State of Black America: Gaps persist

The Urban League urges President Obama to tackle the social and economic inequalities faced by black Americans.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Social and economic gaps between whites and blacks persist in the United States despite an atmosphere that led to the election of President Barack Obama, an Urban League report said.

Blacks remain twice as likely as to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be imprisoned, according to the group's annual State of Black America issued Wednesday.

The report urges President Obama to tackle the critical challenges of the times, including unemployment, home foreclosures, education and health care reform.

"As the Obama administration ushers in a new era of hope, change, and to some extent, unity for this nation, many are asking whether racial barriers have now been erased in America. Are discrimination, division and inequality antiquated relics of the past? For a quick answer to that question, one has but to review some of the sobering statistics," the report said.

The group's equality index shows the status of blacks at 71% that of whites. It says economics "remains the area with the greatest degree of inequality," with social justice, health and education following.

"The analysis shows that while important gains were made, both for blacks and whites, in each of these areas during the 1990s expansion, there was actually a loss of ground in median household income, poverty and homeownership during the 2001-2007 expansion, known as the jobless recovery," the report's executive summary said.

The report contains essays touching on a variety of themes and issues.

One, from Gwendolyn Grant of the Urban League of Kansas City, warns that the "historic" election of President Obama, the nation's first black president, "may cause us to fall prey to a false sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, and that apathy and complacency may set in."

"We must use this moment to reinvigorate the movement and re-engage the nation in a struggle to finish the job of equality, liberty and justice for all. So as we move past this historic moment, let us not repeat the history of our greatest popular movements and allow injustice to prevail, simply because a black family lives in the White House."

She proposes that a movement to foster equality for blacks in all realms of American life should be "fashioned" after ideas promulgated by the Obama campaign. They are blending personal responsibility, "principled ideas" with pragmatism, and building grass-roots movements crossing racial, ethnic, generational, gender and regional lines,

"We must use this moment to reinvigorate the movement and re-engage the nation in a struggle to finish the job of equality, liberty and justice for all ," she said.

The report lists policy recommendations in the areas of home ownership, jobs, health and education. Here are some of them.

  • Increased funding for underskilled workers' job training programs.
  • Steering workforce investment dollars to construction industry jobs.
  • Funding infrastructure development for public building construction and renovations of schools, community centers, libraries, recreation centers, parks.
  • Creating temporary public service employee program.
  • Passing a homebuyers bill of rights that would protect and educate consumers and provide homebuying help.
  • Restoring a small business loan program and continue tax credit funding.
  • Implementing "a comprehensive and universal health insurance system for all Americans."
  • Developing "a comprehensive health infrastructure for the delivery of health education, prevention and intervention initiatives" for blacks.
  • Studying health care in the criminal justice system as it relates to black inmates.
  • Examining economic, sociologic and environmental contributors to "chronic health conditions."
  • Funding in full No Child Left Behind.
  • Guarantee access to high quality early education for 3- and 4-year-olds.
  •  To top of page
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