Indulge me for just a few minutes here. While what we at Gamaliel fight on are depressing issues, right now, at least, I'm kind of giddy. It's not often that a two-time Pulitzer-winning journalist basically endorses everything we are doing.
He didn't use our name and wasn't referring specifically to our organization, but veteran New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently outlined a few of the causes underlying recent demonstrations in Ferguson and elsewhere that have justifiably attracted national and international attention.
Look at these grim statistics from Kristof and how our work addresses them.
The net worth of the average black household in the United States is6,314, compared with110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)
The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967. A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy.
Black students are three times as likely to be suspended and expelled, setting them up for educational failure.
Because of the catastrophic experiment in mass incarceration, black men in their 20s without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated today than employed, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Nearly 70 percent of middle-aged black men who never graduated from high school have been imprisoned.
Gamaliel and its sister community-organizing networks, like Jobs With Justice, have been working on these important issues, with little national attention, for years. Maybe Ferguson is starting to wake up our nation to the plight of the 99 percent who have been not only neglected but outright robbed of a decent life through thoughtless and sometimes racist policy making.