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State of Black America: Protect our progress

MARC H. MORIAL | 5/15/2017, 12:24 a.m.
“Unprecedented. It’s a word that has been used to describe the 2016 presidential campaign and election season, not to mention ...

National Urban League

“Unprecedented. It’s a word that has been used to describe the 2016 presidential campaign and election season, not to mention the nascent Trump administration. With unfinished business in the areas of racial justice, race relations and economic inequality, many anticipate a fight to defend the progress that has been made, while also resisting retrenchment in these critical areas.… The 2017 National Urban League Equality Index provides a veritable ‘line in the sand’ from which to measure where the country goes from here.”

— Valerie Rawlston Wilson, Ph.D.,Overview of 2017

National Urban League

Equality Index, May 2, 2017

As of this writing, for 102 days our nation has watched as the Trump administration has taken shape – and, for many of us, there is reason to worry.

Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but it has been real. While high school students of color and low-income students continue to trail their peers in high school completion, the national graduation rate continues to rise. Republicans are working hard to re-introduce a health care bill that will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but today, a record number of Americans have health insurance. Now all of that progress, and much more, is under threat.

This year’s State of Black America is a call to action, a call to unceasing vigilance, and a call to protect our nation’s hard-fought-for progress. And as we do with every edition of the State of Black America, we provide the numbers and the narrative to make our case.

According to National Urban League’s exclusive 2017 Equality Index for both Blacks and Hispanics, there is progress, but there is much more progress that needs to be made. Tracking racial equality in economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation, we find that African Americans share 72.3 percent equality with White Americans (in 2016, the number stood at 72.2 percent). Hispanics – who stood at 77.9 percent equality in 2016 – shared a greater slice of the “equality pie” this year, standing at 78.4 percent equality with their white peers. The Trump administration’s priorities and proposed policies put what social and economic gains we have made in urban communities and communities of color at serious risk.

Guest contributors to the State of Black America remind us of what is at stake. Senator Cory Booker tackled our broken criminal justice system, lamenting that just as modest, bipartisan agreement on fixing our broken system was being cultivated, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed “intent on turning back the clock – threatening to increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences, criticizing consent decrees that improve police-community relations, and expanding federal use of private prisons.” Rep. Terri Sewell called for the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, “which restores and advances the VRA [Voting Rights Act] by providing a modern-day coverage test that will extend federal oversight to jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression and protects vulnerable communities from discriminatory voting practices,” understanding that we cannot claim to be a democracy while snatching the right to vote away from eligible citizens. Rep. Robin Kelly reminds us that as we “drive toward the goal of an equitable health future for communities of color, we cannot afford to take our foot off the gas. The Affordable Care Act put us on the right road and we are seeing progress.”