The Systems Level Issues for Black People in the USA — Death Spiral Complexity

Kumar Thangudu

April 13, 2019

I tend to meet a lot of white people who chalk up the misfortune of black people to personal responsibility, especially in the South. I also meet some successful black people who do the same.

I don’t always agree with them and tend to believe there’s more to the situation.

I don’t meet a lot of black 1 percenters, although they do exist. I think if you remove Ghanaians and Nigerians from the statistics, the worsening conditions of Black Americans in the USA only become magnified.

As an engineer, I’ve always tended to believe that environmental variables dictate large scale performance of any group of humans.

Example 1:

People: Spaniards are lazy.

Me: Spaniards are in the worst time zone given their placement and have been so for almost a century. It has blowback effects on productivity. Think joules/capita vs labor hours.


Example 2:

People: Americans are fat and lazy.

Me: Give me a 100K europeans, and I’ll make them fatter by bringing them to the USA. Food environments matter.


Similarly, I think there are environmental variables at play that have basically put black people in a bind in the USA and the evidence overwhelmingly seems to support this.

Together, I believe the following 3 things create a symbiotic death spiral effect for the black community in the USA.

1. Asymmetrical property rights access

Redlining and Blockbusting didn’t end til the early 1980’s. Even once that ended, this didn’t end predatory lending schemes that other minorities were less subject to. (Indians and Chinese crowdsourced loans and used family labor, hispanics sent money back to buy land in prior locales, etc…..). While other races accrued generational wealth, blacks in the USA accrued a generational debt death spiral.

2. Fatherlessness/Motherlessness/Single-parentism…

~65% of black children grow up in a single parent family.


The blowback effect of fatherlessness:

  • Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
  • Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
  • Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
  • High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
  • Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger


A black student from a two-parent household with just one parent who dropped out of high school is 3x more likely to repeat a grade in school than a student from a single-parent household where the primary caregiver had an associate’s degree or higher.


3. All bad policy has a magnifying effect.

Locales in the USA where one can be thrown in prison for municipal violations or debt have majority black populations. Ferguson, for example, was all black.

“75 percent of the 4.6 million municipal court cases that move through the system are resolved with a guilty plea, a plea to a lesser charge or a guilty finding at trial — all of which lead to fines and court costs.”


Source: — A good paper to read on the topic of municipal violations issued for traffic violations:

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