This is a quiz for white Americans. But anyone can take it. It tests your level of knowledge about white privilege.
Caution: This quiz is not about determining whether anyone is racist.
BEFORE YOU START
If you’re able to answer all of the questions correctly, congratulations. That means you have, at some point in your life, stepped outside of the bubble of white privilege that protects its homogeneous population from having their blissful days dampened with news about the external struggles of nonwhites.
Note: You did not create the environment in which you live. You are a beneficiary of the transparent bubble of privilege created generations ago. Its purpose is to prevent as much information about nonwhites as possible from piercing the pristine tranquility of a white Utopian lifestyle. You do, however, have the ability to effect change, if you choose to exercise it.
Exposure of white Americans to the truth of systemic institutional biases created by white supremacists in the 20th century can help tear down the divisive walls of privileged blissful ignorance they built, which are sustained today by unwitting white bubble residents and journalists who intentionally or inadvertently echo misinformation and deceptive data.
This quiz will hopefully help raise awareness of common societal challenges that are rooted in systemic racial economic policies and practices, which require involvement of all Americans to help disrupt if our nation is to overcome such deeply ingrained racist problems. This quiz may not offer any paradigm-shift in your thinking, but it may introduce an epiphany that eliminates the sheltered excuse of not knowing.
True or False: The average black family today is much closer in reaching the level of wealth possessed by the average white family than the average black family was in the 1930s.
False. It’s not even close. The gap has ballooned exponentially from what it was in the 1930s and 40s, when white wealth was three and four times black wealth. Today it is reported to be an incredible multiple of 13 times, according to Inequality.org, based on the latest Pew Research data.
But, it is actually even worse when calculated correctly!
The Pew data includes consumable goods owned by black families, such as vehicles, furniture, televisions and even appliances. NOBODY in America should count their TVs and refrigerators as part of their wealth assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which defines net worth to determine an “accredited investor,” won’t even allow the home you live in to count as part of its net worth equation. When durable goods are removed from the net worth calculation (which they ought to be according to New York University Professor Edward Wolff, one of America’s foremost economists studying wealth inequality), the actual wealth gap is abysmally striking.
FACT CHECK For most of US history, keeping blacks poor was a key objective of American public and private sector policy. The current status of black wealth in America—and mass incarceration, among other things—is a testament to the success of these systemic policies and practices. For three centuries, structural racism had prevented black families from building wealth. School systems, hiring practices, red-lining, and discriminatory lending practices all combined to deny the opportunities that white Americans, whether immigrant or native born, saw as their birthright.
The Wealth gap between white and black households in the US today surpasses that of Apartheid-era South Africa. According to Wolff’s calculations, the median black family is actually only worth $1,700 when you deduct durable goods. In contrast, the median white family holds $116,800 of wealth using the same accounting methods. Black household wealth, Wolff adds, actually fell during the Great Recession from $6,700 to $1,700. In South Africa, during the height of apartheid atrocities, the median black family held about 7 percent of typical white South African family net worth. Today, using Wolff’s analysis, the median African American family holds a mere 1.5 percent of median white American family wealth.
True or False: Black Americans have just as much educational opportunity today as white Americans.
The answer is false. Public schools were established on a foundation of white supremacy. Black students were relegated to schools that were designed by policy and practice to be of lower quality with fewer funds and resources. Political and legal battles finally made their way to the Supreme Court in 1954. Following the famous Brown v Board of Education ruling to desegregate, initial steps were taken to integrate schools during the 1950s and 60s, often with extreme measures taken, including use of law enforcement and the military, to address the white-hot hostile backlash. Those early efforts to integrate schools were eventually defeated.
The Atlantic reported in a Nov. 2013 article, titled, “Why Are American Schools Still Segregated?”
In the 1968-69 school year, when the U.S. Department of Education started to enforce Brown, about 77 percent of black students and 55 percent of Latino students attended public schools that were more than half-minority. By the 2009-2010 school year, the picture wasn't much better for black students, and it was far worse for Latinos: 74 percent of black students and 80 percent of Latino students went to schools that were more than half-minority. More than 40 percent of black and Latino students attended schools that were 90 percent to 100 percent minority.”
