Statement from Moderator Renee Lewis Glover
America’s structural weaknesses are always exposed during a crisis and/or natural disasters; e.g. the Great Recession of 2008, numerous hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Katrina and most recently COVID-19. In each case, all segments of the society, including the general public, politicians and news media express shock, surprise and dismay about the conditions that result in hundreds of thousands of low-income black and brown American citizens suffering disproportionately from the crisis. Because of its lethal and unforgiving nature, COVID-19 has often resulted in substantially higher percentage of deaths of these citizens as compared to others.
According to the analysis by the Century Foundation, 13.8 million Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods. Of these Americans, the analysis found that one-in-four low-income African-Americans and nearly one-in-six low-income Hispanic-Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared to just one-in thirteen low-income Caucasian-Americans.
To illustrate what this means—in a January 2020 study of over 500 metropolitan areas by the NYU Langone Health Institute, which looked at data for eleven metrics, including binge drinking, physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes, frequent mental distress, frequent physical distress, high blood pressure, obesity, air pollution, park access, violent crime and high school graduation rates. The study reported that more than your DNA Code, your life expectancy varies by decades depending on where you live in metro-Atlanta. For example, in Buckhead’s Paces Ferry neighborhood, residents lived an average of 87 years, while in the Mechanicsville neighborhood in South Atlanta, residents have an average lifespan of 65 years. The study observed that cities with high variability of life expectancy by neighborhood tend to be cities experiencing segregation patterns that push black and brown families into neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of disinvestment.
The availability of decent affordable housing has become America’s silent crisis. Meeting the need for housing in “communities of opportunity” that is affordable to all of its citizens must become a national priority if America is to sustain its competitive position in the world.