Black Americans are better off than they were 50 years ago but are still far behind White America in income and employment, the National Urban League concluded in its annual assessment of African Americans.
The 37th annual “State of Black America” report, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was released April 10.
The annual report assessed the progress of African Americans from the March on Washington through the present in the areas of educational achievement, income and employment, areas in which discrimination, historically have been “pervasive and entrenched,” the report read.
“As we commemorate this event and reflect on the progress we’ve made toward economic equality, we are faced with the sobering truth, that while much has been achieved, so much more needs to be done,” wrote NUL President/CEO Marc Morial in his introduction.
According to the report, since 1963, Blacks have shown the most improvement in educational attainment, due to affirmative action policies and early learning programs such as Head Start.
For example, the high school completion gap has closed by 57 percent, more than three times the number of Blacks are enrolled in college and five times the number of college graduates.
Anti-poverty measures have also raised Blacks’ standard of living, the report stated. In the years since 1963, the percentage of Blacks living in poverty has decreased by 23 percent and homeownership has grown by 14 percent.
Even as the League hailed these signs of progress, it warned that some use these achievements—including the election and re-election of the nation’s first Black president—as ammunition to roll back programs that have aided in the reduction of racial disparity.
“They use this shiny veneer of progress to justify the elimination of affirmative action in education and employment; to roll back voting rights protections…; and to cut back on social investments that can help current and future generations survive and thrive in a fast-changing economy,” Morial wrote.
And, in reality, despite their advancements, Blacks continue to lag behind Whites economically. For instance, the income disparity gap has only closed by 7 percentage points (now at 60 percent.) And the employment rate gap has closed by a mere 6 percent (now at 52 percent.)
Given those harsh realities, there needs to be a new focus on creating jobs and supporting livelihoods within Black America—just as the proponents of the March on Washington demanded 50 years ago.
African Americans “must become the masters of our own fate to fully realize the economic prosperity we demanded in 1963,” Morial wrote. And the State of Black America 2013, appropriately titled Redeem the Dream: Jobs Build America, “raises an urgent call for an intentional focus on, and investments in, jobs for our community and our future.”