SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio community now has an in-depth look at the persistent inequities the city's Black community. In January, the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAAC) and the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAF) released a collaborative report titled "State of the African American Community in San Antonio and Bexar County."
The goal was to establish a baseline of the needs of the community to begin working towards solutions.
"If we want to thrive as a community, every single member of our community has to thrive," said Patricia Mejia, the Vice President of Community Engagement and Impact with SAAF.
Bobby Blount, Chair of SAAAAC said the report also underscored the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of inequities related to building generational wealth, education, and overrepresentation in the criminal legal system.
"The interrelationship between different domains that we were looking at on the education side, health side, finance side are simply fascinating how much dependency there are between those different areas," Blount said.
The two stated that moving towards more equitable outcomes will take the work of the entire community, nonprofits, corporations, and local, state, and federal agencies.
Breakdown of what the report found, and ideas for solutions
The report studied various aspects from population, housing, education, employment and financial stability, business, health, criminal justice, and social connection. The report also highlighted community voices and shared policy recommendations to help support solutions. You can find the full report here.
7% of Bexar County residents identify as Black or African American. The report also found that Black residents are overrepresented as veterans. They make up 18.7% of vets in the San Antonio area, the highest of any race/ethnic group. The report also points to research detailing how socioeconomic status is a fundamental cause of disability, which can in turn affect access to housing, employment, education, and transportation. American Indian or Alaska Natives have the largest percent of noninstitutionalized residents with a disability of some kind. Black or African Americans have the second highest percentage at 16%.
Blount and Mejia both echoed the importance of homeownership as a path to creating generational wealth. The report found Black households are less likely to own their own homes compared to all communities of different races and ethnicities.
41% of Black households own their home, compared to 59% of all households across Bexar County. Blount and Mejia agreed that the solution could start with increasing access to financial literacy.
"It could mean how to build credit, how to establish a bank account, things that some people take for granted, if that hadn’t been something that your family did, you need some guidance on how to do that," said Mejia. "There are also housing counselors who really take people step by step...what does it look like to own a home, what are the next steps to get down payment assistance?"
Employment, and Financial Stability
The median household income for Bexar County residents is $57,157. For Black San Antonians, that average number is $48,509.
According to the report, the Black population of Bexar County, has average rates of labor force participation yet incomes lag.
The report stated that this population is "more likely to face systemic obstacles to employment. Those obstacles vary widely but can include lack of affordable and accessible full-day child care, lack of reliable transportation, education and skills that match poorly with available jobs, exclusion from personal networks that open informal doors to jobs, bias and overt discrimination, disability, and prior criminal justice system involvement."
Among some of the recommendations were:
a. work with financial institutions to ensure the products and services they are offering meet family needs and are accessible to communities.
b. Expand support of financial empowerment centers to reach more African American or Black residents to help them build credit, increase savings, pay down debts, and boost income.
c. Rein in payday and auto title lending abuses by updating the San Antonio City Ordinance, similar to updates in Austin and Dallas, to improve its effectiveness and enforcement, and working with other governmental entities in Bexar County to promote beneficial lending practices.
Despite making up 6% of the population in the San Antonio - New Braunfels population, Black residents only make up 1% of business owners with employees. They make up 12% of veteran owned business without employees.
"The various capacity building type programs and getting those early to businesses even before they establish, is very important," said Blount. "For me to know how to handle my finances, for me to know how or when do I do a marketing report, when do I handle my operations, where can I get other types of support, etc. I think those are the types of things that will make businesses stronger with the dollars they do have and will help them grow in terms of their wealth and finances."
Black students make up 7% of all enrolled students in the 15 largest Bexar County School Districts. 68% are economically disadvantaged compared to the Bexar County average of 63%.
The report also found that Black students are less likely to be in Advanced Placement or AP Courses. They were also found to be less likely to be in gifted and talented programs.
"Much more than just establishing these type of programs, we have to build the community also, it’s informing the community, here’s the value in doing this, we need you to have that, we need you to really understand how that can be a value to your child," said Blount.
Blount said he received a call from an academic institution since the two weeks the report's been out. "[they] said 'we’re on board to help, we’ve got some major efforts we thank we can make some major contributions, when can we meet?' so those are the type of conversations we’ve had in the short time," he said.
The report found the Black community is overrepresented in traffic stops, arrests, and citations. Some of the recommendations made in the report included:
- Eliminating the practice of seeking consent searched during traffic stops.
- Restrict officer authority to arrest for traffic violations.
- Consider non-police alternatives for some or all types of traffic enforcement.
The report also found the Black population is arrested for citable offenses at higher rates than the white population. Researched recommended:
- Adopting a written policy limiting police arrest authority for citable offenses to narrow circumstances.
- Expand reporting on arrests, citations, and prosecution decisions for citable offenses to better understand any disparities and how enforcement of citable offenses serves community safety priorities.
Blount said they recently launched a new program with the San Antonio Police Department aimed at improving community-police relationships.
"[It's to] help improve relationships within the community, that doesn’t have that trust with a police officer, and also with the police force that doesn’t have that experience with the community itself," Blount said.
Mejia said the report showed how crucial nonprofits will be in moving towards progress. They plan to continue partnering with nonprofits who can help families navigate systems they are underrepresented in.
"These challenges have been created by hundreds of years of policies and programs, and disinvestment in certain communities," she said. "We're gonna have to have the patience to unrealize some of those things."
They are working to plan a series of community round tables and conversations related to addressing issues found in the report. Those dates will be shared on KENS5 platforms when they become available.