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) reveals that a significant obstacle preventing progress in the integration of public schools is historical ignorance (which is a benefit of white privilege). In an article titled, “Why Our Schools Are Segregated,” published in it May 2013, Volume 70, Number 8 edition, ASCD states:
Social and economic disadvantage—not only poverty, but also a host of associated conditions—depresses student performance. Concentrating students with these disadvantages in racially and economically homogeneous schools depresses it even further.
Our ability to remedy this situation by integrating schools is hobbled by historical ignorance. Too quickly forgetting 20th-century history, we've persuaded ourselves that the residential isolation of low-income black children occurs in practice but is not government-ordained. We think residential segregation is but an accident of economic circumstance, personal preference, and private discrimination.
However, residential segregation is actually the result of racially motivated law, public policy, and government-sponsored discrimination. The result of state action, residential segregation reflects an ongoing and blatant constitutional violation that calls for explicit remedy.
The Atlantic followed up on the issue of school segregation in its March 1, 2016 article, “Separate and Still Unequal.”
In a modern-day tale of two cities, in virtually every major U.S. metropolitan area students of color are much more likely than whites to attend public schools shaped by high concentrations of poverty, an analysis of federal data has found.
In all but five of the 95 largest cities by population for which data is available, more minority than white students attend public schools where most of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income, according to the analysis of data from the National Equity Atlas. In a full three-fourths of cities, the share of minority students attending mostly poor or low-income schools is at least 20 percentage points greater than the share of white students. In 29 of the cities, the gap is at least 40 percentage points.
Across a wide range of cities, the numbers point to a massive racial imbalance in exposure to concentrated poverty. In St. Louis, 92 percent of black, but only 27 percent of white, students attend schools where most of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income. In Dallas, 38 percent of white, compared to 95 percent of black and 97 percent of Latino students, attend mostly low-income schools. In Los Angeles, the numbers are 49 percent for whites, 85 percent for African Americans, and 96 percent for Latinos.
This year, The Atlantic has continued to target the issue of education segregation city by city, in places like Little Rock, Arkansas where 60 years of efforts to integrate schools have failed, and Brooklyn, New York, where school segregation persists largely as a result of long-term segregated communities designed by systemic policies of redlining regions, and Cleveland, Mississippi where a federal judge is still trying to force a school district that was actually sued in 1965 for its racist policies to comply with laws that have remained unenforced for generations.
WHITE PRIVILEGE SUSTAINED BY EDUCATED CLASS
This issue of segregation in public schools can’t be relegated to uneducated blue collar workers trumpeting the mantra of “Make America Great Again,” as major media have framed the political support for presidential candidate Donald Trump. School segregation is deeply embedded in the hostile attitudes of millions of educated, middle-class and wealthy, white Americans. These are the policymakers who determine the fate of those children struggling outside of the bubble of white privilege.
Black and Hispanic children suffer the outcomes of decisions made by white parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, policymakers, investors, business owners and real estate developers. These ordinary otherwise wonderful white Americans represent a predominant opposition to constant efforts being made to ensure low-income students born to minority parents have at least an equal footing in the tax-funded education system.
Thus far, white supremacists have claimed victories all across America, many decades after defying the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v Board of Education. And with the financial ability to uproot and move to established suburban white enclaves or build their own white Utopia almost anywhere, privileged white Americans have clearly indicated there’s little hope that segregation in America’s schools will change for decades to come. And that’s an exercise of both privilege and power.
Segregated schools with poorly performing students can rarely be turned around while remaining racially isolated. The problems students bring to school are so overwhelming that policy should never assume that even the most skilled and dedicated faculty can overcome them. Although schools can make a difference, they cannot erase the damage caused by concentrated poverty and racial isolation. By 1988, the percentage of black children in white schools in the south had risen from zero to nearly 44 percent. But, a spate of lawsuits filed by the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and a 1991 Supreme Court decision releasing districts from such orders helped erode that progress. By 2011, the percentage of black students in majority white schools was 23.2 percent — slightly lower than it was in 1968.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia expressed his viewpoint in Dec. 2015 that black students fared better when enrolled in “slower” and “less-advanced” schools, thereby continuing a long history of white supremacist mindset that regards black students as less capable.
"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.” (The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia)
The numbers of high-poverty schools increased from 12 percent at the turn of the millennium to 17 percent in 2007-2008, according to the Department of Education. Of the total number of secondary schools, 9 percent are considered high-poverty (2,142 secondary schools) with enrollment of one million mostly minority students. The vast majority of these schools are considered part and parcel of the “dropout factories“ spoken of by education leaders.
