Reuters collected metrics across 11 stages of life, from maternal health to educational attainment, wealth accumulation and life expectancy, to illustrate how the systemic discrimination and disenfranchisement of Black Americans plays out over a lifetime, more than 150 years after slavery was abolished.
While there has been progress, gaps have widened in the years since the civil rights victories of the 1960s, proving immune to decades of laws and policies meant to address them.
Taken together this breadth of data reflects what many have labeled systemic racism, pervading every aspect of Black American life from birth to death.
Amid the mass protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer in May of 2020, there were national discussions about aspects of the plight of Black Americans, particularly around police brutality.
Investigations, data-reporting and the unraveling of a complex history of legislation were vital for the understanding of each individual disadvantage. But while as a society we have attempted to understand these metrics in isolation, it’s looking at them in a broader context.
Our aim in this piece is not to educate on depth, but on breadth, and to show that the unrest America saw in 2020 cannot be solved by focusing solely on police action.
In the wider conversation about Black Lives Matter, The Race Gap shows just how Black Americans are disadvantaged at every stage of their lives.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The data collection effort on this piece was immense. Though only a handful of data points appear in the final piece, that is the result of a winnowing from hundreds of possible metrics to find the most salient and illuminating. Honing that data into the most straightforward and digestible story was the biggest challenge, as each metric has the potential to tell its own story, with additional charts, history, context and supporting data.
What can others learn from this project?
Sometimes breadth can be more effective than depth. As data-journalists we are obviously keenly interested in data, its complexity and nuance. But sometimes a deep dive into one facet of a story is a disservice to the wider points that need to be made. That can take a rigid discipline to cut interesting and important facts to not lose the focus and drive of the narrative.