BY THE FLORIDA COURIER
Editor’s note: This is an updated list of issues that was originally published on Oct. 26, 2012.
1. JOBS AND BLACK BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – Even before the 2008 recession, the Black Press was reporting Black male unemployment rates of 50 percent or more in pockets of high-density Black urban areas like New York and Milwaukee. Black unemployment has increased during the Obama administration, and, when the number of people who are no longer looking for jobs is considered, overall Black unemployment easily exceeds 25 percent nationwide.
Various studies show that Black-owned firms hire a greater percentage of Black applicants than do otherwise similar White-owned firms. But because small Black business owners have difficulty getting investment capital, many have used home equity loans to start or improve their businesses. With the foreclosure crisis that peaked in 2008 (see HOUSING entry), Black entrepreneurs find it more difficult than ever to start or grow their businesses.
Government policies must target the disproportionate impact “The Great Recession” has had both on Black workers and on Black businesses. President Obama must enforce minority business preferences already on the books in federal government procurement – something that did not occur during the first four years, leading some Black business leaders to conclude that his administration is hostile to small Black businesses. Helping Black businesses succeed will have a direct impact on reducing Black unemployment, which is critical to improving the condition of Black America.
2. ‘ENTITLEMENTS’ (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, welfare, public housing) – According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of all Americans have benefited from two or more entitlements program during their lives. Social Security is the sole source of retirement income for too many African-Americans because of a lack of income from pensions and other assets.
A disproportionate number of Blacks rely on entitlements because they are poor.
That dependency grew with the housing foreclosure crisis that robbed many Black families of their largest financial asset: their home. The Pew Research Center indicates that “the median wealth of White households is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households,” the largest disparities since Pew began publishing the data more than 25 years ago.
The growth and length of entitlements must be reduced so that America’s budget deficit will be eliminated over time. However, such reductions should not cause disproportionate pain to the young, the old, and the sick. Focusing on jobs and Black business development can help Black people accumulate wealth, which reduces the number of poor people in Black communities who need government help.
3. EDUCATION – As the Florida Courier reported in September 2012, the racial achievement gap between Black and White students is narrowing so there’s progress to report. But Black boys are still woefully underperforming academically. Black students continue to be disproportionately disciplined by being suspended or expelled from school, which puts them directly into the school-to-prison pipeline.
The level of a person’s education is the single best predictor of economic success in America. Regardless of whether a child attends a public school or a private charter school, the factors of academic excellence are well known: focused, motivated teachers with the tools to get the job done, good administration, parental support, high expectations of students’ abilities, and accountability all around.
Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., a professor at Howard University, suggests improving counseling and advisement in predominantly Black high schools; ensuring that every high school has a college-bound curriculum; supporting Black male initiatives in college; advocating for funding for Pell Grants and needs-based scholarships; and advocating for universal access to public institutions of higher education and historically Black colleges and universities. The Obama administration should continue to encourage and fund such solutions.
4. HOUSING – A study by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) cited by the Washington Post found that Whites made up about 56 percent of the 2.5 million foreclosures completed between 2007 and 2009, but that non-White communities had significantly higher foreclosure rates. Blacks and Latinos were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure during that period, the study found.
Overall, Blacks lost about 240,020 homes to foreclosure between 2005 and 2008, according to the CRL study. A Pew Research study found that “from 2005 to 2009, median wealth fell by 66 percent among Hispanic households and 53 percent among Blacks, compared with 16 percent among Whites. The losses left Hispanic and Black wealth at their lowest levels in at least 25 years,” according to the Christian Science Monitor. The high rates of home foreclosures among African-Americans also damages credit scores, making it harder to borrow money for college, business development, or other beneficial personal investments.
The Obama administration’s foreclosure assistance programs were weak and left too much control in the hands of banks who were content to let the foreclosures proceed. Much of the recent multibillion-dollar settlement with “banksters” will go to lawyers, consultants, and to states. It comes too late for many who lost their homes to bogus foreclosures or filed bankruptcy to stay in their homes. The second round of foreclosure assistance targeting distressed homeowners was not well-publicized. The administration must target assistance to Black homeowners, who were disproportionately hurt, and use the Black Press to do so.
