The National Urban League released the 2017 State of Black America: “Protect Our Progress.” NUL President and CEO Marc H. Morial said the report comes at a time when “so much economic and social progress stands at so much dire risk.”
As a remedy, he presented the Main Street Marshall Plan: From Poverty to Prosperity, a sweeping proposal for economic and social revitalization of America’s cities and struggling neighborhoods.
The centerpiece of State of Black America, the Equality Index, measures the economic and social status of African-Americans relative to white America, with 100 percent representing full equality.
This year’s index, 72.3 percent, is only slightly higher than last year’s, but Morial pointed out that the nation as a whole has experienced significant gains, particularly in employment and health.
The report includes detailed analysis and commentary from contributors such as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi, and U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Karen Bass, Cedric Richmond and Terri Sewell.
“Over the last eight years, the economy added 15 million new jobs and the unemployment rate fell dramatically,” Morial said. “High School graduation rates rose and more than 16 million more Americans who were now uninsured now have health care coverage. The uninsured rate for African Americans was cut in half.”
Morial also cited the Department of Justice’s aggressive enforcement of voting rights, despite the 2013 gutting of the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, and its use of consent decrees to address racial discrimination, profiling and excessive use of force in a minority of police departments.
“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,” Morial said.
Of particular concern, he said:
* New Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of all law enforcement consent decrees, a move that threatens to undermine positive policing reforms in some of the nation’s most troubled police departments.
* The Justice Department reversed course on fighting a Texas voter I.D. case that a federal court determined was passed with deliberate racial discriminatory intent.
* Congress has voted to gut the accountability regulations protecting poor children, minorities, English-language learners and students with disabilities, paving the way for an anti-public school agenda that would funnel public education funds into private, for-profit institutions
* The Trump administration twice has enacted – and federal courts twice have struck down – religiously discriminatory executive orders barring immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, exacerbating a climate of hostility and a spate of hate crimes and harassment throughout the country