When people think of the poor or homeless most often the image that appears is of people of color, particularly African Americans. It’s an unfortunate and engrained fact that Black Americans experience higher levels of homelessness and poverty than white Americans but what are the real numbers? Is it more perception than fact and what can we do to change it?
So here is what we know: the numbers for the African American community are bleak with 1 in 141 black families staying in a homeless shelter, a rate 7 times higher than white families in 2010. Moreover, African American families make up 12.1% of the U.S. family population but represented 38.8 of sheltered families in 2010.
With numbers like these we have to ask ourselves how the African American community, more than any other lacks the stability to withstand hardship because we all do experience hardship. I ask this question because homelessness and poverty are the results of a problem not the root of it and to climb your way out you have to have the knowledge and support system in place to prevent it from happening again.
In 2012 the U.S Conference of Mayors reported 23.3 percent of black families lived in poverty compared to 7.1 of white families and with 92% of people reporting unemployment as the leading cause of hunger followed by high housing costs at 60%, with substance abuse at 6th at 16%. If we want to talk about cutting welfare programs, it is imperative to look at residential zoning and fair housing and ask our city and state officials are we doing right by our needy constituents in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Tampa/Clearwater. Are we putting an emphasis on inviting businesses to establish themselves and provide real employment opportunities while pushing for fair housing?
We may say we live in a post racial society we must work for the numbers to reflect that. We must want more for ourselves and each other because I think we can all agree that “It’s not my problem” hasn’t worked out so well.
Moreover, it is imperative for African Americans to support one another in striving towards success. To attain success and not look back or look down on where you came from is to not love or honor a part of your “self”. Your community is not less important or worthy than you. Be humble enough to embrace the gifts you’ve been given and pay it forward.
Remember today as you enjoy your holiday just how much you have in even the simplest moments.
I love you all- Merry Christmas.