Alphonso Pinkney’S Black American: Chronic Social Problems

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

women aged 15-21 in 1981 had family incomes below 100 percent

poverty , compared with 14 percent of whites. By 1990, 73 percent of all

children under 18 lived with both parents . Nearly one third lived with

parents who have never been married. Twelve percent of white mothers

living alone with children were under the age of 25, 27 percent had less

than a high school education and 36 percent were unemployed. For

blacks 18 percent were under 25; 34 percent had less than high school

education and 52 percent were unemployed . For Hispanics, the

proportions were 15 percent ,55 percent and 54 percent. Pinkney states,

that studies show that because teenage mothers are emotional immature,

they place themselves and their babies at risk for medical problems. In

addition, school aged children born to adolescent parents exhibit more

behavioral problems and score lower on intelligence test than other

school aged children. In conclusion, Pinkney states, that a basic

problem of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing is poverty. Given the

nature of American society , it is difficult to foresee any positive

outcomes for of adolescent childbirth, especially among minorities.

Pinkney states, of all the industrialized countries , the Unites States

alone has no consistent family planing policy.

On substance abuse, Pinkney focused on both legal and illicit

drugs. The legal drugs being alcohol and tobacco; the illicit ones being

cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin. He discuss crack cocaine in some

length because it is fairly new and believed to have the most serious

adverse effect of any drug on both the individual involved and the

larger society.

Alcohol is potentially dangerous drug, but its sale and use are not

prescribed and it is the major drug of choice in the United States.

Research shows that more males than females have used alcohol and

whites are slightly more likely that blacks and Hispanic to be frequent

drinkers. Among men, however, roughly the sane proportion of each

group were frequent drinkers. White women on the other hand are

somewhat more likely to be frequent drinkers than blacks and Hispanic

women. Whites are also more likely that blacks or Hispanics to drink at

early and at older ages. Of all the categories, Hispanics women are the

least likely to drink and white men are the most likely. Studies show,

blacks drink somewhat less that whites and are more likely to abstain

from drinking. Also, alcohol plays a smaller role in home and family life

among blacks that whites. Although alcohol is legal in the US, its

recreational use is socially acceptable, and it adverse social effects are

greater than those of all illicit drugs. It is said to be the direct cause

between 80,000 and 100,000 deaths annually and it is a factor in nearly

on all of murders , suicides, and accidental deaths. Alcohol related traffic

death are the leading cause of death of adolescence. According to the

U.S. Public Health Service, alcohol is more than 10 percent of all health

problems in the country and 50 percent of all homicides. Also,

cirrhosis of the live killed some 30,000 people annually in the US, and

the mortality rate form the disease among black is double that in the

white population. Fetal alcohol syndrome , is another alcohol related

health problem it is diagnosed in one of every 750 live births. The

diseases is marked by birth defects and usually occurs in women who

drink heavily during pregnancy. The symptoms include brain damage,

low birth weight, and facial and bodily abnormalities.

According to the 1990 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse,

147 million Americans 12 years of age and over have used cigarettes.

Males are more likely have smoked than females and to be regular

smokers. Whites are more likely to have smoked than blacks or

Hispanics and are more likely to smoke regularly. Hispanic women are

least likely to smoke and white men are the most likely. Smoking

increases with age among each of the three groups; within each group

the youngest persons are more likely to use tobacco than any other drug.

Tabacco is a psychoactive substance that stimulates the central nervous

system. It addictive potential is so great that the surgeon general of the

United States declared it to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking is

declining in the United States, and the annual rate of decline had been

higher among men that women. However, cigarette smoking remains

the most preventable cause of death in our society and is responsible for

an estimated 390,000 deaths annually. According to the CDC, Black

men were more likely to smoke than white, but the rates for black and

white women were similar. According to Statistical Abstracts , the

proportion of blacks in the population who smoke cigarettes has

exceeded the proportion of whites since 1965. In addition, person who

smoked cigarettes were more likely than nonsmokers to use alcohol

beverages and to consume a greater quantities of alcohol. Cigarette

smoking had been found to be a major cause of several life threatening

diseases such as emphysema, cancer of the lungs and airways, coronary

heart disease, and vascular disease. Pinkney states although the

destructive potential of tobacco use is well established , cigarettes are

one of the most heavily advertised products. The advertising usually

associates smoking with a glamorous life style , healthy activities, and

social success. Evidence shows that cigarette companies target their

advertising campaigns to minorities, women, blue collar workers, and

teenagers these groups make up an increasing proportion of the

smoking population.

It is reported in the 1990 National Household Survey on Drug

Abuse some 23 million Americans have used cocaine and of that nearly

one million use some form of the drug at least once a week. Males more

than females are likely to have used some form of cocaine and are more

likely to be frequent users. In terms of race /ethnicity , whites and

Hispanics are more like to used cocaine that blacks . Hispanic males are

more likely than white and black males to have used cocaine and are

more frequent users. White females are more likely than black or

Hispanic females to have ever used cocaine and are more likely to be

frequent users. Cocaine releases adrenaline, thereby stimulating the

central nervous system. It also usurps the need for food and sleep and in

high doses it produces extreme euphoria . Adverse reactions may

include cardiopulmonary, psychiatric, gastrointestinal, and as well as

eyes, ears, nose and throat problems. Pregnant women who use cocaine

frequently experienced spontaneous abortions, premature birth, low

birth rates, congenial fetal malformations, fetal irritability and

malnutrition. Also, cocaine is likely to be use in combination of other

drugs , and because it can cause an increased libido, it has been

associated with the spread of STD’s and AIDS.

