Liberals (myself included) often complain about how minorities are treated in the United States – and they are correct to complain, minorities are ill-treated in this country and deserve better. Nevertheless, it is worth recognizing that many minorities have had significant success in the United States, and far better than in our European counterparts.
For example, in Germany in 1999 Turks maintained a 35.6% unemployment rate – even though German ethnic minorities are more highly skilled than their historical counterparts. Compare that with unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics in the United States in 1999 at 8.1 and 6.1 percent, respectively. This is still absolutely unacceptable where the total unemployment rate was 4.1 percent and the white unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, but it is clearly far better than the 35.6% for Turks in Germany. Even the U.K., which is generally thought to be most similar to the United States in Europe, reported in 2007 that black men were “up to five times as likely to be unemployed as white men.” The Guardian reported that “for some groups of black men [unemployment was] as high as 27%” while unemployment for white men was lower than 6%. The Global 2008 recession had a particularly harmful impact on blacks and Hispanics, with unemployment for those groups at 16.2 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively – in certain states this is even worse, for example the unemployment rate for blacks in Michigan was “expected to reach 27 percent” and was more than 20 percent in Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina. This is unacceptable, but may not reflect such disparity between black unemployment and white unemployment nationwide. For example:
- In the case of Michigan the decline in auto manufacturing had a particular impact of black employment;
- Alabama and South Carolina have always had particularly troubling and significant racial issues (beyond the rest of the country); and
- Illinois is particularly segregated (especially in Chicago) leading to employment mismatch.
Integration of minorities has generally been far better in the U.S. than in Europe. Although there is hostility toward Muslims, for example Oklahoma’s proposed prohibition against recognizing Islamic law, there is nothing like the French headscarf ban in the U.S.
All of this is to say that while the United States is not perfect and must always strive to be better, we have had many successes. For example, the Muslim community is well-educated (more than 67% have bachelors degrees) and earns well (66% earn more than $50k/year). That is something to be proud of and aspire to with regard to each minority group and every individual in the United States – I’m not saying that we are “the best” (nor am I saying we aren’t) but why the heck can’t we try.