The Boston Globe on Sunday published an extensive feature story on racism and structural inequality that shows the city still has a long way to go to improve the lives of black residents.
The report includes several discouraging statistics, but one was so shocking that some readers thought it was an error. According to the newspaper, the median net worth of non–immigrant African American households in the Boston area is just $8. For white households, that number is $247,500.
Duke University professor William A. Darity Jr. said the figure “borders on insane and absurd.”
The team of reporters also compared data from 1983 with data from today and found that little has changed in more than three decades in terms of employment and African American workers reaching upper management. In 1983, for example, 4.5% of black workers were managers or officials. In 2015, that number had barely moved, at 4.6%.
Black unemployment continues to be more than double the rate of white unemployment, a figure that hasn’t improved since the Globe’s 1983 reports.
The newspaper set out to answer a much broader question: Is the pervasive belief that Boston is still racist deserved?
Here’s what the reporters concluded:
All told, the findings were troubling. The reasons are complex.
But this much we know: Here in Boston, a city known as a liberal bastion, we have deluded ourselves into believing we’ve made more progress than we have. Racism certainly is not as loud and violent as it once was, and the city overall is a more tolerant place. But inequities of wealth and power persist, and racist attitudes remain powerful, even if in more subtle forms. They affect what we do — and what we don’t do.
Boston’s complacency with the status quo hobbles the city’s future.
Enrollment of African American students at top universities has remained stagnant, downtown establishments offer little for black customers, and barriers to housing continue relatively unabated, the newspaper found.
To study housing, the Globe examined 600 rental housing ads for the Greater Boston area on Craigslist. It found that landlords ignored nearly 45% of emails from prospective tenants with “black-sounding names.” That was 9% higher than the number for prospective tenants with “white-sounding names.”
“There’s really nothing here for us … and this is a big city,” Thomas Grupee, a biotech project manager told the Globe. “If you visit a place like D.C. or Atlanta, there’s so many places to go that are black-owned. Why not give us a piece of the pie, too?”