Which America Are We Living In?
There has been intense chatter about Black-on-Black crime in response to the reaction of the George Zimmerman verdict in Sanford, FL. The most used example is the uptick in “gang related” homicides in Chicago. It is very easy to deflect from the larger points as to why it is happening.
Don Lemon of CNN weighed in on his five points for the African American community. Those of us in the African American community have heard a variation of these before from our parents. He stressed pulling up your pants. He also stressed stop perpetrating the use of the “N” word. Respect where you live and stop dropping your trash in your neighborhood. Finish school and become a viable part of society. Just because you can have a baby doesn’t mean you should. It is fairly obvious that Mr. Lemon is only focusing on the surface of the problem.
As an African American fortunate enough to live in an affluent, diverse Florida community I believe there is a link between economic status and crime. Two towns from my community is a large trailer park. The trailer park racial mix is approximately 80% White. I have spoken with Police Officers that patrol the trailer park that process the incredible amount of crime reports that take place in the park.
So, there must be evidence of linkage between income and crime. Based on the 2011 U.S. Census survey, there are approximately 45 million African Americans and 198 million White Americans. The Census indicates that 23.3% of African Americans (18-64) and 9.9% of White Americans (18-64) are living below the poverty level. Fundamentalfinance.com sited their analysis of the link to poverty and crime. Poverty can cause high levels of stress that in turn may lead individuals to commit robbery, theft or other violent acts. Poverty may also lead to a perceived or actual inferior education which could cause young people to rely less on access to schools, jobs and role models.
This in turn lowers the opportunity costs of crime and increase the likelihood that young people will spend more time in the streets associated with gangs. In 2010, White families earned $2 for every $1 African American families earned, a ratio that has been the same for 30 years. While this analysis doesn’t justify committing crime, it is import to understand the possible inputs that contribute to the acts.
In contrast, the African American community spending power is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2015. Has the spending power changed the economic standing of the African American community? Jeneba Ghatt of the Ghatt Law Group shares some interesting statistics.
Despite being 13% of the U.S. population, African Americans own 5% of U.S. small businesses and only 1.8% of companies that employ more than one person. The profitability of African American businesses is bleak. More than half the African American businesses had less than $10,000 in business receipts in 2002, compared to one-third of White-owned firms and 28.8% of Asian-owned firms.
The spending pattern of the African American community is 30% higher the rest of the population. In terms of assets, cash savings, homes and retirement accounts subtracted from debt such as mortgage and credit cards, white families have six times wealth. When you use that store credit card to purchase that designer label, did you ask yourself how will the dollars spent impact your community? Did the “bling” change your economic outlook or your families? Especially since there was a 300% mark up on what you just bought.
You can’t fix a problem if you don’t recognize that a problem exists. There are poverty and crime and there are spending and opportunity. There is not an easy explanation for either of them. The category that you fall into will determine- Which America Are You Living In?