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10 startling facts from the Atlantic’s black America study

Black America would be as populous as Spain.


Ramon Ramirez

Internet Culture

Posted on Oct 14, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 10:07 am CDT

Inspired by an incorrect #hottake from libertarian talk show host Larry Elder on CNN, The Atlantic decided to follow a theoretical throwaway talking point to its full conclusion. What if black America were an autonomous country? The resulting infographic—created by Theodore R. Johnson and KaNisa Williams—is both depressingly futile and ripe with potential.

Of course, the study comes with requisite grains of salt: “Naturally, this exercise presumes a monolithic black America, but this is a standard hazard when comparing large entities using statistical medians and per-capita rates,” Johnson wrote, “Another obvious concern is that a sub-national, racial demographic is not equivalent to a sovereign nation.” 

In short, black America would be simultaneously a “regional power” and a “fragile state.” Here are 10 reasons why.

1. Black America would have roughly Portugal’s GDP (46th), and Spain’s population (31st).

2. GDP-wise, being 46th in the world puts it ahead of Russia, Mexico, and Brazil.

3. Black America’s population would basically look like the Southeastern Conference in college athletics: equivalent to the combined populations of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

4. The military would be strong. As it stands, black Americans are the only overrepresented group in real America’s military—black Americans are 12.6 percent of the population, but 17 percent of our military servicemembers.

All of this is fairly terrific news. But the Side B of this record isn’t as sunny.

5. For one, 27.4 percent of black America lives at the poverty rate.

6. That’s higher than Iraq’s 15.1 percent.

7. Unemployment is also high at 13.8 percent.

8. 4,347 out of every 100,000 black Americans would be jailed.

9. That’s more than the rest of the U.S., Mexicans, Canadians, and all 28 members of the European Union combined.

10. Overall, black America would rank just below Qatar, Israel, and Italy on the Human Development Index.

HT The Atlantic | Photo by Kozumel/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Oct 14, 2014, 3:01 pm CDT