Back in 1968, the Kerner Commission released a report that stated the “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing," black Americans faced was due primarily to "white racism." The report essentially divided America into two societies: “one black, one white — separate and unequal.” Fifty years later a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is reexamining that report, and, spoiler alert, the EPI says not much has changed.
According to the new report African Americans aren't faring any better today compared to white Americans, in regards to home ownership, unemployment and incarceration, than they were back in 1968. Black home ownership is a bit over 40 percent, which is 30 points behind whites homeowners, and about where it was in '68.
“We have not seen progress because we still have not addressed the issue of racial inequality in this country, John Schmitt, EPI'S vice president told the Washington Post. “One of the key issues is the disadvantages so many African Americans face, right from the very beginning as children.”
African Americans are worse off today than they were during the civil rights era in some cases. The unemployment rate for African Americans was 7.5 percent in 2017 (approximately twice the white unemployment rate), in comparison to 6.7 percent in 1968.
The incarcerated African American population nearly tripled between 1968 and 2016. Further, the wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans has also nearly tripled in the past 50 years.
Schmitt noted that the startling numbers are even more shocking given the fact that African Americans are becoming more likely to achieve the same levels of education as their white counterparts.
Only 54 percent of black students completed high school in comparison to 75 percent of whites back in 1968, but today, over 90 percent of African Americans have a high school diploma, compared to the 93 percent of white Americans with a high school degree.
In higher education, the number of African American college graduates has more than doubled since 1968; though, black students are still only half as likely to have finished college as white students.
The report notes while there is both "good and bad news" about the state of black America today, the negative may outweigh positive. "While African Americans are in many ways better off in absolute terms than they were in 1968, they are still disadvantaged in important ways relative to whites," the report ultimately concludes.