Contemporary Issues for African-Americans in the US

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
What issues do African Americans currently face in the United States? This lesson looks at the Black population as far as demographic splits in the US and what issues are of prominent concern to this group of people.

Understanding Difference

As a child, Joy didn't see any difference between herself and her mostly White preschool mates. Like all children, she just enjoyed the person and saw him or her as either nice or mean based on the way that person treated her. It had nothing to do with race, who their parents were, how wealthy their family was or any other criteria. She accepted her playmates as individuals.

Unfortunately, that perspective changes over time. Joy realized that she was a different color than her playmates and her parents looked different from their parents. It still didn't mean anything to her, but she recognized the difference. As she moved into high school and then college, she became more concerned with the issues people of her racial background faced in America. For Joy, the contemporary issues (present problems) of African American, or Black people, became a much greater source of unease and study.

African American Demographics

The latest census data for the United States was gathered in 2015. This data concerns the number of people in the US, age range, their racial makeup, income, and general occupation. According to this survey, the African American population in 2015:

  • Consisted of 46,282,080 people. These were people who identified as Black or as Black mixed with another race.
  • Black only and black mixed make up 14.3% of the total US population
  • Were 48% male and 52% female.
  • Had a median income of approximately $36,000.
  • Obtained a high school diploma more than 80% of the time and about 19% of the population received bachelor's degrees.

From these numbers, it can be seen that Blacks make less than any other large racial group and have fewer people get both high school diplomas and bachelor's degrees. Also, the population is growing, but it is not growing as fast as other groups.

Contemporary Issues Facing Blacks

Social issues (incarceration, single parent families, etc.) affect every race and ethnicity, but when those issues fall disproportionately on one group it becomes a problem. The Black community has a difficult legacy in the United States since the majority of people in that community have ancestors who came to the US as slaves. Thus, the attitude toward the Black population has always been problematic. Unfortunately, this attitude has led to contemporary issues that deserve an immediate solution.


Access to adequate healthcare is a concern for many Blacks, especially those living in urban areas. This is due to inadequate funding resources and the degradation of hospitals in these areas. Many hospitals relocate to suburban areas which mean longer travel times to healthcare. Also, Blacks are disproportionately plagued with hypertension, stroke, HIV and heart disease.

Legal System

Arrests and incarcerations are higher among Blacks than any other group. It may seem to some people that this is due to some flaw in the group as a whole, but that is not born out by the statistics. A black man or woman is six times more likely to face jail time for a drug offense than a White individual - even if it is the same drug offense. Although Blacks comprise only 14% of the total population in America, they make up more than 50% of the prison population. Racial profiling and police office violence against Blacks is also a concern.

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