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The Flag of the United States painted on a wooden fence

American Dream

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The number of blacks in professional occupations doubled between 1960 and 1974 and their place in society was increasingly unchallenged. But most black were not middle class, indeed about half of them lived on below or near the poverty line, the line below which statisticians reckoned their income was inadequate for necessities of life.

Hugh Brogan

The riots in the cities revealed a deeper problem. Everyday integration wasn't advancing as quickly as expected because the more affluent whites had largely left the inner cities, driving away in their new cars for the suburbs. The very innovation that had brought blacks together and helped create the conditions for the civil rights movement had now left them stranded in decaying inner cities.

A study conducted by the Department of Labor in 1971 estimated that one of every five adult inhabitants of Harlem lived entirely on income derived from illegal enterprises. 'A Renegade History of the United States'

By 1977, there was a small, new, emerging, black middle class but blacks were still seven times more likely to be victims of homicidal violence as whites. Northern cities started to elect black mayors, and black civil rights was largely played out in normal politics, but they were elected to areas deserted by the whites and the money. Rather than inheriting the Promised Land, they struggled with drugs and crime. The results were the crack corners and politically corrupt landscape of the seminal TV series, 'The Wire'. The following exchange is between two drug gang 'soldiers',

Cutty: The game done changed...

Slim Charles: Game's the same, just got more fierce.

The understandable violence that accompanied the civil rights movement of the 20th century had turned inwards into a 21st century uncivil war where black violence turns inwards, contained and controlled by a largely white press and police force. Many, however, believe that the election of Barack Obama, a black man in the White House, is the ultimate achievement of the civil rights movement. For a crucial aspect of the American dream is that anyone can work hard and become the President. That wasn't the case when Obama was born in 1961. It is now.

Did you know?

Author Thaddeus Russell argues that disco clubs were the most racially integrated public spaces in the United States. In one of the great ironies in the history of American race relations, a queer and entirely renegade creation produced more integration through desire than the civil rights movement ever achieved through moralism and legislation., In 2002, there were more black men in prison, than there were in higher education.