It took a power blackout and the looting of New York City for America to rediscover its ghettos. Just like the time before, it took a massive dose of urban violence to draw attention to the underclass. Though the times have changed, the grievances remain the same. Most of the indices of poverty, illegitimacy, unemployment, and drug abuse that were a national scandal in the 1960’s are worse now.
Half the black population is less than twenty-four years old, and for them the future promises little. Four out of ten young black and brown people in the ghettos will never have a job that provides them with a livelihood or enables them to support a family. This is the human dimension of a black teenage unemployment rate of 40 percent.
Even those blacks who are considered successful, mainly because they have jobs, are losing ground to their white counterparts. The Labor Department reports a growing gap between white and black income, with the wages of white workers increasing twice as fast as those of blacks. Ninety-seven percent of all professional jobs are still held by whites, and this has not changed since 1969.
Crime is the greatest urban concern of our time, and young blacks play a major role in that problem. In New York City today, the number of black youths under 16 who have been arrested is almost ten times what it was in 1950.
Anti-discrimination in housing laws have sealed the fate of most black communities. The inner city has become the exclusive preserve of those who cannot afford to leave.
In the 60’s the mass media carried the message from blacks and had a role in the creation of black leaders; the media was integrated and had black journalists to provide the black point of view. Today, the role of blacks in the media is superfluous, and there is little coverage of the normal aspects of black life or of the continuing struggle for equality in the day-to-day routine.
The failure of the media to see the problems o£ blacks as an ongoing story instead of focusing on these problems only when large scale urban violence takes place, qualifies this story as one of the “best censored” stories of 1977.
SOURCE: The Progressive, November,1977, p. 21, “Black Progress Myth and Ghetto Reality,” by Joel Dreyfuss.