Two Americas

There’s the one that the President likes to talk about, where the economy is booming, joblessness is down, No Child is left behind, we’re winning the war in Iraq, the Medicare bill helps people not corporations, trickle-down economics works, our oil addiction is a new concept, human-animal hybrids are of serious concern, the GOP has a big tent, America is really free and really a democracy, unicorn piss will fuel our flying SUVs of the future, and he’s popular.

Then there’s this one.

Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies, by experts at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other institutions, show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men…

By 2004, [the share of jobless black male high school dropouts in their 20's] had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
This is not a party-specific problem; the Dems haven’t done much better than the GOP at addressing these issues, particularly the endemic poverty which underlies them all, but they’ve worsened under Bush—and he’s the man in charge at the moment, so I’m looking squarely at him. The least he could do is stop wandering about in la-la land, pull his head out, and start talking about this stuff.

And yeah—I know that’s about as likely to happen as all of us waking up on the moon tomorrow, but I’m not going to let the soft bigotry of low expectations stop me from calling on my president to do his bloody job and start caring about the Americans who need his help. Putting his head in the sand about the very real inequalities this nation of alleged equality is experiencing is a good way to avoid confronting it, but just because he can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s gone away. The solutions are complex, but such complexity warrants greater attention, rather than the helpless sense of futility with which he seemingly continues to greet these ever-worsening problems.

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