True or False: The higher unemployment rate for Black Americans is largely due to lower education achievement, not public and private sector discrimination policies and practices.
The answer is false. There are two primary considerations:
- The rate of unemployment for black Americans in the workforce is nearly double the rate of unemployment for white Americans every year consistently, dating back as far as the data allows.
- Regardless of education levels achieved, unemployment among black Americans remains nearly twice as high as white Americans with the same level of education.
Even when they hold the same degree, African Americans are much more likely to be looking for a job than white Americans
The black unemployment rate is nearly or more than twice the white unemployment rate regardless of educational attainment. It is, and always has been, about twice the white unemployment rate.
"One of the problems is that we continue to have a tale of two economies," says Imara Jones, an economist and writer. "[The improvement] is mostly true for people who are white, have good educations, and are tied to those sectors that are flourishing in the global economy. And then we have the economy of everyone else that has been left out and left behind."
Fear of dredging up presumed past racial problems seems to prevent deep public discourse and analysis on why nearly all jobs in America are still being produced by just one racial demographic group. When analysts look for reasons why black and Hispanic Americans have greater difficulties in finding employment, it stands to reason they should take a good look at the fact that an overwhelming amount of the companies that own and control the means to hire workers are headed by white males. This hasn’t changed much throughout history despite numerous efforts to disrupt the pattern.
The entire history of struggles in America to extend equal opportunities to others has always been a battle to persuade a preponderance of powerful white males to live up to the creed that presumably serves as a guidepost for American society.
I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a democracy in a republic, a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.
William Tyler Page (Accepted into the House of Representative on April 3, 1918)
True or False: Black males are over-represented in America’s prisons when compared with their presence in the nation’s general population.
The answer is true. Data from the NAACP reveal that nearly one million of 2.3 million inmates incarcerated are black Americans. As of June 2016, the Federal Bureau of Prisons data also show that black Americans are nearly 38% of its inmate population.
And PrisonPolicy.org data reflect a per capita imprisonment rate of black Americans of more than 2,200 per 100,000 compared to a mere 380 per 100,000 for white Americans.
But the issue is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Any cursory look into the issue will find Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson is one of America’s most eloquent and insightful voices on the issues of incarceration history, patterns, causes and effects.
VIOLENT INSTITUTIONAL HISTORY
One of the most striking indicators of systemic institutional bias in the criminal justice arena is the fact that the government has failed to ensure proper reporting and collection of data by police, jails and prisons regarding the number and frequency of assaults, injuries and deaths of people in custody, with accounting by race, age and gender. This egregious oversight masks the horrific history of policing in America, in particular its targeting of black Americans as white supremacists found a comfortable home in the ranks of police departments nationwide.
Black Americans are not naturally more prone to criminal behavior than any other group of Americans. But critics rely on such belief to explain the inordinate outcomes. Critics often intentionally leave out details that provide a contextualized holistic portrait of an ugly American story of white hostility toward black Americans.
Throughout the 148-year history of black America, decade by decade there have been systemic forces controlled by white males targeting black Americans, even criminalizing their presence in cities. One state, Oregon, even changed its constitution to outlaw black people, and refused to officially ratify the 14th amendment until 1973.
The power to criminalize ordinary human behavior and create outlaws of every child based solely on the color of their skin is a power unique to white American males.
Today, most white Americans don’t know their own history of hostility against black peoples, preferring to dismiss any references to it as ancient history. And critics suggest that whatever happened long ago magically disappeared, doesn’t exist today, and had no lingering consequences.
The reality is this story is one that tells a tale of an unbroken string of systemic institutional hostilities that have impacted every generation of black Americans. From Black Codes, Pig Laws, Sundown Laws, and Convict Leasing to modern-day disparate sentencing for non-violent offenses, disparate and abusive policing, economic strangulation and “ghettoization” of communities and artificial drug influx trafficked by the government into black neighborhoods.
Critics who charge black Americans as instruments of their own demise seek to absolve white America of its role in exacerbating and accelerating declines in black communities that have devastated generations of children and weighed heavily upon society as a whole.
It is simply impossible, without sustained systemic interference, for black Americans to have survived 100 years of outright white hostilities in every corner of society and every aspect of life, from 1865 – 1965 (even sustaining a rate of near 80% intact families) and then suddenly unravel and devolve into an ever-worsening trajectory over the following 48 years.
