The Ferguson Commission Report was released this week. The findings are stated in the introduction of the report in three simple statements:
“This is about race.”
“We have not moved beyond race.”
“The law says all citizens are equal. But the data says not everyone is treated that way.”
To be frank, I am sick of having the conversation of racism in America. I, personally, don’t see a major issue of racism in this country; however, that may be a result of not associating with racist people.
Despite how sick I am of the conversation, I think it is important to engage. Why? When one point-of-view is adamant, it is necessary to provide analysis that furnishes an opposing viewpoint. So, at the risk of being mistaken as a racist, I am going to analyze the Ferguson Commission Report’s findings over the next week.
I am going to start out with what would typically be my conclusion. The analysis below leads me to believe the Ferguson Commission has missed the mark. They are correct in their findings that inequity exists based on race; however, they miss the mark on WHY the inequity exists.
The Ferguson Commission claims inequity exists because of long standing systematic issues within the government and an unconscious bias among White Americans. There are systemic issues in government, but they exist because TOO MUCH government exists. There are racists in America, but they are the overwhelming minority. However, the Ferguson Commission proposes over one-hundred changes that involve further government intervention.
As revealed by the analysis of THEIR data, the heart of the issue is personal choice. America is still a country that allows its citizens the luxury of creating their future based on their choices. Poor choices will lead to a poor future. Good choices will lead to a bright future. Americans are the masters of their own destiny.
Some citizens, unfortunately, make poor choices. As the analysis reveals, there are more Black Americans than White, Hispanic, and Asian Americans that chronically make poor choices. To make people feel like victims, as the Ferguson Commission has done, is to, as a line from Remember the Titans says, “crippling them for life.”
With that said, let’s dive into the analysis.
A statistic stated in the Commission Report reads as follows:
“The life expectancy for a resident of zip code 63105 (Clayton), whose population is 9 percent Black, is 85 years. The life expectancy for a resident of zip code 63016 [meant to be 63106] (North St. Louis), whose population is 95% Black, is 67 years. While there are also significant disparities between these two zip codes in unemployment, poverty, and median household income, this difference of 18 years of life between average residents in zip codes less than 10 miles away illustrates a health inequity that is alarming.”
The claim is the existence of a health inequity between Black and White communities. Specific to this report, the health inequity is a result of racial bias in our governmental system. The evidence is a difference in life expectancy between these two communities roughly 10 miles apart from each other.
It is clear an inequity exists by the statistic provided by the Commission Report; however, this statistic alone allows room for the argument that Blacks have lower life expectancies than Whites because of an unconscious racial bias in American society. A deeper exploration into this statistic provides a more accurate interpretation.
Life expectancy data is collected from death certificates issued by several services within each county of the United States. Compiled in life expectancy data are ALL causes of death. Most people mistakenly believe lower life expectancy rates are compiled from deaths of NATURAL CAUSES ONLY. That is not the case here.
Relevant causes of death to this report are homicide, obesity, and smoking.
Year to date, there have been 17 homicides in zip code 63106. None of these homicides were caused by police; however, all but one of the homicides was black-on-black crime. The average age of the homicide victims was 28 years-old, an average age that is sure to bring the life expectancy rate down.
Year to date, there have been 0 homicides in zip code 63105. Again, the lack of purposeful early deaths is sure to increase the life expectancy. According to a related study, the lack of homicides in the area could raise the life expectancy rate by nearly five years.
Obesity rates are higher, nationwide, among Black Americans than White Americans. 47.8% of Black Americans are obese compared to 32.6% of White Americans. Concerning children, 20.2% of Black American children are obese compared to 14.3% of White Americans.
Obesity leads to increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and certain cancers, all of which lead to early deaths. This, however, does not answer as to why obesity is more prevalent among Black Americans. In-depth analysis indicates the consumption of larger amounts of unhealthy food and a lack of safe environments to engage in physical activity; basically, poor diet and violence within the neighborhoods in which Black Americans reside are the culprits.
Some would indicate poor diet is the cause of poverty, which is perpetuated by a racially biased government and society. A reasonable claim, but one that gains a clearer picture with two key statistics:
One, poverty is caused by poor income. A good measure of income level is educational attainment. According to statistics in 2014, Black Americans made up only 9.2%, compared to 80.6% of White Americans, of associates degree holders or higher. Regardless of race, it is difficult to provide a reasonable living without taking education seriously.
Considering the educational attainment of the two zip codes in question, there is a significant difference. In zip code 63105, 98% of its working residents have attended college. In zip code 63106, only 52% of its working residents have attended college.
Second, food stamp recipients have a more than adequate budget for food. The SNAP program, known as food stamps, gives $133.44 per person for a month. For a family of 4, that is $533.76 per month. My wife and I have a family of four. I am a middle-class, fulltime working American. Our budget is roughly $400 for groceries per month. That is typical of the average American family. Furthermore, a study conducted in 2012 indicated that low-income families spend significantly more on food than middle and high-income families.
A study conducted in 2011 highlight a major difference in smoking rates between the two zip code regions. In zip code 63105, only 12% of its residents are regular smokers. In zip code 63106, 18% of its residents are regular smokers. A higher incidence of smoking is going to lead to lower life expectancy.
NOT ABOUT RACE
It is NOT about race; rather, it is about a culture found in poverty. For example, Lee County and Breathitt County Kentucky are both predominantly White counties. Both have a population of at least 96% Whites and less than 3% blacks. Lee County’s life expectancy is 72.35 and Breathitt County’s is 70.65.
Other key features of these counties are a high prevalence of smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity. Citizens of both counties are mostly sedentary, meaning they do not exercise. These are habits developed by personal choice, not a failure in government.
There are healthy, nonviolent, well-educated Americans of all races. Thus, I believe it is all a matter of personal choice. Homicide, obesity, educational attainment, and smoking are all personal choices. Someone chooses to kill another. Someone chooses an unhealthy diet. Someone chooses how well they will perform in school. Someone chooses if they will smoke. These are not governmental problems; rather, they are personal problems. If prevalent in a particular culture, I would say it is partially a cultural problem as well.
The data does indicate, unfortunately, these particular bad habits occur in greater frequency among Black Americans. That is not racist, that is a simple observation. It would be racist to say they are incapable of better, of which I ADAMENTLY DISAGREE. However, the Ferguson Commission is doing a great disservice to the population they seek to help, Black Americans, by making them feel they are VICTIMS. A victim is helpless to their environment and unable to determine their own destiny. Black Americans are not victims, NOR should they be led to believe they are not capable of controlling their future. Instead, empower them.
The Ferguson Commission proposes the proper courses of action are governmental changes and intervention. In other words, they propose disparate populations are unable to stop killing, stop eating unhealthily, stop smoking, or obtain a quality education without direct intervention from governmental authorities. Government will only make things worse. Instead, disparate populations should be empowered. Teach them they can overcome any challenge with the necessary effort. Teach them they can achieve great things, but only after hours and hours and hours of tireless effort.
Success comes from dedicated personal effort, not intervention.