Friday, April 19, 2013

The State Of Black America

We will soon commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was a watershed moment in our history. However, we must be mindful that it was not a welcomed event as most of white America and the Kennedy Administration were very much against such a gathering of blacks in the nation’s capital. I am saddened to say that as a community, we are not much better off today than we were fifty years ago.

I'm not saying that there has not been significant and important progress in the last 50 years. Surely for some, but if Dr. King were to have an opinion – he would be very displeased. Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, believes there’s a decrease in poverty, increases in high school graduation rates and enrollment rates". This may well be true but I wonder what statistics has he seen to come to this conclusion.

I don't profess to be as honorable or noteworthy as some of our so-called leaders but the disparity between black Americans and white Americans when it comes to jobs, income, healthcare and wealth remains vast and much too large. When you look at the urban communities - the African American plight is worse than ever in most of these categories.

Recently, several organizations gathered for the release of the annual "State of Black America" report, which highlighted the economic forecast for African Americans. Although the report is presented annually, this year, the Urban League commissioned a half-century study to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia Fudge reported that “the unemployment rate is double for blacks than for whites, we've lost more homes to foreclosure than whites and we've lost more wealth than whites”. Yet, they say the percentage of blacks living in poverty has declined 23 points and the percentage of black children living in poverty is down by 22 points since 1963.

It is worth mentioning that the march was prior to the signing of any of the landmark civil rights legislation which adds little credibility to that statement. It is also noteworthy to remember that at that time the, in 1963, Jim Crow was the law of the land and its restrictions did not allow us to use the same bathrooms or eat at lunch counters. So, if you consider this environment - minimal gains have been made to be viewed as great progress.  

The report credits the civil rights measures that were enacted to open the doors of opportunity for blacks in education and standards of living. Rep. Chaka Fattah said, "It is without contradiction that African Americans have made extraordinary progress in the report... But, compared to the majority, we still have some room to grow". I wonder if his constituents would agree in Philadelphia?

Morial then said, as the budget debate continues in Washington on whether to cut critical program funding, the "State of Black America 2013" highlights a harsh reality. "Budget cutting fever will cause economic pneumonia. If we are to move toward a lasting economic recovery, full equality and empowerment, we must apply sustainable solutions keenly focusing on jobs for all Americans and closing the gaps that result in a tale of two Americas”.

 I will tell you that I have lived long enough to have witnessed and know that people will say anything, regardless of complication, on any subject. Many will say “there is no race problem. There’s a black president”. Or they will point to the few, out 42 million, successful African Americans, and I am proud of them.

However, as we commemorate the March that produced the famous “I have a Dream Speech” I believe it is fair to say that most African Americans will see the remnants of the “Dream” more as a “Nightmare”. I have to say from my vantage point the forecast looks GRIM! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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