African-Americans don’t own the welfare rolls, and do more community service than almost anyone. Can we start having a more real dialogue about race?

That video above is hopefully an outlier, but it’s also some guy telling Nightline that blacks and Jews are, disproportionately, “predators.” This is 2014. We have an African-American U.S. President — and have for about five years — and we’re probably going to have eight years of a female President starting in about three years, but … somehow we still have a large race and gender problem in the U.S. (Has it gotten better? Sure. Is it there yet? No.)

Here are some new stats about African-Americans specifically, including the myth of the welfare queen:

WelfareAnd look at these community service rates:


This is all off a new book called Black Stats, from Monique Morris of Oakland.

Now, you have slightly different numbers for welfare here — although even in those numbers, whites and blacks are basically the same — so I feel as if that narrative has been de-constructed by fact, if not by opinion. I don’t want to go too deeply into gender in this post — I’m saving that for another post, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more recently — but I always wonder about the evolution of opinions, intellect, and fact. Let me give you a semi-meaningless, low-level example. Oftentimes in graduate school, a professor will present an argument — using 1992 data. (This happens more than you think.) The students in the class will internalize it, even though a 24 year-old in said class was four when that data was done. Has their life not changed since they were Pre-K? So couldn’t said data change as well? What I mean to say broadly is this: opinions come from your upbringing and your contextual experiences, it would seem. At some point, though, some of your opinions need to crumble in the way of facts that have been studied and repeatedly observed. How does this process best happen? I know people that still believe blacks clog the welfare rolls, are more prone to violence than service, etc; I still know people who believe a woman’s role is in the home, and it’s perfectly fine for a government (of predominantly men) to tell a woman “do this with your body.” How does what one believes ever evolve into what is really happening? And while this is a trite explanation, is the problem really the schools? Are we not teaching the critical thinking skills that people need to challenge base assumptions? (Or is it just that grades matter more than actual content to most?)

I don’t know, but those data points above are illuminating — a lot of what is unfairly heaped on African-Americans in terms of stereotypes isn’t even broadly true. Start looking around for things that challenge your assumptions; get out of your algorithm bubble. I would argue that the only true way to end inequality — above government programs, etc. — is for people to learn to listen and understand and even assimilate numbers and viewpoints that don’t mesh with their own. Again, sounds trite — but how can you make anyone actually care about things being unequal if there isn’t a base understanding of how and why it’s unequal to begin with?

Ted Bauer

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