Although a social construction, race continues to play an important role in people’s lives. To be sure, other forms of oppression are well documented and are not in dispute, but our country’s history of racial slavery and inequity is unique in terms of both scope and severity. Even today, racial inequities continue to be evident in practically every outcome that people care about, including education, poverty rates, criminal justice, health services, and even life expectancy.
Moreover, despite widespread belief to the contrary, these racial gaps have not narrowed significantly in the past 30 years. For example, in the mid-1970s approximately 10% of African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 had a bachelors degree, compared to approximately 24% of their same-age White counterparts. Similarly, according to reports from the U.S. Census, in the mid-1970s African Americans and Whites, respectively, comprised 30% and 10% of the U.S. population living below the poverty line. The percentages were identical in the mid-1990s.
The racial gap in income is not driven exclusively by differences in education. As just one economic indicator of the continued effects of racial status on important outcomes for college graduates, White college graduates have estimated lifetime earnings of $2.2 million compared to $1.7 million for Black college graduates, a difference of almost 30%. Another indicator, particularly noteworthy in the context of today’s subprime mortgage crisis, emerges from data gathered by the Federal Reserve Board in the early 1990s on the lending practices of 9,300 financial institutions across the U.S. These findings show that loan applicants with the same income received vastly different treatment based on race, with White applicants approved at more than double the rate of African American applicants.
PsySR believes that psychologists have an important role to play in helping to transform social institutions in ways that recognize and reduce the racism and racial inequities that persist today. These efforts must find their way into high school and college classrooms, into popular culture, and, ultimately, into mainstream political discourse.
A PsySR Member Perspective: Mikhail Lyubansky on “Changing Institutions: A Primer for the Individual”
Working in the field of race relations, I regularly attend a variety of talks, workshops, and other types of presentations about race and racism. It’s an incredibly rich and diverse area of scholarship and activism, and even after more than 10 years, I almost always learn something new. I also often leave somewhat unsatisfied–not because of anything that was said or done but because something I wanted was left out.
On the one hand, that’s just the nature of talks and workshops: it’s impossible to be all things to all people. On the other hand, I can’t help but observe that speakers often do a tremendous job of describing, illustrating, and researching the problem, whatever that problem might be, but rarely offer anything specific in the way of either response or prevention. This is the case despite the fact that the audience is often remarkably hungry for anything prescriptive.Read More »
Links and Resources to Learn More and Take Action
An extensive listing of links and resources related to racial inequities in American society, provided by PsySR member Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is available HERE.