editor's Note: The following was originally posted on Katelin Hansen's Blog, By Their Strange Fruit, and has been reposted with permission.


This is the second half of our examination of the stark numerical realities of race in the United States. Having previously looked at income, employment, and education, let’s see what other arenas are disparately affected. There are a lot of statistics here, so I'd love to hear your stories in the comments section to give life to the numbers:

Families of color are more likely to live near landfills and hazardous waste treatment facilities. Children of color are 60% more likely to suffer from asthma, and twice as likely to experience lead poisoning. When renting, Latino, Black, and Asian American renters are much less likely to be told about and shown potential properties than white counterparts. Renters of color are more likely to be quoted higher rates, or are offered shorter/less secure leases.

In homeownership, Black owners receive 18% less value for their houses than do white owners. Indeed, for every $1 Black families spend on a house, they will receive 82¢ for what their white counterparts receive, a phenomenon known as 'segregation tax.' Black and Latino homeowners are also more likely to receive bad mortgage deals (53% and 43%, respectively) than white homebuyers (18%), and thus are more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure.

Though Black folk represent only 13% of drug users (paralleling national racial demographics), they account for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of those sent to prison on drug possession charges. Indeed, despite only representing 13% of the population and of drug users, black men are 13 times more likely to be sent to prison for a drug offence than white men.

Almost 50% of prisoners serving life sentences, and 38% of all prisoners, are black (iconograph). Again, these numbers reflect neither total US population demographics, nor the demographics of actual crime being committed (eg. marijuana convictions). Furthermore, courts are more likely to impose the death penalty when the victim is white, clearly demonstrating which lives are more valued.

Physical and Mental Health
Differences in health and healthcare access across race go beyond what can be accounted for by class. Babies of color at greater risk for low birthweight, as well as increased infant mortality. Babies born to black women are three times as likely to die in infancy as those born to white women. High blood pressure is twice as common among blacks as whites, and is even worse among Latinos in the United States. By far, people of color die younger and with more disease complications that white Americans.

There are also severe mental health disparities resulting from the constant toll of racial inequality. Rates of stress, depression, mental illnesses, and suicide attempts are significantly higher for Asian Americans than for other races in the USA. American Indians have the highest rates for completed suicide: 25 per 100,000 population at age 21, compared with 14 for white persons of the same age. Black and Latino residents of low-income areas are also more likely to be committed to mental health institutions by law enforcement than any other racial group.

Putting It All Together
On practically every measure, there are substantial disparities between racial groups in the United States. There are historical and societal reasons for these establishment and persistence of these differences (see posts: Generational Advantage and Slavery by Another Name). Accumulated advantage is passed down through the generations, and subtle biases prevent substantial restitution or gains in equality.

In the face of these disparities, we're left with a choice. Do we believe there are inherent differences between these groups that cause one set to be more lazy, stupid, or undeserving? Or might there other factors at play to create an uneven playing field?

When we put today's racialized world in historical context, it becomes clear that there has never been a moment in United States history in which all races have had equal opportunity and we continue to live in such an unequal setting today. The legacy of these disparities will continue without conscious and deliberate efforts to counteract them.

Watch this video to see how accumulated disparity can have profound effect on our lives.  What can you do in your life to begin to combat some of these injustices?


Katelin Hansen

Katelin Hansen (@BTSFblog) is the Minister of Music at UM Church 4 All People, a multi-class, multi-racial church in an underprivileged neighborhood of Columbus, OH. Four years ago, she and her husband moved to the vicinity to live in intentional fellowship with the surrounding community. Katelin is also the editor of By Their Strange Fruit (BTSF), an online forum facilitating racial justice and solidarity for the sake of the Gospel.

About This Blog

Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.