By Cord Jefferson
The nation’s capital now has the worst racial achievement gaps in the country when it comes to educating children.
A new op-ed in the Huffington Post dredges up a well known but important topic of conversation: the growing and increasingly entrenched disparities between whites and Blacks in Washington, D.C.
We told you in July of last year that D.C., once a place so Black it was known as the “Chocolate City,” has been gentrified so much that it is now mostly white. And with all that gentrification, many African-Americans have been forced to move farther and farther from the center of the city to neighborhoods on the outskirts. One of those neighborhoods is Anacostia, where writer Michael Shank lives.
Shank uses the hardships found in Anacostia’s poor Black community, a community that’s being pushed farther east by upwardly mobile white encroachment, as a platform to discuss D.C.’s racial inequalities:
Hovering much lower than the national average of $50,000, the average median household income in Anacostia struggles at $30,000 for a family of four, compared with Washington, D.C.’s $60,000, and the broader D.C. metro area at well over $80,000. In fact, U.S. Census data cites the income gap in the District as one the highest in the nation. Furthermore, the unemployment rate west of the river is roughly 8.9 percent, while east of the river it’s 35 percent.
The Anacostia River is also a racial disparity dividing line with regards to educational achievement and opportunity. More money, better access, more opportunity and higher standards characterize learning the west of the river. Less money, fewer supplies, fewer opportunities and access, and lower standards characterize what’s available for students east of the river.
Naturally, with less money and fewer educational opportunities, D.C.’s Black children lag behind their white peers in every single metric measured by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Shank reasons that the huge gulf between his D.C. and the drifting Black D.C. can be mended, at least a little bit, by proactive white citizens. “[T]hat means crossing the river, being present with people, listening to their needs, and asking how to be of service,” he writes.
That’s a great initial step, but what also needs to happen to eliminate these vast disparities is that the government needs to step in and ensure Blacks are getting the same chances at success as their white counterparts. Solving the educational crisis in Black communities isn’t easy, but it’s integral to African-American achievement, and it’s going to take more than smart, kindhearted goodwill from people like Michael Shank.
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(Photo: Matt McClain for The Washington Post via Getty Images)