Thursday, March 30, 2006

The State of Black America: Report Says Katrina is Today's Bloody Sunday

The State of Black America

Reprinted From AOL Black Voices

The news is old news; the message is delivered renewed urgency: Black Americans, as a group, continue to lag behind whites in most of the crucial areas that determine the quality of life a person, a family or a community is able to achieve and maintain in the United States, according to the National Urban League in its annual State of Black America report.

Even after the roaring economy of the 1990s and a current economic recovery that is generally strong, persistent inequalities between blacks and whites are a fact of life, and nothing so illustrated that more than the after effects of Hurricane Katrina, the authors assert.

For example, real median income for blacks was 62 percent what is is of whites and median net worth of African-American families is $6,166, which is more than 10 times less what it is for white families: $67,000. "What that tells you in part is that African Americans are not investing in 401(k)s and IRAs at the same levels.

"Two years ago, we saw that things were tough, but there was a recession," says Urban League President and former New Orleans mayor, Marc H. Morial. "Now that things are better, we're still suffering. The jobless recovery is a real thing for black Americans."

Drawing from government data, academic studies and public policy literature, the NUL's report is an attempt to quantify and crystallize the problems and progress in America's black communities. Morial describes the reports purpose this way: "We consider it critically important to Black America to quantify and enumerate just how far African Americans have climbed on the index of equality since that moment two centuries ago when the white men who constructed the American government created an invidious concept of measurement -- three-fifths of a person -- to define the enslaved African and African Americans who were doing more than their share to build the American nation."

Full of statistics, charts and recommendations for change, the nearly 300-page report finds that black Americans are living, achieving, at a level more than three-quarters that of white. In its Equality Index, the Urbal League finds that the status of black Americans to be .73 compared to a measure of 1.0 for whites. Writes Morial in his summary: "That figure, drawn from examining the status of African Americans in five areas: Economics, health, education social justice and civic engagement, was a stunning indication of the glacial pace of the progress America has made toward equal opportunity in the century and a half since the end of the Civil War, the emancipation of blacks from slavery, and the constitutional correction, via the Thirteenth Amendment, of the wrong of the three-fights clause."

That that historical analysis, often missing and unwelcome in the contemporary discussion of racial inequality is everpresent in the report. In his essay on the wealth gap between blacks and whites, Brandeis University professor Thomas Shapiro, makes the point: "More than any other economic attribute, wealth represents the sedimentation of historical inequalities in the American experience, in a sense the accumulation of advantages and disadvantages for different racial, class and ethnic groups," he writes, "In a way, it allows us a window to explore how our past influences our realities today."

So while African Americans are making great stride in economically, in health and healthcare, education, and well as socially annd politically, blacks, in general, continue to fall short. Statistics show that blacks have more than double the rates of poverty, infant mortality and unemployment; and among young inner city black men the unemployment and school graduation rates are at crisis levels.

In his study on homeownership, Columbia University professor, Lance Freeman, writes that while 49.1 percent of blacks owned homes in 2004, the highest rate ever, that number was 25 percent less that the homewonership rates among whites, and that black homeowners had much less equity in their homes than whites, because the paid higher interest rates and could afford cheaper houses.

The reports also deals with the causes and consequences of the high rate of incarceration among black men; about the need for renewed vigilance in regard to voting rights for black people and the renewal of the Voting Rghts Act and about the role of the black elite must play in rescuing the 40 percent of African Americans stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder.

After the victories of the Civil Rights movement, writes Harvard Professor Martin Kilson, there has emerged a mainstream black professional class that understands how mainstream systems work in poltics, government and the economy. "Now more than ever," Kilson writes," they must use this access to the nation's poltical process as never before to create policies and direct public resources that ameliorate the profound difficulties that have ensnared those African Americans still … in poverty."

Morial, touching on an issues dear to heart, referred to Hurricane Katrina as "this generation's Bloody Sunday," referring to the March 1965 civil rights march in Alabama that focused the nation's attention on racial segregation in the South.

"Unfortunately," he writes, "the initial flurry of concern and attention to poverty and injustice has given way to the status quo."


REPORT FROM THE NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE POLICY INSTITUTE

Sunday Morning Apartheid: A Diversity Study of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows

by Stephanie J. Jones
Executive Director
National Urban League Policy Institute

Concerned about the paucity of African Americans in the media venues that help to shape public opinion and influence policy, the National Urban League Policy Institute undertook an indepth study of the guest lineups of the Sunday morning political talk shows. The study, covering the period from January 2004 through December 31, 2005, revealed, among other things, that:
Sixty-one percent of all of the Sunday morning talk shows featured no black guests;
Eighty percent of the broadcasts contained no interviews with black guests;
Eight percent of the more than 2,800 guest appearances have been by black guests;
One person—Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News—accounts for 40 percent of all appearances by black guests;
Three guests—Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Juan Williams—account for 65 percent of all appearances by black guests;

The vast majority of interviews with black guests other than Rice and Powell focus partisan political issues such as the 2004 Elections, rather than broader policy issues such as the economy, national security, and foreign affairs.

