Chicago police have set up a disproportionate amount of sobriety checkpoints in the black community. They also stopped and frisked the city's black residents at an alarming rate. This is just a couple of ways blacks Americans are burdened more than whites. But there is also an unfair economic burden...a Black Tax. Here's my Chicago Defender column on the subject.
The Black Tax toll is both big and small
By Monroe Anderson
Racism is so deeply embedded and routine in America that for many whites it’s nothing more than business as usual. For African Americans, however, racial discrimination exacts a toll, from being over-policed to being undervalued.
When the Chicago police decided to crack down on DUI violations and feed the city coffers with extra violation fines, they set up shop in the Black community. A Chicago Tribune investigation found that 84 percent of roadside sobriety checks were in African American or Hispanic police districts. The newspaper reported Sunday that between February 2010 and June 2014 Chicago police staged DUI checkpoints at 127 out of 152 in the city’s predominantly minority neighborhoods while fewer than four percent were in majority-white police districts--even though that is where one out of four of Chicago’s alcohol-related accidents and deaths occurred.
Chicago police also conducted a quarter of a million “stop-and-frisk” searches during the summer of 2014 that did not lead to an arrest, according to a finding by the American Civil Liberty Union of Illinois. Although Blacks represent less than a third of Chicago’s population, we were close to three-fourths of the stops.
In white neighborhoods, Blacks instantly became the usual suspects. In Jefferson Park, which is just one percent African American, we were 15 percent of all the stop-and-frisks. In the Near North District, where Blacks are less than 10 percent of the population, we were 60 percent of those stopped by Chicago police.
Police targeting Blacks is small change compared to some of the other ways African Americans in Chicago have been burdened with separate and unequal treatment.
Back when I was a Chicago Tribune reporter, I pitched the editors on our doing an investigative series we titled, after what it was called in the community, “The Black Tax.”
Our 1980 investigation uncovered a not-so-subtle but very real practice of economic discrimination: Blacks pay more to get less. We sought out bungalows on the city’s South and North sides that were virtually identical in appearance. We documented the fact that those owning the houses in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods paid as much as 80 percent more for home insurance than those owning bungalows in the city’s white neighborhoods.
We documented that car insurance cost more on the Black side of town than it did on the white side and that it was far more difficult to get home improvement loans in one neighborhood compared to the other for a reason. “Millions of dollars deposited by minority group members in most of their community banks and savings and loan associations have flowed to home loans in distant suburbs and only a few thousand dollars has been retained for neighborhood mortgage,” we reported.
We also discovered that living on the wrong side of Western Avenue, which served as a racial dividing line, came with a price tag of its own. The homeowners in the predominantly Black neighborhoods east of Western had 25 times as many Illinois FAIR Plan policies as the whites on the west side of the avenue. For those who are not homeowners or who are lucky enough to be insured by the likes of State Farm or Allstate, with the FAIR Plan, you pay higher rates for less coverage.
Over a lifetime, this Black Tax adds up to jaw-dropping inequities. White Americans have 13 times the net worth of Black Americans. In 2013, white household wealth was $141,900 while the net worth of the Black household was just $11,000. That’s without even factoring in job hiring and wage discrimination.
In some ways, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been an equal opportunity taxer. He has exacted hidden taxes on Chicago’s Blacks and whites by jacking up water and sewer fees and vehicle sticker fees. He has also raised cable TV amusement taxes by $28.80 a year and 911 taxes on land line and cell phones by $16.80 a year.
The DUI checkpoints and police stops and frisks demonstrate that, in other ways, the mayor plays favorites.
It’s time for all those Black Chicagoans who, for whatever reasons, believed that Mayor Emanuel was their man to remind him that he owes them. They need to go tell the mayor that they want their just due.
I’m not talking about anything so grand as the $20 million he’s forking over to the Jon Burge torture victims. I’m thinking modest. How about he tells his police to quit stopping Blacks and browns on the streets or in checkpoints while focusing the color of their skin before fairly considering content of the character?
It should be a non-taxing thing to do for the mayor who says he knows how to get things done.