Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

In the wake of another Martin Luther King Jr. Day, how far have we come and would King be pleased?

Well, 46 percent of U.S. voters say they expect Donald Trump’s presidential triumph to result in worse race relations, according to a new study which analyzes the states with the most racial progress.

Released this month, the study measured the gaps between blacks and whites in 16 key indicators of equality and integration for each of the 50 states and D.C.

The data set ranges from median annual income to standardized test scores to voter turnout.

The report, by D.C.-based financial website WalletHub, examined the differences between only blacks and whites in light of the high-profile incidents of police brutality that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement and the holiday honoring King, who played a prominent role in the civil rights movement to end segregation and discrimination against blacks.

Among other trends, the report found that D.C. has the lowest gap in homeownership rates between whites and blacks, at 11 percent. Connecticut has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1970, with a change of 8 percent.

Hawaii has the lowest gap in median annual household incomes between whites and blacks, at 9 percent, and has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1979, with a change of 31 percent.

Alaska has the lowest gap in labor-force participation rates between whites and blacks, at 1 percent. North Dakota has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1970, with a change of 23 percent.

Montana has the lowest gap in unemployment rates between whites and blacks, at 1 percent. North Dakota has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1970, with a change of 13 percent.

Hawaii has the lowest gap — almost zero — in poverty rates between whites and blacks. Mississippi has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1970, with a change of 24 percent.

Hawaii has the lowest gap in business-ownership rates between whites and blacks, at 38 percent. Texas has made the most progress in closing this gap since 2002, with a change of 7 percent.

Idaho has the lowest gap between whites and blacks in the number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree, at 2 percent, and has made the most progress in closing this gap since 1970, with a change of 8 percent.

“There are multiple factors that contribute to the black-white wealth gap,” said Antwan Jones, a WalletHub expert and associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the George Washington University in northwest D.C.

“Homeownership is the primary way that most Americans amass wealth, but blacks are less likely than whites to own a home, blacks are more likely to have been affected by discriminatory housing policies, and blacks are less likely to have received inheritances or assistance from prior generations that built home equity,” Jones said.

Historical government policies that have restricted access to homeownership for blacks relative to whites have played a major role in contributing to the persistent racial gap, said Jason L. Cummings, fellow WalletHub expert and assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at the University of South Carolina.

For instance, from 1619 to 1865 — almost 250 years — African-Americans were enslaved and literally considered property, Cummings said. In a contemporary sense, unpaid wages and property loss due to these enslaved blacks and their descendants fall somewhere in the trillion-dollar range, he said.

“White Americans on the other hand, benefited from government policies like the 1830 Indian Removal Act and 1862 Homestead Act, which transferred more than 200 million acres of Native American lands to the hands of white settlers,” Cummings said.

“After slavery, there is strong evidence that demonstrates that black business owners and members of growing black middle class communities in the south were targeted, terrorized and/or destroyed under the guise of white social control and racial terrorism resulting in thousands of African-Americans lynched in the South and millions fleeing to the North,” he said.

So why have some states been more successful than others in addressing racial inequalities?

“I’d expect that income and wealth for blacks to be higher in states which have higher per pupil expenditures and stronger prohibitions on racial and gender discrimination,” said Dianne Pinderhughes, President’s Distinguished Professor and professor in the Department of Africana studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

“The histories of slavery and racial discrimination vary significantly by state and region,” she said. “I would predict that California, New York and Illinois, for example, might be states with smaller racial income and wealth gaps than states which have been the center of slavery and intense discrimination like Mississippi and Louisiana.”

To view the full report, visit
https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-most-and-least-racial-progress/18428.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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