Although improving the lives of African-Americans has been the United States' top social priority since the 1960s, we have failed at every turn, and continue to fail.

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, September 12, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

America’s Racial Report Card – think things are getting better?

America has devoted itself since the 1960s to removing racial differences in education, social standing, and economic attainment. Psychologists have been central to this endeavor. For example, psychologists played a crucial role in uncovering psychological scars from segregation and failures at achievement: one thinks of Kenneth and Mamie Clark's classic study - on which Brown v. Board of Education was based - of black children preferring white dolls.

But psychology also stands for objective measurement of social and psychological phenomena. And the picture such measurements present isn't pretty - it's downright ugly.

Education

Brown was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. It marked the initiation of a national effort to create educational parity for African-American and white children. Yet, according to a 2010 Schott Foundation for Public Education report, fewer than half of black males graduate from high school on time. Perhaps most depressing, this figure was 28% for New York - where school officials had been touting for years the improvement in inner-city school performance under Mayor Bloomberg. These claims are wrong. And New York's education budget is now tighter than ever.

Family

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan - a social scientist and a politician - issued his seminal report, The Negro Family: The Case For National Action, decrying the absence of fathers from many African-American households. In 1960, one in five black children lived in a single-parent household. By 1970, the figure was 30 percent. Today, more than half of black children live with only one parent, and almost three-quarters of black children are born out of wedlock.

Health

The greatest underlying long-term health threat in America is obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a remarkable 80% of black women 20 years of age and older were overweight between 2003-2006 - they were 70% more likely to be obese than white women. The current issue of the journal Pediatrics revealed that childhood obesity rates are highest for minority youths - including Hispanics, African-Americans, and Native Americans. But, whereas obesity peaked for white and Hispanic girls in 2005 and has since dropped, it has continued to rise for African-American girls (this study was conducted in California).

Addressing racial disparities in education is the principal goal for Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Meanwhile, the President and First Lady have repeatedly exhorted African Americans to improve their school performance. This has been a continuing priority during the 10 years of the New York City's Bloomberg Administration, as it was for every previous national and city administration. And, of course, childhood obesity is the priority issue for Michelle Obama.

Why should current administrations succeed where others - or the same (in the case of Bloomberg) - have failed for decades?

You tell me.

(Oh, if your answer is Charter Schools, a comprehensive 2009 Stanford University report found charter schools on average underperformed regular public schools.)