Black America braces for what’s ahead in 2014By Charlene Muhammad -National Correspondent- | Last updated: Jan 17, 2014 - 9:12:02 AM
Plenty of bad news and bad forecasts
2014 will unfortunately be a replay of 2013, according to macro-economist Dr. Algernon Austin. “At best, we will see the very slow and very weak economic recovery continue,” Dr. Austin told The Final Call.
He suggested people pressure elected officials to extend unemployment insurance, expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and increase the minimum wage. Politicians must invest in public transportation and other infrastructure projects, prevent further state and local government cuts, and expand Social Security, among other things, he said.
A united economic front
While the Congressional Budget Office anticipates small growth in America’s Gross Domestic Product over the next few years, the news is not so good in other areas that directly impact Americans.
The U.S. economy made little progress and unemployment over all will remain at about eight percent, the Congressional Budget Office noted in “What is the U.S. economic outlook for 2014? Not good,” posted on economicoutlook2014.com.
For Blacks, that means a much higher unemployment rate, typically officially double the White rate on a national level and much higher for Black youth.
But the overall economic outlook for Black America is ripe with potential with organizations such as the Nation of Islam continuing the push to unite and pool financial resources available in the community.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan reintroduced “Muhammad’s Economic Blueprint” last year, warning it is unrealistic to rely on the U.S. government to provide jobs and address the many needs of its Black citizens.
The program, which calls for 16 million Black wage earners to contribute 35 cent a week, $18.20 per year, to a national treasury via www.economicblueprint.org, is a realistic, painless and attainable solution to many of the issues that plague the descendants of slaves in America.
“This time of great crisis and economic downturn calls for a sound Economic Plan,” said Min. Farrakhan. He noted Blacks were slipping deeper and deeper into the abyss of poverty and want, and detailed a few statistics on the dire condition of “Black Life” in America.
Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but own a meager “1 percent” (about $650 billion) of its total wealth (about $65 trillion), Min. Farrakhan said. He added, of the five million Americans that have lost their homes so far, the “Black foreclosure rate” is 80 percent higher than the rate of Whites.
While the official “unemployment rate” is 7.8 percent, the official rate for Blacks shot up over a full point, from 13 percent to 14 percent, Min. Farrakhan continued. However, the numbers are deceptive, he said because according to some economists, the “unemployment rate for Blacks” is closer to 30 percent.
“The statistics for Blacks in America have always been bad! And now, they are truly ominous. Clearly, we are in a dire condition—and the government of America cannot solve our problem. I want you to understand this, brothers and sisters; you whose ‘hope’ is in government to do this,” he said.
Health disparities, healthier choices
On the health front, 2013 saw several challenges relating to the physical and mental wellbeing of Black America. Statistically, while Blacks represented less than 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they topped many lists when it came to obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, certain cancers, heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.
Several maladies greatly concerned Dr. Corey Herbert, CEO of BlackHealthTV.com and medical director at Dillard University.
“I saw a disturbing trend in the amount of pediatric cases of diabetes due to diet,” Dr. Herbert told The Final Call. He was referring to Type 2 Diabetes, the most common form of the disease, which can be controlled and even cured with proper diet and exercise. Dr. Herbert, a pediatrician, said when he started practicing medicine 17 years ago, he had no patients with Type 2. Now he has 60 diabetes patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 4.9 million or 18.74 percent of non- Hispanic Blacks age 20 and older have the disease.
“This is an alarming trend because of our diets and eating these processed foods, and I think this is something that is only going to get progressively worse because of the way we deal with food in America,” he added.
The CDC also noted Blacks had 51 percent higher obesity rates compared to Whites from 2006-2008. The American Heart Association in its 2013 fact sheet indicated 37.9 percent of non-Hispanic Black men and 53.9 percent of non-Hispanic Black women were obese.
Among U.S. men, for all cancers combined the rate for new cancers is highest among Black men the CDC also noted.
Despite past successes, “empirical data reveal a number of areas in which racial/ethnic health disparities continue to exist,” indicated the National Medical Association in its 2013 report on
African American Health. The NMA is the country’s largest and leading professional association of Black physicians.
According to the group, Blacks have higher mortality rates for nearly all causes of death including suicide, HIV, homicide, heart disease.
Black men and women die from diseases of the heart 28.57 percent and 34.17 percent more often than White men and women, it continued.
Dr. Herbert said there was also an “uptick” in sexually transmitted diseases, and according to the CDC, Blacks are still the largest racial/ethnic group affected by these diseases.
“So many people now think that HIV and a lot of these other diseases are off the map that we don’t see them anymore. But in actuality we do see them and the ones that we do see (strains of HIV) are a little bit more aggressive than the ones we saw before,” he said.
Access to quality health care still proves to be a problem as well, noted several reports.
