The National Urban League’s 40th annual State of Black America Report shows little progress in improving the lives of African-Americans.
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
WASHINGTON – Declaring that the state of Black America is “locked out” of economic, social and educational equality, National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial said in the organization’s 40th annual State of Black America address this week that at least $1 trillion must be invested in America’s urban communities in order to bring a semblance of justice.
Not much change
“As President Obama wraps up his final months as the nation’s first African-American president, we begin to assess the progress Black America has made under his administration. How well has the nation recovered from the worst economic crisis it has seen in generations? How much closer to the goal of universal healthcare coverage has the Affordable Care Act – ‘Obamacare’ – gotten us?
“As President Obama himself said in his commencement address at Howard University, ‘My election did not create a post-racial society.’” Morial said. “Mr. President, you are right.
“The 2016 National Urban League Equality Index tells an all-too-familiar story of persistent racial disparity in American life. Your presidency has made a difference, yet we cannot, in eight short years, eliminate America’s long-standing challenges around racial inequity.”
“With this milestone 40th Anniversary State of Black America, the National Urban League proposes a sweeping and decisive solution to the nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.
We call it the Main Street Marshall Plan: Moving from Poverty to Prosperity,” Morial said in the speech, which was also livestreamed and televised on C-SPAN.
“This bold and strategic investment in America’s urban communities requires a multi-annual and multi-pronged commitment of $1 trillion over the next five years that would course correct our main streets.”
List of solutions
Here are some of the $1 trillion solutions, from the NUL’s perspective, outlined in this year’s State of Black America(SOBA) report:
• Universal early childhood education;
• A federal living wage of $15 per hour, indexed to inflation;
• A plan to fund comprehensive urban infrastructure;
• A new Main Street small- and micro-business financing plan focusing on minority-and-women-owned businesses;
• Expansion of summer youth employment programs;
• Expanded homeownership strategies;
• Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit;
• Targeted re-entry workforce training programs administered through community-based organizations;
• Doubling the Pell Grant program to make college more affordable;
• Expansion of financial literacy and homebuyer education and counseling;
• Expansion of the low-income housing voucher “Section 8” program;
• Establishment of Green Empowerment Zones in neighborhoods with high unemployment;
• Affordable high-speed broadband and technology for all;
• Increased federal funding to local school districts to help eliminate resource equity gaps.
To stress the urgency of the improvements, Morial gave the results of NUL’s 2016 Equality Index of Black America, which is a calculation to illustrate the level of disparity and inequality in specific categories. The Equality Index is in its 12th edition of the Black-White Index and its seventh edition of the Hispanic-White Index.
Measures the ‘pie’
“The Equality Index measures the share of the pie that African-Americans and Hispanics get,” according to the report. “Whites are used as the benchmark because the history of race in America has created advantages for Whites that continue to persist in many of the outcomes being measured. Each category is weighted, based on the importance that we give to each.”
Morial said the overall equality index for African-Americans currently stands at 72.2 percent compared to a revised 2015 index of 72.0 percent. That means that in 2016, Blacks get 72.2 percent of the overall “pie” in America.
Other equality segments are as follows:
Education took the biggest rise, going from 76.1 percent in 2015 to 77.4 in 2016. Economics went from 55.5 percent in 2015 up to 56.2 percent in 2016. Social justice went from 60.6 percent in 2015 to 60.8 in 2016. The civic engagement index “declined sharply over the last year” from 104.0 percent to 100.6 percent.
Health declined slightly from 79.6 percent last year to 79.4 percent.
Morial’s speech was punctuated with graphics, including a video to stress the pains experienced by African-Americans such as police killings of unarmed people. Another graphic was a photo of former NUL Executive Director Vernon Jordan, who served from 1971 to 1981. SOBA was introduced by Jordan 40 years ago.
Much the same
Morial referred back to that time, four decades ago, when Jordan rolled out the first SOBA as a message to the next president. He quoted Jordan:
“‘It is our hope that this document will pierce the dark veil of neglect that has thus far smothered efforts to right the wrongs of the past and the present.
“I hope that it will be read closely in the White House and in Congress that it will influence decision makers to open their eyes to the plight of Black Americans. I hope it will be read by all the candidates in both political parties whose campaigns largely exhibit a refusal to grapple with the concerns of Black citizens.
‘Most crucial election’
“I urge Black people to educate themselves to the issues, to register, and to vote in the upcoming primaries and election. For this election could be the most crucial in recent history for Black people.
The implications of the mass impoverishment of Blacks and the massive assault on our newly-won rights demand that every Black vote be mobilized in defense of Black interests and aspirations.’”
The latest report also includes Morial’s letter to the next president.
“(In 1976), our nation was struggling to overcome the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Pressure was building to slash social services for the poor, who were demonized and characterized as “chiselers.” Communities were rocked by hostility and violence triggered by legal challenges to the social status quo.
“Since 1976, the Black unemployment rate has consistently remained about twice that of the White rate across time, regardless of educational attainment,” the letter states. The household income gap remains at about 60 cents for every dollar. Black Americans are only slightly less likely today to live in poverty than they were in 1976,” according to Morial.
“There have been times when Americans have met our shared challenges – as well as those of the international community – with full-measured urgency. When Europe found itself in physical and economic ruin after World War II, the United States invested $13 billion (or what would be approximately $130 billion today) to help rebuild Western European economies through the European Recovery Program, more commonly known as the Marshall Plan.
“The Marshall Plan ushered a dramatic increase in economic growth in European history. Though the plan officially ended in 1953, the unprecedented economic growth it sparked continued over two decades.
“Former National Urban League President John Jacob introduced the concept of an urban Marshall Plan for America in the 15th State of Black America in 1990. At the time, he said the nation should commit itself to completing ‘our unfinished revolution for democracy and human rights.’
“Dear Mr./Madame President, that revolution remains unfinished,” Morial concluded.
The complete 2016 State of Black America report, including full data sets, ranking lists and articles, is available at www.stateofblackamerica.org.
Hazel Trice Edney of the Trice Edney News Wire contributed to this report.