Systemic Racism as Economic Depression

The Center for Social Inclusion has a useful new report–Race, the Job Market, and Economic Recovery: A Census Snapshot. This should be useful for classes and other teaching purposes. It summarizes data on some impacts of the current economic depresssion (which is what it is for many groups) on
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kieran Bennett

white, black, and Latino Americans.

As they point out in their summary press release from the report, recent Census data show that

rising poverty and unemployment, and decreasing access to healthcare are undermining recovery in communities of color, slowing the engine of America’s struggling economy.

• Unemployment is 26.5% for young Black men, 14.2% for Young Latino men, and 11.7% for young White men. • Wages dropped 5.6% for Latinos, 4.4% for Asians, 2.8% for Blacks, and 2.6% for Whites.

• Poverty has reached 24.6% among African Americans compared to 23.2% for Latinos, 11.6% for Asians, and 11.0% for Whites.

. . . Greater than 1 in 10 white men aged 20-29 are now unemployed, up from approximately 1 in 20 when the recession began November of 2007. Those are sobering numbers. Graver still, a devastating 1 in 4 Black men and 1 in 6 Latino men, aged 20-29, have become unemployed.

Especially in hard economic times, racial inequality is quite obvious, as these Americans of color pay a very heavy price for the poor corporate and other political-economic decisions of the mostly white and male capitalistic elites and their political allies. The report points out that losing jobs also means losing health insurance for many workers. So,

• The percent of uninsured is 30.7% among Latinos, 18.9% among African Americans, 17.1% among Asians, and 10.8% among Whites.

In addition to showing once again that this is far from an egalitarian country, these data help explain why the demonstrators in Washington, DC, yesterday (Sept. 12), estimated around 50,000, against President Obama and his health care plan were almost all white. Whites as a group simply are not hurting nearly as much as black and Latino Americans, and many other Americans of color, are when it comes to jobs and health care.

The report calls on government to make federal and state “stimulus” efforts extend realistically to all communities of color, which they currently do only in a very limited fashion. It also calls for a much “better job” of government reporting on just how the stimulus money is being spent, and for whom.

“It’s time to act. Economic recovery will exist in name only for too many of our neighbors if we don’t put in place the policies that are needed to reach everyone,” said Maya Wiley, executive director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “The newly poor are disproportionately women, children, Black, Latino and Asian. We can not let a massive recovery effort bypass the hardest hit.”


  1. Thank you for bringing forth this information. For me it was timely, and much appreciated. Yes, numbers do not lie as they say. And it is obvious that people of color are holding the short end of the stick as far as economic recovery is concerned.

    I’m curious to know: why is it this way in your opinion?

  2. Joe

    RiPPa, there are numerous reasons. Some is direct discrimination. Some white employers out of the white racist frame and intentionally discriminate against workers of color, especially in economic recessions — the last hired , first fired phenomenon. Unions long discriminated against workers of color, some still do informally. Some of the problem is also long decades of poor schools, and other institutionalized racism, that reduces the “human capital “that workers of color have to compete with. Lots of reasons.

  3. Well I guess white people aren’t allowed to disagree with a liberal government. According to this article if they do they are racist. Get past this whole issue of race if America is so racist how did Barack get elected.
    The people protesting are TAXPAYERS who don’t like how their money is spent many of the poor don’t pay taxes and therfore don’t care.

  4. Kristen

    Hi Eugene,
    Your response doesn’t seem to be directed at this particular post, which is simply about racial disparities in our current economic climate. That you take this personally is curious. I think it’s safe to say that we can “Get past this whole issue of race” when we see our racial disparities equalized. Before that time comes, you won’t be surprised to find quite a lot of people – of various backgrounds, including white – who feel motivated to continue calling attention to this issue.
    Also, regarding your last statement, I am sure you understand that all people pay taxes of various kinds and at varying levels in our society.

  5. Lionel

    As a South African, also feeling the global recession, this is my humble opinion. Is this a racial issue? I don’t know. Who is first to be cut in business, especially when a business is in trouble? It is the tea ladies, the cleaners. Trying to keep the core business going, cutting down to necessities. Secondly last hired, first fired, where possible. I think business owners try their best to be fair and humane. South African business owners mostly give the employees the choice, cut salaries or cut workforce. A lot of people I know are down to a 3rd of their salaries… No one wants anyone to loose their jobs, black or white. Unfortunately the last to go is the family of the owners of the business, probably mostly white owned. This may also be because the family members are mostly the core of the business and more essential? The statistics are interesting but does it realy indicate racism?


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