Alphonso Pinkney

’S Black American: Chronic Social Problems Essay, Research Paper

Pinkney states that when you discuss social problems among black

American you must take in account the role of racism in American life

and the persistence of inequality generated by racism. Pinkney goes on

to state that individuals, social agencies, and social institutions

responsible for the enforcement of social norms, operate with in a long-

established framework that precludes the equality of treatment for black

people. The efforts to move toward equality of opportunity are

strongly resisted by those who benefit from the current social

arrangement. By this he means that those who enforce the social norms

prevent equal treatment of blacks and therefore strongly oppose to any

progress that will give blacks a chance for equality. Pinkney also states

that the social structure forces people to engage in conforming and non-

conforming behavior. The majority of the social problems that affect

minorities in the United States result form their low status in society

and the poverty that accompanies with this status. Pinkney goes on to

state when individual share a comparable socioeconomic status, that

are remarkably similar in behavior, this the social problems mainly

stem from the social structure. Pinkney discusses three main social

problems black Americans share with millions of others, they are

homelessness, adolescent pregnancy and drug abuse.

When Pinkney discuss homelessness he starts off by going over

the history of homelessness, discussing some of the causes of

homelessness, the health problems the homeless have, the race and

ethnicity of the homeless, homeless veterans and the attitudes we have

toward the homeless. Pinkney states homelessness as a social problem

is not a new development in the United States, before the depression it

affected few. The permissiveness of homelessness during the depression,

led to the first federal programs to help the homeless including soup

kitchens and public housing. After World War II the government

made a decent home and suitable living environment for an American

family a national goal. Ultimately, federal aid and improved economic

conditions served to end mass homelessness for nearly thirty years.

Economic developments and public policy decisions in the 1970’s

triggered an increase in homelessness that accelerated in the 1980’s .

Those affected by the results of those policies are the elderly, women,

children, minorities, immigrants, veterans, disabled persons, and the

mentally ill. Pinkney goes on to say that the single greatest impetus to

the present situations of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing.

The funding for new low income public housing were reduced by

seventy-five percent between 1981 and 1988 and the ascent of political

conservatism is one of the causes of this. Funding for many programs

that might have ameliorated the problem of homelessness were

eliminated or drastically reduced. The response of the government

officials has been to ignore the homeless, to denigrate them, blame them

for their plight and even deny their existence. When the problem became

pervasive it could no longer be treated lightly, the federal

government enacted the Stewart B Mckinney Homeless Assistance Act

That has had little impact on the homeless and had never been

completely funded. Pinkney states that it is difficult to know exactly

how many homeless they are in the United States estimates by the

federal government state that they are anywhere from 250,000 to 350,000

although research by the National Coalition for the Homeless state a

more realistic figure of 3 million. To sum it all up, there is not clear cut

definitions of homelessness; however , at the very least, the homeless are

people who do not have a place of residence in the conventional sense.

Pinkney states that some of the causes of homelessness are lack of

affordable housing , economic changes, the deinsitutionalization of

patients in mental hospitals and the ascendancy of conservatism.

Pinkney states that the lack of affordable housing is due to the sharp

drop in construction of public housing in the early 1980’s, appearance of

gentrification of the inner city properties, such as conversion of rental

space into condominiums and the decrease of practical hotel and

rooming house space, has forced many of the poor on to the streets. The

economic changes contributing to the homelessness include high

unemployment and longer periods of unemployment. It is difficult for

homeless person to obtain jobs because of no permanent address and

home telephone number. Also, there has been a decrease in the number

of manufacturing jobs and concurrent increase in high technology jobs

requiring greater education and skills. The deinstitionalization of

patients in state and county hospital and the failure to provide

residences for them in community group homes has forced many into

the ranks of the homeless. In conclusion the ascendancy of the

conservatism in the 1980’s brought forth significant reductions in

financial support for public programs that might have ameliorated the

problem of homelessness. The major programs that were affected were

food stamp reductions, cuts from child nutrition program, job training

virtually eliminated, Medicaid benefits reduced, minimum wage

remained unchanged , and school lunch program reductions.

Health problems of the homeless could be divided into general

health problems , mental disorders and substance abuse disorders.

