Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The African American Situation
The 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington in 1963 for Jobs and Freedom, a watershed moment, has recently been celebrated. Yet, the African American in particular, is poorer and in a worse position now, than in 1963. In America, the premise of the American system dictates that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer!
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 the March on Washington for equality. In fact, a survey at the time records that most of white America stated “the negro is happy”, therefore, the request for equality is coming from a few outside agitators. In spite of a quarter of a million people walked, rode buses and trains to make the statement that they are just plain wrong.
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. 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 remain vast and much too large. When you look at the urban communities - the African American plight is worse than ever in most 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.
A point to note, 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, 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. Moreover, the civil rights of people of color only took about three hundred years to achieve.
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 because there’s a black president. Or they will point to the few, out 42 million, successful African Americans as progress. But the reality is most African Americans see the remnants of the Dr. King's Dream more as a “Nightmare”. I have to say from my vantage point the forecast looks GRIM! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…