Thursday 1 December 2022
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‘State of Black America’: Washington Power Shift Brings ‘Dire Risk’ to Economic, Social Progress

By Hazel Trice Edney



NUL President/CEO Marc Morial

( – Now more than 100 days since the inauguration of President Donald Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, the “shift of power and priorities in Washington” has brought a “dire risk” to Black economic and social progress in multi-faceted ways, requiring resolute protection and a “Main Street Marshall Plan”.

This according to the National Urban League’s annual State of Black America report released last week.

“A little more than three months since President Obama has left office, much of the economic and social progress we saw under his watch is under imminent threat,” says NUL President/CEO Marc Morial in a statement upon the release of the report. “Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but it has been real….During the Obama era, the economy added 15 million new jobs, the Black unemployment rate dropped and the high school graduation rate for African Americans soared. Now that progress, and much more, is threatened.”

Morial continued, “It is impossible to discuss the state of Black America in 2017 without addressing the shift of power and priorities in Washington.”

The report, which has a 20-page executive summary and voluminous addendums and essays by numerous policy experts, outlines specific issues where NUL studies have found threats of imminent roll backs. Among them:

  • “Recent proposals before Congress would shift desperately needed resources away from underfunded public schools toward our heavily-invested-in military. The federal budget currently under consideration would slash the budget of the Departments of Health, Education, Housing, and Labor—a blueprint for a sick, uneducated, homeless and unemployed America.  Suggested double-digit cuts, or the outright elimination of funding for vital programs and services, would devastate already vulnerable citizens and working families.”
  • “During his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions surprisingly expressed his doubt—and disregard—for consent decrees secured by the Obama Justice Department in cities where policing patterns revealed ingrained racial bias, systemic civil rights violations and the regular use of excessive force. Citing his concern that the decrees undermine respect for law enforcement, Sessions has ordered a review of all federal reform initiatives, signaling a retreat on common sense police reform that endorses constitutional policing in all our communities. We believe he must continue to enforce these vital consent decrees.”
  • “Furthermore, the social cancer of hate continues to metastasize, thriving in a climate conducive to hostility towards religious and racial minorities, permeating even at the highest levels of national discourse and threatening to further crack our fractured nation. In the 10 days following the 2016 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a ‘national outbreak of hate’ it deemed worse than the days after 9/11. Incendiary language about immigrants, Muslims, women and people of color has translated into discriminatory public policy, including an immigration ban that gives preference to one religion over another; baseless accusations of voter fraud that have provided fresh fuel to racially discriminatory voter suppression measures in state legislatures; and efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in parts, or as a whole, that would have the inevitable outcome of disproportionately burdening communities of color.”

Also included in the report are the annual “Equality Indexes” which compare the economic status between Blacks and Whites. In a nutshell, even the area with the best Black-White income equality revealed Black America woefully trailing and even dropping.

That area is Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., which remained at the top of the NUL Black-White Income Equality ranking for the third consecutive year. According to the 2017 Index, the median Black household in Riverside had 72 cents for every dollar of median white household income. This is down from 76 cents last year.  In Riverside, Black household income fell 3.2 percent year-over-year, while Whites saw an increase of 2.5 percent.

On the other hand, the SOBA reports that Black and White incomes were worse – or least equal -in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. And Bloomington, Wis. Areas. There, the gap was 41 cents on the dollar. In Minneapolis, the median household income for Blacks was $31,672 (up 12.4 percent from last year’s Index) compared to $76,581 for Whites (up 2.7 percent from last year’s Index).

The detailed report states that the highest median household income for both Blacks ($68,054) and whites ($112,177) was in Washington, DC-Arlington-Alexandria, Va. Areas. The lowest median Black household income ($23,693) was in Toledo, Ohio. It report notes, “even though Toledo had one of the lowest median white household incomes in the country, the white household income in Toledo was still more than double the Black household income.  Toledo, OH also had the highest Black unemployment rate, which would at least partly account for the low income of Black households.”

As a remedy to some of the most dire problems, the SOBA presented the Main Street Marshall Plan: From Poverty to Prosperity, described as “a sweeping proposal for economic and social revitalization of America’s cities and struggling neighborhoods.”

Among its key points, The plan calls for:

  • National investment of $4 trillion over the next 10 years: $2 trillion for physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and buildings and $2 trillion for human development, such as education, job training and health insurance.
  • A comprehensive infrastructure initiative, with inner cities being the major beneficiary, and which must include a strong jobs-building component that guarantees minority business participation and employment for workers in high-unemployment neighborhoods.
  • Other highlights outlined in the Marshall Plan include universal pre-k education, a $15 minimum wage with increases indexed to inflation, reforms to financial and educational institutions and programs, criminal justice and police reform and expansion and protection of voting rights.

Morial concludes, “While the Obama years were no panacea for America’s long-standing racial inequities, they were a steady climb toward improvement, and we are determined to keep moving forward to protect our progress.”

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