Where is the American Dream Now? (And are White Families in Crisis?)

Dedrick Muhammad has an interesting publication, 40 Years Later: The Unfinished American Dream, out of the Institute for Policy Studies (April 2008) that provides strong challenges to the end-of-racism nonsense that we hear much about these days. In his summary he accents these points:

Since Dr. King’s death, the African American high school graduation rate has increased by over 214%. At this rate, African Americans will reach equality with white Americans by 2018.

It will take more than 537 more years for Blacks to reach income equality with whites if the income gap continues to close at the same rate it has since Dr. King was assassinated.

If the racial wealth divide continues to close as slowly as it has since 1983, it will take 634 years for Blacks to reach wealth equality with whites.

Forty years since Dr. King called for the abolition of poverty, the annual decline of poverty for Black children is about a quarter of a percentage point per year. At this rate it will take over a century to end poverty for Black children. Today a third of Black children live in poverty.

These facts about racial inequality are well-known to researchers and activists in this area.
martin luther king
Creative Commons License photo credit: caboindex
Since not long after Dr. King spoke often about them, since the late 1960s, they just have not had much impact on public policy action, especially in recent years. We certainly are a country where such catastrophic racial inequalities, which reflect basically the past effects of hundreds of years of past and present systemic racism, somehow stay on the policy backburner while white-collar, almost all white male, criminals on Wall Street get their companies bailed out with a trillion or more–and usually get golden parachutes of millions personally—even as they have raped and destroyed our economy.

Muhammad also makes two points that you probably have never heard in the mainstream media or among social science researchers:

While the incarceration rate of African Americans is extraordinarily high, the probability of incarceration for white men has been increasing at a faster rate (268%) than for Black men (240%) since 1974.

The increase in the share of white children living in a single parent home has been much higher (229%) than for Black children (155%) since 1960.

So, there is, in terms of acceleration in recent decades, a very serious problem of increase in white crime and incarceration and in terms of white children living without two parents. Of course, the baselines for whites are relevant here to the percentage increases, but these percentages are in any event very sharp increases, to say the least.

I certainly have not heard ANY politician or media commentator (or other scholar for that matter) make a point out of either one of these white problems. Why isn’t the “problem of white families” and their “lack of family values” being discussed? Or the problem of “increasing white incarceration” being discussed? Maybe if they were we could start getting into deeper issues of why these might be seen as “problems,” and what “family” really means in this society. Or is that wishful thinking?