The State of Black America 2012By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Mar 15, 2012 - 12:01:53 PM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - The state of Black America is simple according to the National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial: “It’s under attack.”
“It’s no coincidence that a nationwide rollback in voting rights for America’s most vulnerable citizens is happening just as elected officials mount unprecedented campaigns to slash investments in education and economic development,” said Mr. Morial.
“As the nation struggles toward a financial recovery, public investments in education, job training and job growth are more vital than ever. Yet those very investments are targeted for sacrifice in favor of diverting more and more of the nation’s resources to those at the very top of the economic pyramid.”
“At the same time, a coordinated effort is underway to exclude from the political process the very citizens whose futures hang in the balance,” he said.
The Urban League took the report public in a March 7 town hall meeting, webcast live and covered by CSPAN at Howard University. It was moderated by Mr. Morial and award-winning journalist Jeff Johnson.
Students, community members and Urban League professionals engaged a panel of leaders and economic experts including activist and writer Kevin Powell, radio host Warren Ballentine, Chanelle Hardy of the National Urban League Policy Institute; Nolan Rollins, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans; Leslie Fenwick, Ph.D., dean of the Howard University School of Education and author and political analyst Kelli Goff.
NAACP head Benjamin Jealous connected the high rates of incarceration for Blacks and Latinos with voter suppression.
“Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately incarcerated even though they are not disproportionately more likely to commit crimes,” he said. “In 1906 Virginia enacted a law that said ex-felons can’t vote. The law was racist then and the law is racist now.”
“Florida enacted a law that pushed 500,000 people off the (voter) rolls. They were mostly Black and Brown.”
Melanie Campbell, of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said Americans are witnessing the largest voting rights assault since passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The report includes two articles that detail the assault on voter rights—“Minority Voter Participation: Reviving Past and Present Barriers to the Polls” by Rep. Bobby C. Scott and “The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Jim Crow Laws” by Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus.
“This is our lunch counter moment. If we don’t get it right, it will have catastrophic consequences in the next 10 years,” said Rev. Yearwood.
Defense of the right to vote remains critical as legislation that would require a government-issued photo ID, shorten voting hours, curtail early voting, and/or impose absurd penalties limiting the registration process is pending in 27 states, said analysts.
“Young people today have not had access to African American teachers as generations before. They’ve missed the models of intellectual authorities,” said Dr. Fenwick. “Seventy-three percent of inner city teachers are White … the majority of public school children are Black and Latino.”
She explained that the children have little if any access to diverse teachers and said there is a need for Black educational leadership. Research shows Black students with Black teachers are less likely to be targeted for special education, less likely to be suspended and less likely to be expelled. They are also more likely to be targeted for gifted and talented programs, said experts.
The report includes articles by Dr. Steve Perry, “Real Reform is Getting Kids One Step Closer to Quality Schools” and “Sacrifice If You Must-The Reward is Clear” by Gregory Carr, Ph.D. and J.D.
“The current challenges facing American higher education places students from Black, Brown and poor communities at a crossroads nearly 60 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision,” wrote Dr. Carr.
“Faced with the prospect of taking on mounting post- secondary debt but seemingly facing uncertain prospects of employment with only a high school diploma, many of these students ask themselves, should I go to college?”
His answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.”
“The fight to fund schools equally, make college tuition affordable, economically revitalize impoverished communities, or to continue to improve access to affordable health care for all Americans will not be won without increased civic participation,” Mr. Morial commented.
The State of Black America report, issued annually by the National Urban League since 1976, includes an “Equality Index,” which compares Black and Latino progress to White Americans on issues such as income, homeownership, health insurance and education.
The 2012 National Urban League Equality Index documents significantly reduced minority voter registration and voter participation in the 2010 mid-term elections. This lost ground in civic engagement offset modest gains in education and health.
For Blacks, this resulted in an essentially unchanged 2012 Equality Index of 71.5 percent and for Latinos, a decline from 76.7 percent in 2011 to 76.1 percent in 2012.
Jeff Johnson of BET fame encouraged the panel to offer solutions.
“Change some of the ways we describe our situation,” offered Mr. Powell. “We have to have a level of compassion for our people …We’ve abandoned the masses of our people. We must challenge our people with love.”
“Find something to be engaged in. We all have a responsibility. … You are a leader. You have a responsibility to go to communities and show people how to be. Change the direction of the conversation, create institutions and be accessible. Love the people.”
Start an economic movement, said nationally syndicated radio host Warren Ballentine. “Open accounts in Black banks. The government won’t save us. The only ones who will save us is us.”