Sunday morning talk shows are more than a mere source of news; they are a crucial staple in the public discussion, understanding and interpretation of politics and government and other public policy issues in the United States. Each Sunday, these programs frame the perception and coverage of issues that have a substantial impact on the American public.

Yet, with few exceptions, week after week, they continue to present their audiences with virtually all-white panels to deconstruct the issues of the day, even after being put on notice that this problem exists, leaving the impression that interest in and analysis of these topics are “for whites only.”

Broadening the pool of guests improves the tenor and quality of the debate, offers a richer and more varied array of information to viewers and helps fulfill the news outlets responsibility to educate its audience so that they will be better equipped to make informed political and policy
The National Urban League urges the cable and broadcast networks to carefully consider these findings, assess their processes and aggressively work to diversify their on-air presentations. It is time for Sunday Morning Apartheid to end.


SPECIAL SECTION: KATRINA AND BEYOND
New Orleans Revisited

by Marc H. Morial
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Urban League

The day after Katrina, pictures of New Orleanians stranded and suffering at both the Louisiana Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center hit the national news. Their faces, filled with so much pain and struggle, shocked both my wife and me. I was sad and angry, because I knew there was no reason that people should have been at the Superdome or the Convention Center, the landmark that bears my father’s name, without food, water and medical supplies. Something had gone very, very wrong.

When I visited New Orleans a few weeks later, I arrived to a city that was completely abandoned. There were few signs of life. On that first day back, I visited my old neighborhood, Pontchartrain Park. I knew earlier it had been completely covered by water. Now dry, it was gray and lonely.

On Caffin Avenue, we looked to our left and saw the long white limousine that was a signature vehicle for the Glapion Funeral Home, had been carried two blocks by the sheer force of the water. The gap in the levee was several city blocks long and the path it cut was like a powerful bomb, shattering every structure in its wake. There was rubble; people’s homes and cars were scattered everywhere. The pain, the sadness, the sense of loss that came over all of us who were part of that trip was numbing. Despite it all, many homes were still standing. I came away believing that all of these neighborhoods could make a comeback. If the will of the people was there and with proper planning, resources and a commitment by the federal government to build a first-class levee system, it could be possible.

As we rode back across the St. Claude Avenue Bridge toward downtown New Orleans, we encountered a man walking swiftly with what appeared to be a large book. He recognized me and we embraced. He said that he had walked 55 blocks, defying the order to stay away from the lower 9th Ward area. He not only wanted to see his home, but retrieve his large family Bible.

That was what he carried under his arm and he said it was one of the few things in his home that was not completely destroyed. Seeing his home had brought him to closure, and retrieving his treasured family Bible gave him the power and strength to move on.

I still love the Big Easy and all of its people. We are not perfect. We have suffered so greatly, but by the grace of God and the will of our spirit, New Orleanians will rebuild and live again.


SPECIAL SECTION: KATRINA AND BEYOND
New Orleans: Next Steps on the Road to Recovery

by Donna L. Brazile
Managing Director
Brazile and Associates, LLC

Unfortunately, while nature may treat all of us equally, Katrina and Rita showed us that society does not. Blacks and whites did not even look at the disaster through the same set of lens.

According to a report by the Pew Center for The People & The Press, two-thirds of African Americans polled said that if most victims had been white, there would have been a quicker government response. By an even larger margin—77 percent—whites said race played no part in the government response to the hurricanes.

Clearly, our country still has enormous problems with racial and economic inequality that are too easily brushed aside when the next news cycle rolls in. Now, more than ever, we must have a frank conversation about what it means to be poor in America and what we can do alleviate the pain and suffering of citizens who work two and three minimum-wage jobs to survive. We owe it to the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to, once again, summon this nation to eradicate poverty. We owe it to them to fight for justice. We owe it to them to increase economic opportunity for all Americans. Members of our generation must now work together to end racism and poverty in America.

Our first duty to the Gulf State residents must be to ensure that the devastation of last fall is not forgotten or pushed off the national agenda. Also, we are going to need the continued support of the president and members of Congress to get the federal funding that states require. The administration is showing a reluctance to commit to long-term rebuilding without an adequate plan from state and local leaders. We must make sure that federal housing vouchers and targeted rental assistance are available to those that need them.

Lastly, providing a living wage is also critical. Since poor families are hurt when their members lack basic needs and standards of care, we must hold our government accountable for its pledge to promote strong and stable families. And people need more than a temporary raise in wages—they must be trained for quality jobs that will permanently increase their earning potential and continue to keep them and their families afloat. Getting the training needed to break into higher-paying jobs will interrupt the cycle of poverty.

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