“Eschewing political banalities, sloganeering and appeals to fears and suspicions, the candidates should seize the opportunity to challenge the nation to regain her sense of purpose by facing her imperfections, not apologetically, but with the firm resolve that this nation can and should do better.” — National Urban League Executive Director Vernon Jordan, the State of Black America, 1976.
As we observe the 40th anniversary of the State of Black America® the similarities of the United States of 1976 and the United States of 2016 are profoundly striking. The nation was recovering from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. According to the report, “Blacks suffered disproportionately because of their low position on the economic ladder as unemployment climbed to depression levels in many of their communities …” These words could just as easily apply to today.
The 2016 edition of the State of Black America® “Locked Out: Education, Jobs and Justice,” will be released on Tuesday, May 17, during a live broadcast from the Newseum. I encourage you to watch on NBCBLK, News One or IAmEmpowered.com.
The report National Urban League’s annual analysis of Black and Latino equality in America, and, for the second year it will be available in an all-digital format available at www.stateofblackamerica.org. Visitors will find the e-book, Web Series, select data, videos, articles and other frequently updated features. This year’s report again includes the Equality Index™, in its 11th year for the Black-White Index and its sixth year for the Hispanic-White Index – measuring how well Blacks and Latinos are doing in comparison to their White peers in five categories: economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement.
The report will include a retrospective detailing America’s 40-year progress in economic and social equality and opportunity. As this year’s report focuses on “Education, Jobs and Justice” it’s valuable to looking back to the state of black education, jobs and justice in 1976. On education, Jordan wrote, “Not only were black children not being educated by the schools, a fact attested to by declining test scores, but they were also being thrown out of the institutions in disproportionate numbers for alleged infractions.” On jobs: “Despite claims that the recession has bottomed out and the worst is behind us, unemployment is still rampant in the nation and even the most optimistic forecast projects a continuing official unemployment rate of over 7 percent. For blacks, this automatically means an official unemployment rate of 14 percent.” Jordan added, “To assume that the nation can live with so many people unable to find jobs and forming a permanent cadre of the helpless and hapless, is dangerous. And on justice: “While blacks are over-represented as crime victims, they are underrepresented in the criminal justice system. The city of Chicago is an example with a population that is 32.7 percent black, it has a police force that is only 16 percent black. A survey by the Race Relations Information Center revealed that in 42 states out of a total of 41,984 state police personnel, only 616 or 1.5 percent are black.”
At the launch of the State of Black America® 2016, “Locked Out: Education, Jobs and Justice,” we look forward to hearing from Vernon Jordan himself. Some of the nation’s leading thought-leaders, analysts and activists are featured in our Web Series such as David Johns, Jonathan Capehart, Mo Ivory and Sam White. The report itself includes essays from notables such as Journalist and author Joy-Ann Reid, Congresswoman Robin L. Kelly, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Sundial Brands Founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis.
Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.