The 1990 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, reported that

2.7 million Americans 12 years of age and over had used crack and that

nearly half a million were regular users. Males are more than twice as

likely as females to be regular users. A higher portion of black had used

crack cocaine than Hispanics or whites. Blacks were more likely to be

regular users and considerably more black females had used the drug

than Hispanics and white and of the nearly 500,000 regular crack

addicts, more than 200,000 were said to be black. Cocaine hydrochloride

is a white crystalline powder that is about 95 percent pure, is converted

into crack by boiling it in a moisture of backing soda and water. The

mixture is then dried until it becomes a soaplike substance. It is most

often smoked in crack houses were users frequently remain for several

days. The name crack comes from the sudden, sharp sound the drug

makes when smoked. Because it is smoked it goes directly into the

lungs when inhaled and the reaches the brain in a few seconds. It

produces extreme euphoria in a very brief time, and for this reason it

has become the drug of choice for many. Crack cocaine is inexpensive,

highly addictive and easy to use; it is therefore popular among

adolescents. It addictive power is so great that constant users require

hundreds or thousands of dollars a week to support the habit , and

crime is usually the source on income. Crack first appeared on the West

Coast in the early 1980s and made it debut on the streets on New York

in 1984. Scientist doing research states, crack is the most addictive

drug in existence and that the addition comes more quickly and last

longer than any other illicit drug because the drug stimulates the

pleasure center of the brain. The euphoria leaves quickly leaving users

depressed , anxious, and with out pleasure. The biochemistry of crack

addiction is such that the craving for the drug in addicts is so intense

that relapse is almost inevitable the cravings last much longer that for

other drugs. Crack cocaine abuse is associated with the same adverse

reactions as cocaine but often to a greater extent and more severely.

Studies show, the use of crack during pregnancy has serious effects

on the he fetus. It has also been linked to increases in child abuse and

neglect and has been associated with the increase of aggression,

resulting in increase in violent crime and other strains on the criminal

justice system. Although crack has been reported to be prevalent in the

suburbs of New York and elsewhere, its damage has been greatest in

poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Pinkney states, one of the most

destructive results of the increase of libido and impairment of

judgment, that result from addition to crack, has increased the role in

spreading STD’s and AIDS. In crack houses where it is often smoked ,

crack is frequently used in exchange of sex. In some cases many as one

half of the crack users seeking drug treatment tested positive for HIV.

The 1990 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, reported that

1.6 Americans 12 years of age and older have used heroin. Men are

more than twice as likely as women to have used the drug and blacks

are more likely than Hispanics and whites to have used heroin. Heroin

use appears to peak at a later age that than that of other illicit drugs.

Regionally, heroin is used mostly on the East and West coasts followed

by the Midwest and least often the South. Heroin is deprived from

opium and is therefore is a depressant. It induces sleep and lessens

nervous tension. Like most opiates heroin produces relief from pain,

hypnosis and euphoria. It is usually ingested intravenously with hyper

hypodermic needle although it can be sniffed or smoked. The effects on

heroin use have euphoric feelings that give the user a general feeling of

well being an escape from reality. With one injection those feeling can

last for hours. Heroin addicts are usually not violent because the drug

depresses aggression and unlike users of some other illicit drugs, those

who use heroin have little or no interest in sex. Some of the many side

effects are respiratory arrest, anxiety, increased blood pressure, nausea,

insomnia and cardiovascular collapse. Also the hypodermic needles are

often shared is associated with AIDS and hepatitis. Minorities,

especially blacks, have long been over represented among heroin

addicts. However the increase use of cocaine and crack decrease the use

of the drug. The use has been on the increase since 1990 according to

drug enforcement officials. The increased can be linked to improved

growing conditions for opium poppies. There is a wide spread myth that

heroin is not addictive and is less harmful when snorted, but that was

soon shattered in 1991 when several addicts died from snorting toxic

heroin called “Tango and Cash”. Although it was sold as heroin , lab test

reveled that it contained a chemical, fentanyl, which is used as a

tranquilizer during surgery. The New York City Health Commissioner

said of the new drug that “it overwhelms opiate receptors in the brain ,

causing the users to stop breathing. Because the addicts are constantly

looking for a more intense euphoria the drug was immediately popular

despite it deadly potential. Heroin use is said to be on the increase,

because newer forms are widely available and they are less expensive

than in the past. Underground chemist continue to experiment, seeking

ways to create synthetic form of heroin that can be made inexpensively

in labs.

Pinkney concludes minorities in the US, especially black

Americans, are over represented among the homeless, adolescent who

become pregnant, and those who are addicted to harmful drugs.

Although the data on the extent of these social problems are sometime

contradictory they are persuasive . Research on these problems reveals

that to a great degree they result from wide spread poverty, brought

about by the racist nature of society. He goes on to say that this makes it

difficult for black citizens and other minorities to conform to standards

of behavior society sets for all citizens.

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