Column: State of Black America: The big eruption

Column: State of Black America: The big eruption
May 01
00:00 2015

By Bill Turner

I just finished my read of the “State of Black America – 2015” report, released recently by the National Urban League. I read it alongside an article in Science magazine by two geoscientists at the University of Utah who have now completely imaged the plumbing system beneath the bubbling geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The Urban League described – to nobody’s surprise — “that black Americans fares worse than their white peers across a variety of indicators, including economics, social justice and overall equality.” For nearly 40 years now, the League’s report gives a high resolution picture of the modest gains blacks have made in some areas as well as a very detailed image of the speed things are moving, how far we yet have to go.

Side-by-side, the Urban League Report and the study by the U.S. Geological Survey of Yellowstone’s volcanic activity make for a great allegory. It was 640,000 years ago when Yellowstone erupted the last time. The scientists noted that there is now enough built-up magma in a new reservoir that they discovered to fill the Grand Canyon if it were to burst forth today.

An explosion in the neighborhood of the Old Faithful Geyser today would eject 1,000 times as much material into the atmosphere as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, “a disaster that would be felt on a global scale.”

Were the riots of Detroit in 1967 or was it the eruption of blacks’ hot anger in Los Angeles in April of 1992 when a jury acquitted LAPD officers of beating Rodney G. King, or was the wrath exhibited in Ferguson, Missouri last fall – or is it the seething discord following the death of Freddie Grey in Baltimore this month – that should inform us of the deeper chamber of hot, molten despair that is deep within America’s social mantle?

Just as geoscientists have developed, literally, a complete diagram of the plumbing system of the world’s largest volcano, one that is capable of erupting with catastrophic violence on a scale never before witnessed, we also have complete pictures and evidence of the crisis in Black America – in America, period – that has the potential to go “Bang!”

This month, under the title “1.5 million black men missing,” the New York Times reported that “in New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South — from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. — hundreds of thousands more are missing. They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars.”

If indeed the tectonic plate below Yellowstone Park is creeping at the rate of roughly an inch a year, the status of far too many Black Americas is deteriorating into a bottomless abyss, a hell on earth. One doesn’t have to be scientist to see what is happening and what is likely to happen.
To view the New York Times story about the missing black men, go to

Dr. Bill Turner is a noted educator, writer and thinker who called Winston-Salem home for many years. Reach him at

William H. Turner © April 24, 2015

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