News

June 25, 2002

African-Americans and Hispanics in Delaware have made "considerable progress" since the 1960s, but the vestiges of racial segregation and discrimination remain and have blocked their achieving equality, according to an extensive study commissioned by the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

"It (segregation) set up patterns of thinking and behavior among whites and minorities that still can make a difference about where a person lives, where a person works or -- most devastating in the long run -- how little is expected of young minority students," Norman Lockman, associate editor of the News-Journal, wrote in the foreword to the survey report.

Findings reached in what Antoine Allen, president of the league, described as "the first comprehensive report concerning
the status of people of color in Delaware" include:

The state and New Castle County 'minority' population is growing faster than the overall population, with the sharpest growth having occurred in the decade of the 1990s. The 2000 U.S. census counted 150,666, or 20.2% of the total population of the state, up from 60,688, or 13.8%, in 1960. Two-thirds now live in New Castle County with the predominant portion of that in Wilmington.

In the most recent tally, 15,151, or 4.8%, listed themselves as Hispanic. There are no figures from 1960, but census data showed an increase from 4,161 in 1980, the first year in which the ethnic designation was used.

Household income in the African-American community averaged 60% of that in white households -- $27,763 compared to $45,961. The average Hispanic household fared somewhat better, with income of $28,705.

The study used 1990 data to produce that comparison. According to David Rudder, one of the authors of the report, the 12-year-old data was used because the Census Bureau has not yet released 2000 files. Comparable updated information will be available in December, he said.

Performance of African-American and Hispanic students, as measured by the state's annual student assessment testing, has been "well below the sate average" with nearly 40% not having achieved 'passing' scores.

Residential segregation continues despite an increase to 65% in 2000  from 35% in 1990 in the portion of Delawareans who live in what can be considered integrated neighborhoods. Wilmington, however, has become "more segregated" due to an increase in its African-American population to 41,646 from 37,446 and a decline in white population to 25,811 from 30,134 in the 1990s decade.

Moreover, the study found that "even when family incomes are essentially the same, the level of African-American home ownership is significantly lower than that of similarly situated whites."

Minority-owned businesses are "under represented" in every category except the service industry.

African-Americans and Hispanics, on the other hand, are "over represented" in the prison population.

The study was conducted by Leland Ware, the Louis L. Redding professor of law at the University of Delaware; Theodore Davis, associate professor in the university's political science department; and Rudder, a doctorate candidate in the university's School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy. Their report is entitled 'The Pace of Progress'.

The report is especially critical of the educational establishment, charging that African-American children for the most part were consigned to segregated and inferior schools until the federal court desegregation ruling in 1978, a generation after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such segregation. Even after desegregation, "to some observers, the schools in Delaware had evolved from the fiction of separate-but-equal to the reality of together-and-unequal," it said.

It blames that on "the soft bigotry of low expectations" among white teachers regarding black students' potential. It found "an undisputed correlation between race [and] discipline and academic performance."

The state Neighborhood Schools Act is cited as likely to acerbate the situation by creating a situation where schools in Wilmington have essentially all black and Hispanic students, the report said. It also suggests that the state testing program, with consequences such as lower-level high school diplomas, may violate federal law and U.S. Department of Education rules.

"Very rapidly, the number of people, white or black or brown, who perpetuated or suffered Jim Crowism in the United States is dwindling. ... It is not uncommon to hear contemporary white Americans say, without thinking, that people of color now have all the same opportunities -- or more -- that they enjoy. Therefore, it is no excuse to blame others for their continued failures. That, of course, is conveniently blind to the lasting effects of systemic racial discrimination," Lockman wrote in his foreword.

"The statistics in this report may not surprise readers, but they should dismay them."

2002. All rights reserved.

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