Black Americans must be more cognizant of what they put in their bodies to begin tackling some of the problems, Dr. Herbert said. Consuming more fruits and vegetables, cutting out alcohol and cigarette smoking, washing hands to cut down on spreading germs, and maintaining good dental health are a few of his suggestions.
He also urged Black organizations to unite to combat the daunting and overwhelming health disparities in Black America.
“We have to do this in a coalition. We can’t do it in a way that’s just haphazard. It’s got to be coalition based, grassrootsbased because if we do it from the communities and take it up, it will stick a lot better than if we do it on the federal level and trickle it down,” said Dr. Herbert.
Organizing against violence
Carl Dix, a revolutionary activist and co-founder of the October 22nd Coalition predicted the continued and intensified criminalization of Black and Brown youth is ahead in 2014.
“You’re going to see more police murders. You’re going to see more of these vigilante and civilian murders of Black people. There’ll be more murders on the border of Latinos, but that might not get much news. They may be able to suppress that but that’s going to be going on nonetheless.”
“It really is treating our youth like criminals, guilty until proven innocent if they can survive to prove their innocence,” Mr. Dix told The Final Call.
Part of the problem is the increasingly common right wing narrative spreading in social media, talk radio, and Fox News about Black on White crime, feels Tim Wise, anti-racism activist and author.
In the wake of the Zimmerman trial, the media placed a lot of attention on the killing of Christopher Lane, an Australian baseball player in Oklahoma, he said.
The killing ignited a whole narrative about how Black people and Black activists never spoke about it, but in reality, the perpetrators were one White and two Black youths, he said. They killed Mr. Lane for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with being White, but the mainstream drove that narrative home, he argued.
“When you have right wing media constantly painting this narrative that Black people are out to get White people, and that’s been a constant theme for a year and a half since Trayvon, then it’s really not shocking that certain folks are going to respond to the presence of Black people in the way that they have and the way that they are which is sort of a shoot first ask questions later kind of mentality,” Mr. Wise told The Final Call.
Elaine Brown, former Black Panther leader, insists Blacks must tackle the problems of violence as it pertains to youth and race relations head on and in a more organized way.
“We should be looking to ourselves because that’s the only help that we have. That’s number one. And unfortunately, we are not organized,” Ms. Brown told The Final Call.
In addition, Blacks must face the fact they are powerless, primarily because they are poor and at the mercy of elected officials who have shown they don’t have Black best interests in mind, she continued.
“So everybody on the job is hustling. Everybody has two and three jobs. Everybody’s trying to keep their house. Everybody’s trying to cut corners on their food. But White people are not thinking like that, generally speaking, other than the poor ones,” said Ms. Brown.
School closures: a wrap up
School closings, one of the same major education issues that closed out 2013, opened 2014.
There were more school closings than ever last year with Chicago’s 47 closed schools leading the nation, followed by Philadelphia with 23. The closings predominantly affected poor (90 percent), and Black (80 percent) students, and left some parents with few choices of where to send their children.
In Philadelphia 10,000 students were displaced, there were 3,700 layoffs and nine charter schools were opened. In Chicago 12,700 students were displaced, 3700 teachers were laid off, though 1,000 were hired back and 15 charter schools were opened.
“This is a national policy of de-education for people who can least afford it,” said Phillip Jackson, who leads the Black Star Project in Chicago. “Instead of closing schools, we should be opening schools and encouraging children to learn.”
The Black Star Project is poised to continue its fight in Chicago to end school closings and expand their work nationwide. Closed schools are typically
the results of low-test scores with some schools reporting 95 percent of their students below grade level, low attendance and budget cuts, as well as budget deficits.
Just saying school closings creates emotional responses from city leaders, parents, activists and children.
While he wants to stop school closings, Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, says it’s a time to rejoice.
“A closing school should be celebrated because the children are free,” he told The Final Call. “You can’t call it a school if the children are not being educated. The day 95 percent of our children are not on level, that’s the day the school should be closed. Our children are just not being taught,” Dr. Perry said.
“Education has always been a civil rights issue. Education is our only protected right,” added Dr. Perry, who is on a national campaign to help parents take charge of their children’s education and demand better schools while letting failing schools go.
According to Dr. Sunni Ali, assistant professor at Northeastern Illinois University, public education as people know it will soon no longer exist.
“We will only have a few high functioning public schools left that will be magnet schools. The other schools will be turned over to businesses to run. They will take the problems off the states’ hands,” he told The Final Call.
Dr. Ali feels a solution is to provide failing schools with the same resources as charter schools, invest in crumbling infrastructure and provide support for teachers.
“Practically all of the teachers in charter schools are White.
You would never find an all-Black staff teaching at an all-White school. It just wouldn’t happen,” he continued.