Black Fathers Matter could use more black dads
After traveling about five miles through mostly black neighborhoods on Sunday, the motorcade ends in southeastern Washington. If these brave Civil War soldiers joined the procession, they would see a city both unimaginable and all too familiar.
It is unlikely that they dreamed that the nation’s capital would be ruled by a black woman, that another black woman would be about to join a black man in the highest court in the land. But they would certainly have recognized the black residents living in segregated and underfunded areas of the city.
More than 157 years after the Civil War, as the nation prepares to celebrate June 19 or “Juneteenth,” as we call the symbolic end of slavery, black people in the district are fighting against a different kind of war. Many black residents of DC are still being left behind and left behind.
Affordable housing is non-existent for many low-wage black households. Educational gaps continue to widen. And homicide is the leading cause of death for black men between the ages of about 15 and 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An April study by the Brookings Institution pointed to one reason the violence can seem so entrenched: economic inequality and a sense that the game of opportunity is rigged.
In Washington, D.C., blacks have “the lowest median annual per capita income and the largest income disparities at $29,927 compared to whites at $92,758 and Latinos at $41,151,” according to the ‘study. Additionally, black people in DC experienced the highest unemployment rate at 4.8% than any jurisdiction examined by Brookings. The study also reported that “the largest percentage of black residents living below the poverty line, 21.6%, lived in Washington, DC.”
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Life expectancy for blacks in Washington, D.C., was the lowest of any race at an average of 72.7 years, compared to an average of 88 for whites, 88.3 for Latinos, and 88.9 years for Asians in the city.
Another study in the 2022 issue of Injury Epidemiology lays out what tends to come next:
The consequence of extreme economic inequality is “socially structured hardship that results in feelings of ‘resentment, frustration, despair, and alienation’ that … lead to widespread social disorganization and violent crime,” the researchers noted. They said poverty was one of the most consistent predictors of violent crime.
Of course, there are plenty of black people in DC who are doing just fine. But when you concentrate an impoverished population in stressful life-and-death situations, with little opportunity or hope to get what they see others getting so easily, expect trouble.
After leaving the Civil War Memorial Museum around noon on Sunday, the caravan rolls through Ward 5. Here’s what it looks like in numbers: there are 92,000 residents, including 17,000 children under the age of 18; the population is about 62% black, with 40% of households headed by single mothers, who tend to earn less money than their married counterparts. According to the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, the neighborhood’s poverty rate is around 10% and the unemployment rate is 9%.
The caravan then heads to Ward 7, which has a population of over 84,000 – 91% black and around 20,000 of them under the age of 18. About 73% of households are headed by single mothers. Unemployment is 11%; the poverty rate hovers around 25%.
The procession ends at the Big Chair on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Ward 8. It is the poorest neighborhood – with about 86,000 residents – 85% of whom are black. The district is home to approximately 26,000 children under the age of 18. About 69% of households are headed by single mothers. Unemployment is around 15%; the poverty rate is around 30%, according to Casey.
Reduce this crushing urban poverty, reduce obscene inequalities in wealth and access to resources and you just might give people more reasons to want to live.
Researchers writing in the Injury Epidemiology study note that “public-private partnerships are likely needed to address large infrastructure and economic drivers of violence. Additionally, alleviating low income in local areas and income inequality in larger areas could help reduce homicide rates.
It is a battle worth fighting.