by James Clingman
The National Urban League’s (NUL) 2017 “State of Black America” (SOBA) report was released on May 2, 2017; it is titled, “Protect our Progress,” and again contains the “Inequality Index. Since 1963 the NUL has used the mantra, “To be Equal,” as part of its overall goal. I have questioned that goal for a long time because, while it may be laudable in an economic sense, it is totally unrealistic. Why should we chase something as elusive as “equality” with Whites on any level, especially when they control upwards of 90% of the resources in this nation.
Also, juxtaposing the NUL quixotic venture to “be equal” against the report by the Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies, that cites, “If current trends persist, it will take 228 years for black families to accumulate the same amount of wealth as whites,” the futility of the NUL goal is more than obvious. To rub salt on our wounds, that same report also stated, “For Latino families, it will take 84 years.” Put that point into your Equality Index pipe and smoke it.
I say without equivocation that the NUL report is substantive, informative, professionally written, and packed with statistics from which we all can learn and move forward. It’s not just about economic issues; it also covers criminal justice, housing, education, and other critical issues that need our attention.
However, it would be better if it was the first one issued by the NUL, but it has been issued for forty-one years now. Again, it’s good information, but Black folks still suffer from the same problems and have been in the same comparative collective status for four decades.
A few more data points from the SOBA and, as the preachers say, “The lesson will be yours.” Of course if we fail to heed the lesson, it’s all for naught. Our penchant for 140 characters belies the necessity to read much beyond that, but I hope you will get a copy of the NUL report, READ it, draw your own conclusions, and develop your own action plans to address our problems appropriately.
Here is an interesting paragraph in the report: “Over the past 30 years, the average household wealth of white families has grown 85% to $656,000, while that of blacks has climbed just 27 percent to $85,000 and Latinos 69 percent to $98,000.
And another: “The report comes on the heels of a detailed proposal released by Black Lives Matter activists, which outlined specific economic demands including ‘restructuring the tax code’ to ‘raise the estate tax’ and ‘capital gains tax’ and end income caps on payroll taxes that fund Social Security and unemployment.” Trump’s plan does away with the estate tax and lowers the capital gains tax. It also eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, which in 2005 added over $31 million to Trump’s tax bill. So how are those “demands” working out for Black Lives Matter?
The SOBA states, “The 2017 [NUL] Equality Index provides a veritable ‘line in the sand’ from which to measure where the country goes from here…As the [NUL] continues to press the case for closing the divide in economic opportunity, education, health, social justice and civic engagement…” The report goes on to point out, “Change often happens slowly. The Equality Index offers solid evidence of just how slowly change happens, making it an important tool for driving policies needed in the ongoing fight against inequality.” “Slowly”? I’d say. 228 years is a long time.
Finally, the SOBA cites its Main Street Marshall Plan as a “bold, strategic investment in America’s urban communities that protects our progress…a sweeping and decisive solution to our nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.” Dr. Ron Daniels has advocated for a Marshall Plan for America’s “dark ghettos” for longer than I can remember.
Dr. Bernard E. Anderson, Professor Emeritus, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Presidential Economic Advisor, wrote, “The proposed Trump budget would be devastating for the Main Street Marshall Plan…It would do little to accelerate economic growth, reduce long-term unemployment, expand economic opportunity for minority group workers, or ease the burden on low-income families.”
Further, Anderson writes, “The budget proposal threatens to truncate the modest, but steady progress the economy has made over the last eight years, and would make the struggle to erase racial inequality increasingly difficult.”
I don’t know about the NUL et al, but I’ll take reparations and call it square. Chasing nirvana and Camelot, where all is good and everyone is equal, will continue to be a chase without end as well as a poor use of our precious time. It’s not our place to initiate dialogues and conversations to change the hearts of racists and eliminate racism; operating from a position of weakness and dependency, we will never meet those ideals. We must take care of ourselves and not be diverted by ancillary and peripheral issues. “To be equal”? Naah, I’ll take economic empowerment.