National Urban League CEO: ‘Black America Is In Crisis’

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The National Urban League released its 2015 State of Black America report Thursday, with the civil rights group’s chief declaring that “Black America is in crisis.”

The 2015 State of Black America report analyzed national figures from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create an equality index showing that black Americans are about 72 percent equal to white Americans. And although there was significant growth in the realm of social justice, the National Urban League’s president and CEO says black Americans face a series of community crises.

“Black America is in crisis — a jobs crisis, a justice crisis and an education crisis,” Marc Morial told CBS News.

Morial said the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and other high-profile cases have brought forth a conversation about policing, the country’s criminal justice system and their link to race in America.

“That conversation is about race and racial disparities, but more specifically it’s a conversation about police-community relations and police accountability and the criminal justice system,” Morial told CBS News. “And those are conversations where people are working on reform … It’s all about how you police, not whether you police.

“Ferguson raised it to a high-profile nature. Ferguson woke many up who may have been dozing or sleeping about the nature of these problems. These problems are of a long-standing nature, they just didn’t pop up yesterday. Now, I think, we must muster the resolve to try to fix them.”

Morial said that any taxpaying citizen has rights and pays into the law enforcement system for community protection. He noted that Americans “want good, strong law enforcement,” but he warned against a police department that effectively becomes an “occupying force” where many citizens in the community “fear the police, distrust the police” instead of feeling safe.

The State of Black America report, which sets up a 100 percent equality index measuring racial groups with the white population, found that Hispanics are at 77.7 percent while black Americans are at 72.2 percent. The report notes that white Americans are set as the benchmark for comparison because “the history of race in America has created advantages for whites that persist in many of the outcomes being measured.”

The black education equality index registered at 76 percent, health at 80 percent, social justice at 61 percent and civic engagement at 104 percent. Morial explained that African-Americans are often overrepresented in civic engagement measures because a higher proportion works in the military and public-sector jobs in comparison to white Americans.

Slight gains were made in nearly all markers from the previous report, including an uptick to 80 percent for black Americans in regards to health care – something Morial attributed largely to the Affordable Care Act.

Morial said he hopes the 2015 report will prompt both individual changes and broader policy reform.

“Change does not come by serendipity. Change does not come automatically,” Morial said. “It comes because people work for it.”

Benjamin Fearnow

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