Studies show that 80 to 90 % of homeless people suffer from psychical

health problems and most suffer from several conditions . Study show

women suffer an average of nine health conditions while men suffer on

average eight. Some of the most frequent diagnosed physical problems

are orodental problems, gynecologic problems in women, dermatologic

problems, anemia, respiratory and neurological problems, sexually

transmitted disease, infectious disease and hypertension . Those

suffering from AIDS pose a special problem among the homeless. It has

been estimated that 20,000 homeless persons are infected with the AIDS

virus. Furthermore, more studies report that the AIDS rate among the

homeless are growing rapidly. It is commonly reported that one third of

homeless people suffer from mental problems. Most of the people live

in large shelters with hundreds of cots packed into one room. They are

said to range from violent psychotics, to schizophrenic who rarely

communicate, to those who are able to live peacefully with others. The

most common mental disorders in these shelter are said to be manic

depressive and schizophrenia. About 50% of these people are said to be

addicted to crack cocaine. Drug abuse is reported to be widespread

among the homeless. It is reported that one third of the nations

homelessness are impaired by alcohol and other drug dependencies.

Research show that men are more likely to be impaired than women.

Drug abuse among homeless runaways is also high. Research shows,

alcohol is the most widely abused substance among homeless followed

by cocaine and then crack cocaine.

Pinkney states that it is difficult to identify the homeless by race

and or ethnicity because the data is often enumerated and black and

minorities are vastly over represented among the homeless. Pinkney

concludes that as is the case with other social problems minorities

(especially blacks) are disproportionately represented among the

homeless. Pinkney goes on to state that one third of the single homeless

men are veterans and the federal government estimates that 150,000 –

250,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Of the homeless

veterans, those whose who served in the Vietnam are over represented

when it comes to the national population of veterans. Homeless

veterans are victims of problems similar to those encountered by non

veterans; among them are drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness. It

is significant that blacks and Hispanics are over represented among

homeless veterans and that they are more likely that whites to suffer

medical , psychiatric and substance abuse problems.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s the homeless in New York City were

largely white males who congregated along the city skid row known for

cheap hotel and bars . Since then, the homeless have soared and in

numbers and the characteristics have changed radically. The typical

homeless person is a young black or Hispanic man who is housed in

one of New York Shelters. .It is reported that New York City spends

$18,000 a year for a single man to sleep in a shelter and for a family in

barrack styled shelters the cost is $53,000. Typically, a homeless family

in a shelter is headed by a young black or Hispanic woman with a very

young child. The vast majority of these cases the mother themselves was

raised on welfare . Reports show one in five have been physically or

sexually abused and one and ten have been in foster care. In addition, to

the shelters owned by the city , some social agencies also operate

homeless shelters . The Partnership for the Homeless establish and

coordinated 153 emergency shelters in churches and synagogues which

provide 1,700 beds for the homeless.

In recent years, the attitudes toward the plight of the homeless

have fluctuated from compassion to irritation to apathy. The federal

government, especially in the 1980s, appeared to adopt the attitude that

the homelessness was the fault of the poor , and many municipalities

enacted laws aimed at regulating there behavior. Oppositions of group

homes in residential areas is wide spread and citizens and community

groups frequently succeeds in prohibiting them. As the homeless people

flood the streets throughout the country the mood of the citizens

appears to have harden but in a nationwide poll in January of 1992

revealed that the vast majority of citizens say homelessness is

“something the government can do something about.” Pinkney suggest

that homelessness violates the Declaration of Independence and the

Constitution. What is clear is that homeless people suffer serious

depravations of what people in the industrialized world consider to be

basic human rights. Pinkney goes on to say that the impact of massive

homelessness in social values has yet to be determined.

