The United States has always grappled with a very real and persistent problem – racial inequality, specifically Black inequality. Durell Coleman, the Founder and CEO of DC Design broke down the most significant pain points Black Americans face in a candid conversation about the 5 systems of Black Inequality.
“If we truly want to solve our social problems, we need to listen to those who have lived through the worst of them. Their experiences hold the key for building the nation we all want to live in” says Coleman.
At the foundation of Black poverty is housing inequality. The effects of historical practices like redlining and racial covenant restrictions are still impacting life outcomes for Black Americans today.
“Redlining is a discriminatory practice that denied services and loans to certain areas based on the residents’ demographics,” says Coleman, who has worked with global institutions, including Stanford University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to provide lasting social impact solutions.
These policies affected home values, which intern affected the funding of local schools. “Since public schools are funded primarily from property taxes, there are major impacts on the quality of education most Black kids in America receive,” Coleman explains. In addition to school funding, these policies have affected homeownership rates, homelessness, and overall net worth for Black Americans.
When it comes to homelessness, for example, while African Americans make up roughly 13% of the American population, they alone account for over 39% of homeless people in the US.
Housing inequality lays the foundation for educational inequality. Since public schools are funded by the property taxes collected from the surrounding areas, neighborhoods with lower property values naturally pay lower taxes, which means that the schools in those regions are underfunded.
“Reduced funding means a significant number of Black students across America receive a lower quality education due to a lack of funding for advanced classes, poorer infrastructure, and less experienced or well-paid staff,” Coleman explains.
Research shows that Black Americans have the highest unemployment rate amongst racial groups in the USA. They get fewer employment opportunities, lower pay, poorer benefits, and face much higher job instability.
This is largely because underfunded schools fail to prepare Black students for higher education the same way it prepares their white peers. “Only 57% of Black students in America have access to the full set of math and science classes needed to be college ready,” Durell Coleman explains. Black people are also less likely than many other groups to attend college due to financial hurdles (228 years will pass before black families can make the same amount of wealth that white families have today).
These educational setbacks mean that Black Americans entering the workforce are at an immediate disadvantage.
The Covid-19 pandemic of the early 2020s unmasked some of the cruelest truths in the country – the compound effects of housing, educational, and employment-based inequality have real effects on the lives of Black Americans. Durell Coleman explains, “The evidence for how social inequality impacts us can be seen in the death rate from Covid-19. Black Americans died at twice the rate of white Americans, largely due to the inability to quarantine given the nature of their labor-based jobs, and disparities in healthcare access.”
Criminal Justice Inequality
The compound effects of housing, educational, employment, and healthcare inequality set Black people up for increased interaction with the criminal justice system–a system that largely targets the poor in America. The Black Lives Matter movement highlighted severe flaws in the country’s justice system. Moreover, it brought to light the effects of archaic laws – something most citizens assumed was a long-gone part of the US’s painful past.
“We need to recognize that history is playing out today. The past is not over. The social problems we see around us are the natural consequence of what has come before us. To change the status quo, we have to understand what created the current challenges of today,” says Durell Coleman.
Even as the country takes corrective measures, Durell Coleman insists that deeper measures are needed. “We need to reform the system that allows police officers who engage in violence against Americans to escape the consequences of their crimes. That means reforming qualified immunity.”
Reforms take time. But if we come together as one, Durell Coleman believes that we could truly create an America that works for everyone.