Meanwhile, the plain-sight reality is that government is doing little or nothing to address the epidemic of consequences of America’s long legacy of police brutality toward black Americans and extreme incarceration rates, widely regarded as “the greatest threat to child well-being in the U.S.”
Today, there are 3 million black boys, ages 10-13 who have committed no crimes. Although the veracity of statistics is in dispute due to lack of official data-gathering since the 2001 data set, we know a minimum of 1 in 4 up to 1 in 3 black boys will go to jail in their lifetimes, most between the ages of 16 - 24. That means at least 750,000 up to 1 million of the innocent black boys in grades 5-7 today will likely go to prison in the next five years. And whether anyone can agree on the actual numbers, there is consensus that the number is extraordinarily high and represents a dire circumstance. Yet, there exists no national intervention policy to disrupt this inevitable outcome; and no presidential candidate has even addressed the issue!
Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released from prisons and directed to reside in economically distressed communities where they have extremely low opportunities to obtain livable wage incomes. They are ushered from one hostile environment into another, ill-prepared and ill-equipped to reenter a much different society than the one they left years prior.
The revolving door prison system ensures that 84% of males, ages 24 and younger, will return to prison within five years. The policing of America at large is a national problem, with 30% of Americans reported to have arrest records. The Wall Street Journal suggest that figure may even be too low. The bottom line is that those involved in benefiting from this system are the last ones who should be placed in charge of finding solutions to disrupt it.
Black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts.
True or False: With regard to intellect and work ethic, are black Americans less capable than white Americans?
The answer is false. We’ll get to the rationale behind the answer shortly. Regardless of the facts, millions of white Americans spanning the spectrum of political ideologies believe that black Americans are “less intelligent,” “more lazy,” “more rude,” “more violent,” and “more criminal” than white Americans, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted in the spring and published in a summer 2016 report. And while many media have spun the results of the survey as evidence that supports a claim by Secretary Hillary Clinton that half of Donald Trump supporters can be lumped into a “basket of deplorables,” the results clearly reveal that Clinton would need a much larger basket, because the “deplorables” landscape is across the spectrum of political ideology, including among her own white supporters.
But there exists empirical data that prove black Americans do not fit the profiled perspectives of white respondents in the poll. Here’s how we know the perception by many white Americans regarding the work ethic of black Americans is misguided and steeped in the racism of white supremacy.
One of the most prominent perspectives in America’s white-dominated private business sector is the idolized entrepreneurial tendencies of immigrants. The largest foundation in America focused on entrepreneurship is the Kauffman Foundation. It devotes an entire section of its website to Immigrant Entrepreneurship. In its report, The Economic Case for Welcoming Immigrant Entrepreneurs, it argues that US policy should consider the economic impact of such a hard-working class of people. Inc magazine magazine concurs.
Despite accounting for only about 13 percent of the population, immigrants now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country. Fast-growing ones, too--more than 20 percent of the 2014 Inc. 500 CEOs are immigrants. Immigrant-owned businesses pay an estimated $126 billion in wages per year, employing 1 in 10 Americans who work for private companies. In 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in sales. If immigrant America were a stock, you'd be an idiot not to buy it.
No one in the Reuters-Ipsos poll would classify immigrant entrepreneurs as lazy. Entrepreneurs are widely considered by white Americans to be the most creative, most innovative, hardest-working and highest risk-taking of all Americans.
NOT LAZY: BLACK AMERICAN ENTREPRENEURS
However, little attention is paid to the fact that black Americans have one of the highest rates of consistent entrepreneurial growth. Particularly, black women business owners, who have grown at an astounding rate of 322% since 1997 and represent 60% of all black-owned businesses. Sadly, America’s public policy and private sector practices largely ignore the phenomenal efforts being made by black men and women entrepreneurs. The organic innovation occurring in the poorest communities in America happens daily because necessity breeds creativity and risk-taking.
This extraordinarily high rate of entrepreneurial activity is occurring in black America without a national media spotlight, without adequate infrastructure, a dearth of entrepreneurial education and training, and minus much-needed resources and sufficient capital.
Job-creation today remains overwhelmingly dominated by white males despite their declining activity. In fact, all of the 540 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) plans in the country ignore investing in scaling up the growth of black entrepreneurship and including it in their strategic planning models, goals and outcomes.
