The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released another one of those reports about the educational and other inequalities that plague America. Over the years, there have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of expert papers and reports on the subject, along with possible solutions. In each such report, African Americans are at the bottom of the inequality barrel.
In spite of the reports, nothing happens to reverse the problems. We commission studies, then commission new studies to study the studies. This sorry pattern has been repeating itself for decades. The whys and wherefores become fodder for a relative minute of public discussion and even some sort of governmental or private philanthropic policy shift. Yet, the problems continue and, in general, worsen.
If my claim here has merit, then the obvious question is “why?”
Why do we continue to define a problem then ignore possible solutions?
Why, as suggested in a recent THB editorial, do we acknowledge that inequalities are a threat to our entire society, then do nothing about it?
It seems we love to talk about who and what. But that other key question, why, always seems to lead us into self-righteous rhetoric and dumb debate.
In my opinion, the “why” of inequality lies in the underlying assumptions and beliefs about the true nature of the problem as well as our Horatio Alger (“pull yourself up by your bootstraps”) way of thinking. Since, according to the reports, African Americans are at the bottom of the barrel, it is necessary to look at long held beliefs and assumptions about this group as a whole.
Accordingly, when the God-Ain’t-It-Awful reports show that African Americans are in deep trouble, many believe that’s just the way it is. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy. If it is believed that African Americans are shiftless, lazy, and unintelligent, then it makes all the sense in the world that they would be at the bottom of the nation’s social and economic ladder.