Groundbreaking study offers in-depth look at the state of the local African American community
The local African American community continues to face a significant challenge in closing socioeconomic opportunity gaps as reflected by leading social indicators, according to a new study.
The groundbreaking new report, State of the African American Community in San Antonio and Bexar County, is a joint effort by the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn) and the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF). It paints a thorough picture of how much work remains to be done to level the playing field for the local Black community – though recent initiatives are striving to reverse the trend.
“We’re all well aware of the fact that our beloved city does suffer from socioeconomic disparity and this extensive report reflects this reality when it comes to the African American community,” said Marjie French, CEO of the Area Foundation. “That’s why we’re supporting nonprofits that address these challenges in order to help create a community where everyone has a chance to succeed.”
Toward that goal, the new community-led study – research conducted by Community Information Now – serves as a clarion call for all of us to think more about how we can help our fellow neighbors in need, said Bobby Blount, Chairman of the SAAAACF Board of Directors.
“This report does more than validate what most of us know: African Americans face many challenges in our community,” Blount said. “It provides a foundation for everyone to understand, discuss and take action to improve the livelihood of San Antonians.”
The research was based on various societal focus areas, selected by a 20-member community advisory committee. Some key findings:
- Population: African Americans comprise seven percent of Bexar County; about 20 percent of African Americans are military veterans; in about half of Black households where grandparents live with their minor grandchildren, those grandparents are raising their grandchildren.
- Housing: African Americans have the lowest rate of home ownership (41 percent); more than one-third (37 percent) of Black mortgage applicants are denied; overrepresentation in public housing (20 percent of all HUD-subsidized households).
- Education: Majority of Black students attend Judson ISD, Northside ISD and Northeast ISD; among all districts and charters, there’s overrepresentation in disciplinary alternative programs and out-of-school suspensions as well as in special education programs; underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
- Finance: African Americans have a lower median income ($48,509) than the county average ($57,157); nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of work-eligible African Americans are in the workforce; they are more likely than the county workforce overall to be unemployed (seven percent).
- Business: Only one percent of San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area businesses with paid staff and five percent of solo-run businesses are Black-owned.
- Health: About one in six (17 percent) working-age African Americans does not have health insurance and are also more likely to have medical debt in collections.
- Criminal justice: African Americans are overrepresented in police arrests as well as in criminal court cases; Blacks – along with Latinos – are the least to be released in cite and release cases for some misdemeanor offenses.
- Social connection: Majority of African Americans (83 percent) have broadband access but still trail other racial/ethnic groups; San Antonio is home to more than 200 Black churches with an average membership of 120 parishioners (excluding megachurches); about six percent of African Americans moved here from another Texas county or out of state.
The advisory committee, led by Blount, consulted with nonprofit advocacy organization Texas Appleseed to develop various policy recommendations to address the inequities highlighted in the report. Among the recommendations:
- Implement alternative methods of traffic law enforcement, including standardizing collection of metrics based on race and ethnicity.
- Invest in public defense to ensure those unable to retain counsel receive equal representation within the criminal justice system.
- Expand eligibility requirements for early education programs in order to enable Black children to be more kindergarten-ready.
- Create more opportunities for Black students to access Advanced Placement courses and gifted and talented programs.
- Expand paid internships as well as outreach programs to increase African American young adult participation in the workforce.
- Make more resources available and lift barriers impeding access to credit in order to increase financial stability for low-income African American households.
- Expand lending and support services to Black small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Though the new report leaves no doubt as to the tremendous challenge ahead, SAAFdn and SAAAACF are not sitting idle. A renewed focus on equity and social justice have led to the creation of strong and effective initiatives meant to close the opportunity gaps identified in the study. Some examples:
- Creation of the SAAAACF Social Justice Fund providing bail and legal aid to those facing low-level offenses.
- SAAFdn teaming up with UP Partnership on implementing Blue Meridian national funding leading to Youth Leadership Development and Workforce Development grants to nonprofits primarily focused on helping communities of color.
- SAAFdn supporting the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity coalition formed by top San Antonio business executives contributing more than $13 million into programs on equitable education, economic opportunities and social justice.
- SAAFdn partnership with the City of San Antonio/Metro Health providing grants to address health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.
- SAAFdn launching its first-ever San Antonio Equity Fellowship Program, a unique professional development program to champion and help grow nonprofit leaders of color.
- SAAFdn partnering with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) on the Leading To Change: Building Equity In Community Program focusing on equitable outcomes on affordable housing.
The report concludes with first-person “community voices” essays featuring local African American experts weighing in on the social indicators examined – each voice poignantly bringing to life the somber significance of the statistics. They are: Dr. Gary Bates, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Ken Lowe, Dr. Travis Batts, Douglas Greene, Darryl E. Harris, Dr. Kenneth R. Kemp and Deborah Omowale Johnson.
Omowale Johnson, CEO and Director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, issued a critical reminder that the local Black community’s relatively small size doesn’t make it any less part of the diverse fabric of our great city.
“The Black community making up 7% of Bexar County may seem at first to be an insignificant group of people,” Omowale Johnson wrote. “However, if the community does not collectively recognize the impact of these statistics, the economic segregation gap will widen.”