Delaware Voice:

Theodore J. Davis, Jr.

Theodore J. Davis, Jr. is a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.

I have started a research initiative at the University of Delaware called the Delaware Black Community Research Project. The project is dedicated to the development and pursuit of progressive and transformative policies and solutions to racial disparities in the areas of education, employment, and income distribution.

The Delaware Black Community Research Project recently released a report titled, “Racial Disparities in Delaware Remain Deep: Fifty Years After the Kerner Commission Report and the Wilmington Riot.” The Wilmington riot was most notable because the Delaware National Guard patrolled the city of Wilmington for nearly nine months.

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The findings of the report found racial disparities in educational outcomes, employment, income distribution, and housing remains a severe issue in Delaware.

Blacks and whites in Delaware differ in their perceptions of what was the most critical problems facing the state, and racial differences in perceptions of fairness of police practices and the justice system remain deep.

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In 2015, the average black household in Delaware earned 72 cents for every dollar earned by the average white household. Since the 1970s, there has been no significant closure in the poverty gap between blacks and whites in Delaware. In 2015, two out of every ten blacks in Delaware lived in poverty compared to only one in ten whites.

Let’s not get this wrong — there has been a decline in the overall percentage of black families in Delaware living in poverty, but the drop in black families living in poverty was matched by a decrease in the rate of white families living in poverty.

In 2015, the percentage of black children living in poverty was 22.3 percent greater than white children living in poverty. Nearly one-third of black children in Delaware lived in poverty, compared to only one-tenth of white children.

Educationally, the high school graduation gap between blacks and whites in Delaware has closed significantly since the 1970s. However, during the same period, the college graduation gap between blacks and whites has increased.

The difference in the college graduation rates is significant because today’s economy increasingly requires some level of post-secondary education experience for meaningful employment opportunities.

In 2015, the unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 was nearly double that of whites. Blacks’ unemployment rate in Delaware was around 7 percent, compared to 4 percent for whites. Homeownership is one of the primary measures of wealth in America today. In Delaware, roughly 80 percent of whites own their homes, compared to only 51 percent of blacks.

Sections of Wilmington have evolved into a classic example of the “formation of racial ghettos” mentioned in the Kerner Commission Report. It showed the quality of life and standards of living for Blacks in Wilmington’s inner city (racial ghettos) has gotten worse since the riots of 1968.

Metaphorically speaking, the report concluded that when it comes to what the most important problems facing Delaware, blacks, and whites are in the same ballpark, just different parts of the field.

Among blacks in Delaware, employment, wages and public safety were among the most critical problems identified. For whites, perceptions of the most important facing the state tend to be less concentrated than for blacks.

Whether real or perceived, blacks still consider the police departments throughout the state to be a threat to ethnic and racial minorities.

Ironically, the report concluded that it appears the blacks in Delaware are dividing into two communities: one relatively affluent and the other trapped in disadvantaged social and economic enclaves.

The report concluded that short of business and community leaders, elected officials, and policy decision-makers taking broad-minded actions to reduce racial disparities in education, employment, labor market opportunities and income inequality, racial inequality will remain and negatively impact the economy and future development of the state.

As DBCRP evolves, it plans to partner with groups and organizations to produce research aimed at reducing racial disparities in Delaware.

Theodore J. Davis, Jr. is a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.

— delawareonline, The News Journal