In spite of the Emancipation Proclamation, in spite of a war fought and won, in spite of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans in the United States continue to suffer from inequality in every measurable dimension. Even if the American people gather up the will to solve this problem, it will take generations to solve it. Four dimensions that stand out in particular are housing, employment, education, and political representation.
As of 2010, 71% of white people owned their own homes, while only 45% of African-Americans did. There is no reason to think that the subsequent years, in the midst of a recession, have improved this statistic for African Americans. Certainly, the history of this inequality goes all the way back to the Jim Crow laws after the Civil War. Far more recently, though, this is the result of discriminatory lending practices, even by the United States government, which actively sought to limit African-American soldiers returning from World War II from purchasing homes through various government programs, the same loan programs white soldiers used to build the suburbs. African Americans were thus unable to build up any equity in real estate, unable to pass any of that wealth on to their children, and started out behind in the post-war boom.
At the end of last year, unemployment for African Americans was slightly more than twice as high as for white people: 9.5% compared to 4.5%. This substantial difference is the result of discriminatory hiring practices, lower average education levels, and the frequent lack of public transportation to a job. Most states have fair employment statutes, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the Civil Rights Act. Still, this inequality persists, even as the economy recovers.
In education, the inputs and outcomes for African Americans are extremely unequal. They receive fewer resources, often have inferior teachers, attend poorly maintained physical plants, and are the victims of low expectations. They are punished more frequently and severely than students of other races, leading to the "pipeline to prison" people are finally starting to notice. They drop out at higher rates. Unsurprisingly, they do not perform as well as white students do. If I were treated this way, I probably would not, either.
In Congress, there are 46 African-American representatives or senators. Since Congress has 535 members, this is less than 10%, while the percentage of African-Americans in the general population is about 14%. This is as close as African-Americans have ever come to having representation in proportion to their numbers in the population, but it still falls short and happens at a time at which African Americans have little political sway because most of them are Democrats.
There are many other ways African Americans are treated unequally in the United States, including in longevity and in infant mortality. The four forms of inequality discussed above are striking, I think, and in combination, make every aspect of being African American an uphill battle.