In adolescent pregnancy and childbearing, Pinkeye discusses

sexual activity among adolescents, contraceptive use , adolescent

pregnancy, adolescent childbearing, abortions among adolescents, the

fathers of children born to teenage mothers and the consequences of

teenage childbearing. Research shows that sexual activity among

adolescence in the United States is widespread and it begins at an early

age. Studies also show that sexual intercourse begins as early as 13 or 14

for males and 14 or 15 for females. Black adolescence generally initiate

sexual activity earlier that whites by the average of two years. Studies of

teenage sexual behavior show that in addition to sexual activity, black

teenager had more sexual partners , but fewer acts of intercourse than

their white counterparts. In 1979, 51 percent of all female teenagers

reported having sex with two or more partners since first intercourse;

for black females the proportion was 62 percent. Research also shows

that sexual intercourse was not frequent among white teenagers than

black also black males had intercourse less frequently that whites , but

not significantly so. Additional data shows that black teenagers are more

likely than their white counterparts to us contraceptives, especially

condoms, during intercourse . Among sexually active teenage females in

1982, 7.5 percent used some form of contraceptive ; for black females

13.5 percent use contraceptives , compared with 6.4 percent for whites.

Data on adolescence pregnancy show that the number of teenage

pregnancies and the teenage pregnancy rate rose gradually during the

1970s but leveled off in the 1980s. Among minority teenagers, the

pregnancy rate dropped to a low of 181 pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers

in 1984and then rose 5 percent in 1987, while whites in the this age

category, rate declined . White teenagers , more than black, resolve

premarital pregnancy through marriage, they are about six times more

likely than blacks to marry before the outcome of the first premarital

pregnancy. Black teenage mothers lead all other racial and ethnic

gropes in total births. Currently about 64 percent of all black children

born out of wedlock many to adolescent mothers . In 1980 adolescent

births represented 26 percent of all births among blacks, compared to

less that 14 percent among whites. The teenage birth rate for blacks is

more than twice that of whites . Blacks accounted for 28 percent of all

adolescent births in 1980, and they accounted nearly one half of

premarital births.

When Pinkney discusses abortion, he refers to the national data

that states that all women having abortions in the United States in 1987

65 percent were whites and 35 percent minority. However , minority

teenagers have higher abortion rates than do whites about 78 percent

minority to 38 percent whites. He goes on to say that the abortion rates

for teenagers 15-19 roes during the 1970s and had remained stable after

1980. Among white teenagers, the abortion rate declined from 85 in 1982

to 71 in 1987 which was a drop of 16 percent. Among minority teenage

the abortion rate increased from 66 in 1980 to 73 in 1987. In a 1970

study, white pregnant teenagers who were unmarried were about

three time more likely than black to choose abortion. Pinkney states the

pattern has changed significantly in subsequent years.

Pinkney states, one of the significant differences between black and

white adolescent mothers is that blacks are less likely that whites to

place their babies for adoption. Studies show that 18 percent of white

teenagers give up their children for adoption, but only 2 percent of

blacks do. In some cases, adoption was hardly considered as an option

for a largely black population. Pregnant teenagers who choose to place

their children up for adoption rather than parent them did so because

they thought the outcomes, such as their continuing in school and

assuring and adequate future as well as the baby’s development would

benefit from their choice. Those who did not consider adoption felt that

these outcomes would be more likely to happen if they parented or that

he outcomes would not be affected by their choice. Those who elected to

place their children for adoption were more advantage economically

and held more positive attitudes about adoption than others.

Studies show that black males are the most sexually active

adolescent in the United States :they initiate sexual activity earlier and

have more sexual partners than so black females and Hispanics and

white adolescent Data on the fathers of children born to adolescent

mothers are not extensive. However, national data indicate that in 1984

approximately 3 per cent of all lice births in the United States were

fathered by males under the age of 20 and of the children born to

teenage mother, 23 percent had teenage fathers. Studies show that

adolescent fathers are more likely to have academic and other school

problems, engage in aggressive antisocial behavior , t use drugs and

to be involved in the criminal justice system. They are more likely to

work at low status occupations and more likely to come from homes that

are educationally and financially disadvantage. Pinkney states, that the

data indicates that adolescent males are ill prepared for the

responsibility of fatherhood and many voice concerns about vocational,

educational, health, and family problems. In an national study,

academic and drug problems as well as general conduct problems were

more common among adolescent fathers that among adolescent in

general . Black teenage fathers, like teenage mothers, are younger than

their white counterparts and are more likely to be unemployed than


Nearly one half of black women aged 15-17 lived with one parent

and only 45 per cent lived with both parents. By comparison with their

white counterparts 78 percent lived with both parents and 16 percent

lived with the mother only. More black adolescents that whites lived in

families below 100 percent of the poverty line: 41 percent of black

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