A Facebook friend posted a link to this article, which was basically a piece that was addressed to racists who complain about all the Black people on welfare. I started reading the article with high hopes. But they were quickly deflated. The statistics in the article really didn't seem to support the point (i.e. that students at HBCUs participate in community service at a higher rate than their non-HBCU peers). Then as I read the comments to the article, I saw that I was not the only one with misgivings about the statistics in the piece...and that perhaps the statistics were all together wrong.
The article starts out ok; that there are more Whites and Hispanics (combined) on welfare than there are Black people on welfare. This statistic is well-known and cannot really be twisted in a way that states the contrary. But there is more to that statistic than meets the eye. You see, Black Americans make up 32% of welfare recipients, even though they comprise a mere 12% of the US population. So the demographics of welfare recipients are not comparable to the overall demographics of the US. Even more concerning, Black Americans are more than twice as likely to have been on welfare than White Americans.
Don't Worry, I Am Not Trying to Promote the Myth of the Black Welfare Queen!
Before I go on any further, I should explain that my goal here is not to say that conservatives are correct in denigrating Black Americans as lazy moochers who needlessly take advantage of welfare benefits. Quite contrary. I know of many people on welfare. I myself am in the process of applying for food stamps. The vast majority of people really and truly need these benefits in order to secure food, shelter and living necessities for themselves and for their families. So let's clear the air on that. But what bothers me is the inability for people to accurately articulate why welfare is such a hotbed issue in the Black American community. To throw up meaningless arguments and statistics that do nothing to expose the real issue, only sets us up to look like bumbling idiots who are apathetic and will agree with whatever out there makes us look good.
It is nothing but a distraction away from the real issue. And that issue is the handicapped economy of the Black American community.
So let's go back to this article and some of the strange statistics it talked about:
More College Graduates Than Ever. The article says that there are 5 times as many Black college graduates today than there were 40 years ago. This is impressive. However the overall number of college graduates as a percentage of the population have increased over that time frame as well; from less than 13% to 34%. While that jump is not as dramatic, coupled with the following statistic, it may catch your eye. Back in 1965, the difference in the annual median income of a high school graduate and a college graduate was $7,449; in 2013, that difference was $17,500.
So in a nutshell, Black Americans, who have always had a lesser amount of wealth overall as a whole, did not have the strong compulsion to go to college in order to rise out of poverty. Whereas today the story is very different.
Getting That Diploma. The article again focuses on education, and states that 84% of African-Americans have a high school diploma today, compared to only 31% in 1970. Again, this isn't really a statistic that gives any strength to the argument that Black people are not welfare kings and queens. Curiously, there is no mention of the fact that the average annual income of a high school graduate is a measly $25,900. At that income level, if you are a single income household with 2 children, that qualifies you for welfare.
There are three more statistics listed, but I'm not even going to bother and waste my time going through them. But I'll give you the titles, which are: Let Me See Your Homework, Pitching In (which is about the community service at HBCUs), and Number of Black NFL Players with Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalties. Yeah. I'm serious. REALLY!?
We need to wake up and grow up here. This is a welfare problem in the Black community. But that problem is not simply the fact that we accept it. The problem is that we still need it; in spite of living in one of the most prosperous countries on the planet. 27% of Black Americans live in poverty compared to only 10% of non-Hispanic White Americans. And that's a more telling statistic. If Black Americans have a 'in the ballpark range' regarding the percentage of college graduates to White Americans (18% vs. 32%), then how come our poverty rates are still significantly higher?
As I job search, with my years of experience and my Master's degree in hand, I still am faced with offers of positions that pay $12, $11, sometimes $10/hr. That's fine. I'll take that if that's all I can get. But don't disparage me for needing food stamps to help make ends meet. The fact that I'm a Black woman probably trumps my education and employment efforts anyway. It would be very easy for a conservative to throw me into the "welfare queen" category, with no apologies or explanations needed.