Race still trumps class for black Americans

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
The Guardian

A new found that in the US, black boys, even those raised in the highest income households in the toniest neighborhoods, earn less later in life than white boys who grow up in similar circumstances. In other words, race matters, and race may matter even more at higher income levels.

Class does not protect black Americans from racism. Regardless of class status, black people have higher incarceration rates, lower incomes, less wealth, and worse health outcomes. Many politicians and academics continue to insist that education is the key to upward mobility, yet racial disparities persist even when black people attain high levels of education. Of course education is important in its own right, but it is not a panacea to address long-established racist structural barriers.

The evidence from the study makes clear that being upper class does not protect black children from a future of precariousness. Indeed, to overcome racial barriers many black children from poor to well-to-do families have heard the adage from a parent or other relative that they need to “work twice as hard to get by”. 

As an individual strategy this seems like sound advice, but from a social perspective, shouldn’t we also be concerned about the costs of “working twice as hard to get by”? Are there health consequences associated with above normal effort, grit, or perseverance for racially stigmatized highly educated black people in the context of a racially stratified America?

Read the full article by Darrick Hamilton, associate director of the Cook Center and professor of economics and urban policy at The New School in New York here.