"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
- Abraham Lincoln
Our Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation all speak of equality and unity as bedrock principles of American Democracy. But the truth is we have always been battling a Great Divide of race and class that has kept the American Dream out of reach for millions and that now threatens the very future of our nation. That fact is the central finding of the 38th edition of the State of Black America® – One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America. This year’s report underscores the urgency of the jobs crisis – both unemployment and underemployment – and offers ideas from the National Urban League and leading voices across the corporate, academic, political, civil rights and arts arenas about how African American and other communities of color can forge a path to economic stability and upward mobility.
Our 2014 Equality Index™, one of the most critical and respected tools for tracking racial equality in America, finds that the state of Black America stands at 71.2 percent of the state of white America in the areas of economics, social justice, civic engagement, health, and education. With an equality index of 75.8 percent, a similar divide exists between Latinos and whites, with Latinos experiencing only three-quarters of the full benefits America has to offer.
For the first time, the Equality Index also includes rankings of U.S. cities in a new metropolitan section, ranking cities from most-to-least equal via the Black-White Index (77 cities) and Hispanic-White Index (83 cities) – providing a revealing look at the local dynamics beneath the national trends. Our Economics index, which compares such factors as income, poverty, employment and wealth, finds that the economic status of African Americans is only 55.5% of that of whites, meaning that Blacks are still missing almost half of the economic pie. Hispanics are at 60.6%. The growing racial and ethnic divides in employment, homeownership and mortgage and home improvement loan denials drove losses in the economics index for both groups.
Our Economics Index also shows that unemployment inequality between Blacks and whites has widened, with the white unemployment rate dropping below 7 percent and the Black unemployment rate hovering above 13 percent for much of the past year. Further, with a Black-white income equality of only 60% and with Black households having just $6 in wealth for every $100 in wealth of white households – or a median wealth of $6,314 vs. $110,500, respectively, what we see emerging from the rubble of the Great Recession is a state of Black America in severe economic crisis.
But the 2014 State of Black America report also points to solutions. The NUL continues to move forward with our Jobs Rebuild America initiative – a $100 million, five-year effort bringing together resources from the federal government, business and non-profits to reduce unemployment, create jobs and expand economic opportunity in 50 communities throughout the nation. We also continue to press Congress to pass the Urban Jobs Act, the Project Ready STEM Act, a transportation infrastructure bill and the Harkin-Miller Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for all workers with an index to inflation thereafter.
This year’s publication also includes thought-provoking, solutions-focused essays. We must act now. As America was reminded during another great crisis, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.