5. DISPROPORTIONATE INCARCERATION – America’s failure to deal with jobs, Black business development, education and housing leads directly to racially disproportionate imprisonment.
According to the Sentencing Project, there are approximately 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails; more than 60 percent are non-White. Many of the millions who are locked up struggle with mental health issues and drug addiction, low levels of educational attainment, and have histories of unemployment or underemployment.
For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. A Black male born in 2001 has a 32 percent chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life; a Hispanic male has a 17 percent chance; a White male has a 6 percent chance.
Solutions include changing draconian “three strikes” and minimum mandatory laws, investing in mental health and drug rehab treatment, reinstating parole and community release, and supporting probation and non-imprisonment alternatives.
6. GUN VIOLENCE – According to “Protect Children, Not Guns,” the Children’s Defense Fund 2012 report, “Black children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009 but were only 15 percent of the total child population. Black males ages 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide in 2009. The leading cause of death among Black teens ages 15 to 19 in 2008 and 2009 was gun homicide. For White teens 15 to 19, it was motor vehicle accidents followed by gun homicide in 2008 and gun suicide in 2009.” As the Obama administration responds to the Newtown school massacre, there must be resources devoted specifically to reducing and eventually eliminating gun violence among Black youth.
7. HIV/AIDS – According to Centers for Disease Control statistics, Black Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in America. Despite representing only 14 percent of the U.S. population in 2009, African-Americans accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections that year. Black Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease, from new infections to deaths. In 2009, Black men accounted for 70 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks more than six and a half times higher than that of White men. Young Black men who have sex with men and young Black women having unprotected heterosexual sex are at particular risk of getting new HIV infections.
Again, this issue results from failure to address joblessness, education, incarceration, and housing challenges in Black America. Those socioeconomic issues, including limited access to high-quality healthcare and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV infection. Efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Black America must be intensified, and Black community-based institutions must become more involved.
8. ‘OBAMACARE’ – It’s the law, but it’s still being demonized. There is massive confusion in Black America as what it will require and how it will be applied. As Obamacare takes a hold around the nation, the administration should work with the Black Press to help Black Americans understand the change Obamacare has wrought.
9. THE U.S. SUPREME COURT – The next president will probably appoint one and possibly two U.S Supreme Court justices. President Obama may have the chance to pick the first Black female justice, with current California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris as the No. 1 contender.
Right now, affirmative action in education is on the chopping block. Black America has no advocate on the court in the mold of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. Obama should appoint a strong Black woman who could hold her own against neoconservative justices.
10. AFRICA POLICY – America is a day late and a dollar short with regard to building strong economic ties to Africa. As America focuses on spending billions of dollars fighting in Afghanistan and maintaining or extending its global military footprint, Chinese, European and Middle Eastern economic interests are spending billions to support nation-building in Africa’s fast-growing economies. Because of longtime historical, political, economic and educational ties to Africa, Black Americans should become the leading economic ambassadors to Africa; such a strategy should become a national priority.
11. ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE – Historically, Black communities have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution from landfills, garbage dumps, incinerators, sewage treatment plants, chemical industries and a host of other polluting facilities, with the associated health problems (particularly cancer) that go along with living in proximity to such sites. Efforts to combat environmental racism in America must be greatly intensified.
12. AMERICA’S POLITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE – America’s political system is broken. Though this may not be a typically “Black” issue, it’s clear that the general dysfunction of America’s political system has a major impact on communities that can’t afford lobbyists or are otherwise not sufficiently organized to represent their own interests.
“Gerrymandered” districts elected or re-elected GOP right-wingers will destroy the country rather than allow Obama to “win’’ anything. The Senate is held hostage by filibuster threats – something that Democrats refuse to change. Obama himself must be pushed to become part of the solution rather be a political survivor of the dysfunctional status quo.
Black Americans should begin to build coalitions with other grassroots organizations that are pushing for term limits for Congress, campaign finance reform, and proportional Electoral College voting, including support of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Sources: Florida Courier archives; New York Amsterdam News; Schott Foundation for Public Education; Center for Responsible Lending; National Black Environmental Justice Network; theroot.com; the Washington Post; The Sentencing Project; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Centers for Disease Control; the Christian Science Monitor; Pew Research.