The result: As the white-dominated landscape of entrepreneurship and new business startups declines, the capacity of minority startup culture is limited in productivity output due to lack of infrastructure and resources that could be accessed through inclusion in regional economic competitiveness strategies and planning.
Per capita, there are more entrepreneurs in black American communities than exist at all of the nation’s colleges and universities. This extraordinary activity is ignored by millions of white Americans who peer occasionally through the lens of privileged isolation at distant minority communities and see the struggles and challenges that reinforce their preconceived notions.
They don’t see the trails of hard-working men and women whose startups, mature small businesses and corporations could be scaled up to produce greater output, new jobs and wealth. But without resources, training, mentoring and capital the explosion of entrepreneurial effort across black America produces little economic output and cannot be sustained or scaled. There must be a national economic competitiveness strategy for black and Hispanic Americans, just as there are economic competitiveness strategies blanketing the nation’s metro regions, albeit none include measurable productivity outcomes for communities of color. It is time for an Inclusive Competitiveness strategy.
Entrepreneurship is the American Dream. It is the primary pathway from poverty to prosperity. In a nation that promotes the myth of meritocracy and upward mobility, entrepreneurship is the real solution to America’s current crisis.
Entrepreneurship is also the natural outcropping of seeding and cultivating crops of student innovators, like the ones produced by the Hawken Entrepreneurship School. This method of educating students should be mandatory and ingrained in all public schools in underserved communities nationwide. It ought not be reserved solely for the children of middle-class and wealthy parents.
The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America: black women.
Overall, women now own 30% of all businesses in the U.S., accounting for some 9.4 million firms. And African American women control 14% of these companies, or an estimated 1.3 million businesses. These businesses have added an estimated 340,000 jobs to the economy since 2007, while employment at companies owned by men (or with equally shared ownership) has declined.
America must invest in cultivating a new crop of entrepreneurs. The crisis in entrepreneurship across the nation means fewer jobs are being created. Meanwhile, the Kauffman Foundation has long held the point that nearly all net new jobs are the product of fast-growing startups. And the fastest rate of growth in entrepreneurship in America is among black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Yet, these innovators remain disconnected from an economic landscape of resources and investments that was built on a foundation of racism and white supremacy. When white Americans consider how future jobs will be created, there’s no thought to investing in scaling up the existing entrepreneurial activity occurring in minority communities.
The May 7, 2016 Wall Street Journal blog quoted from an MIT report on the crisis of entrepreneurship in America and then wondered what can be done?
“To the extent that the current state of American entrepreneurship is facing a crisis, it is not in the rate of creation of high-growth potential startups or even in the initial funding of those firms, but instead in the potential of those firms to scale in a meaningful way over time,” the authors said.
“Much more worrisome than the rate of creation of high-growth potential firms is the decline in the U.S. ability to accelerate the growth of new businesses conditional on initial quality…which has been falling since the late 1990s and only recently, and mildly, begun to recover. Even as the number of new ideas and potential for innovation is increasing, there seems to be a reduction in the ability of startups to scale in a meaningful and systematic way. Whether this is primarily a challenge for capital markets, or reflects systematic reductions in various aspects of ecosystem efficiency remains an important challenge for both future research and policy intervention.”
What’s to be done? The policy prescription isn’t entirely clear. For the innovative, potentially high-growth companies, the authors suggest efforts to help them scale up. But there doesn’t appear to be a single solution to meet the varying needs of an American entrepreneurial class that ranges from a small mom-and-pop shops to the next would-be Facebook.
There is something that can be done. But the solution doesn’t exist under the antiquated, obsolete exclusionary economic policies and practices of the past. The nation needs to adopt a new Inclusive Competitiveness strategy that empowers underrepresented Americans to improve their economic performance and compete in a knowledge-based, tech-driven globally competitive innovation economy.
It is time for a transformation in the upcoming post-Obama era toward building the foundation for a 21st century Inclusive America. To do so, we will have to pierce the bubble of white privilege and permanently leave the past behind. The future of economic inclusion and global competitiveness of America relies on our acceptance of, investment in, and empowerment of all populations in our multicultural, multi-ethnic, multiracial society to reach their maximum potential as American citizens.
As President Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan aptly reminds us: We are stronger together.