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Data

Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for African-Americans in the United States of America

View Group Chronology

United States of America Facts
Area:    9,372,614 sq. km.
Capital:    Washington, DC
Total Population:    270,312,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References



Risk Assessment

While many African Americans are disaffected with the current political system and their economic standing in American society, there is little risk of rebellion. Opportunities for individual advancement and community improvement are sufficient to offset possible appeals for militant political action. The group also lacks most of the risk factors that lead to large-scale collective action such as territorial concentration, overt government repression, support from kindred groups abroad, or significant political and cultural restrictions. However, due to their historical experience with civil rights protest, their large numbers, and their organization, including the recently revitalized NAACP, it is likely that some form of nonviolent protest will characterize relations between the group and the majority for the foreseeable future.

The status and political access of blacks in the US has taken a small turn for the worse beginning in the mid to late 1990s. A more conservative Supreme Court is limiting the scope of some affirmative action programs, and judicial challenges to legislative redistricting schemes are threatening to take away some of the political representation blacks have gained since the 1970s. At the same time the newfound political power of the Republican Party, culminating in the election of George W. Bush in November 2000 and his reelection in 2004, has resulted in growing legislative opposition to affirmative action both on the federal and state level. It remains to be seen whether this will change following the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, in November 2008.

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Analytic Summary

The vast majority of African Americans currently residing in the United States are descendants of slaves from Africa or the Caribbean brought to the United States before the abolition of slavery in 1863. Questions concerning ethnicity in the census rely on self-identification, and the majority of those with mixed heritage choose to identify themselves as Black. While they are widely dispersed across the country, the majority of African Americans continue to live in southern states. More specifically, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, 54.8% percent of the African-American community resides in the South, 18.8 percent in the Midwest, 17.6 percent in the Northeast, and 8.9 percent in the West (GROUPCON = 2). Difference in physical appearance (RACE =2) – and the strong sense of group identity associated with it -- is the trait that has contributed most to perpetuating differential and discriminatory treatment of African Americans by European Americans.

African Americans are now incorporated into the mainstream political parties (particularly the Democratic Party), and they are represented by a number of group-specific conventional organizations (e.g., NAACP, PUSH, Urban League). There is no evidence that past militant organizations such as the Black Panthers are still active in any meaningful way.

The African Americans of the United States face a certain level of demographic stress, particularly high birth rates and somewhat poorer health conditions compared to the majority group. This, combined with a history of economic and political discrimination, such as legal barriers, widespread discrimination, and lynchings, have left the majority of African Americans in a disadvantaged position in American society. However, various remedial policies are in place (POLDIS01-06 = 1; ECODIS01-06 = 1). They currently do not encounter any cultural or political restrictions. The issues most urgent to the group include more representation in government, better economic opportunities and protection from other groups (predominantly white racists and periodically economic competitors such as Koreans) (POLGR06 = 1; ECGR06 = 1).

Political protests by the group began in the 1950s (PROT50X = 3), escalated during the civil rights debates, and eventually lead to more militant activity during the late 1960s and early 1970s by groups such as the Black Panthers (REBEL65X = 3). Today, African American protests tend to take the form of large protests or marches (PROT00 = 4; PROT01-04 = 3; PROT05 = 4; PROT06 = 3). These protests usually concern issues such as opposition to racist acts, discriminatory policies in the public and private sectors, and support for affirmative action.

While there is a higher proportion of African Americans in the United States penal system than their numbers warrant, there has been no evidence since the early 1970s (police shootings of Black Panther activists) of politically motivated acts of government repression against the group.

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References

Lexis-Nexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006

U.S. Census Bureau. 2001. "The Black Population: 2000." http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-5.pdf, accessed 4/15/2008.

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(MAR)

 
Information current as of December 31, 2006