National Urban League’s ‘State of Black America’ report shows consistent disparities

Since 2005, the National Urban League has released an annual "Equality Index" to compare how Black Americans are doing in comparison to white Americans. This year, the index shows that Black Americans get only 73.9 percent of what white Americans enjoy. Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, joins John Yang to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Question: What is the state of Black America in 2022?

    A new report from the National Urban League paints a picture on everything from the economy to voting rights.

    John Yang has more on its findings.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, since 2005, the National Urban League has released an annual Equality Index to compare how Black Americans are doing in comparison to white Americans.

    This year, the index shows that Black Americans get only 73.9 percent of what white Americans enjoy, not much different from what it found in 2005. While there have been significant gains in some areas like economics and health circumstances, both up about 10 percentage points since the first report, in other areas, like social justice and civic engagement, Black Americans have lost ground, according to the report.

    Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League. And he joins us from Atlanta, where he released the report earlier today.

    Mr. Morial, thanks for joining us.

    What does it say that, in — it's been almost two decades since 2005, and yet the overall index number is virtually the same?

  • Marc Morial, President, National Urban League:

    First of all, thank you for having me.

    What it says is that the disparities in American life between Blacks and white are persistent, locked in, locked in, in a sense of suspended animation, where you could have, as you indicated, some progress in some areas, and then a decline in other areas.

    But, proverbially, it's the caboose on the train syndrome, where Black Americans remain behind white Americans. Even when things improve for Black Americans, they're improving at the same rate or even more for white Americans at the same time.

    So this is the persistent challenge for 21st century America. Can these gaps, these structural gaps of racial inequality, be closed in the 21st century?

  • John Yang:

    You talk about that — what you call the caboose syndrome. And we talk about the gains in, say, economics.

    But the gain means you're only up to about — that Black Americans are only up to about three-fifths of what white Americans enjoy. And, in health, it's about 84 percent. Talk a little bit about those areas where there have been gains.

  • Marc Morial:

    So, I think the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid had a dramatic impact by increasing the number of Black people who were insured. It closed the health gap somewhat.

    But, still, a 16-point differential is too much. The discussion about race and racial justice in this country is not fact-based all too often. It's sometimes driven by what people think or perceive or what they make in terms of political pronouncements.

    This gap remains wide. This gap remains the challenge for 21st century America.

  • John Yang:

    And the areas where this report shows a decline since 2005, education, social justice, a significant drop in social justice, and civic engagement. Talk a little bit about that.

  • Marc Morial:

    The war on drugs, the broken nature of the criminal justice system, the way in which police and communities are at odds, the way in which Black people are shot in an unjustifiable fashion by the police, all of these contribute, the sentencing disparities.

    And while there's been efforts to address this, they have not gone far enough. That contributes to the social justice gap that exists in the nation. In civic engagement and voting, a big focus of this report, we saw significant gains, where Black voter turnout in the 2008 election exceeded white voter turnout.

    That reversed significantly in 2016, when you had Russian interference and post-Shelby v. Holder voter suppression laws. Now, in 2020, that gap in terms of voter turnout narrowed a bit, primarily because the pandemic forced states to be more visionary and I think more open in allowing people to vote by mail, to drop their ballot in a drop box, to utilize absentee voting.

    Voter suppression post-January 6, the day of the insurrection, where 40 states-plus have introduced hundreds of bills to take away all of these expanded options for people to vote, will narrow the civic engagement — or really widen the civic engagement gap, if we do not do something.

    And that's why the report has a focus on this plot to what we think diminish and destroy American democracy.

  • John Yang:

    And that's also why, as I understand it, you chose to release this in Atlanta today, in Georgia. Today, you kicked off a campaign at Clark Atlanta University called Reclaim Your Vote.

    Talk about the efforts you're making in this midterm election year.

  • Marc Morial:

    I'm so glad you mentioned Clark Atlanta University and the fact that we're here in Atlanta, which, on one hand, is the cradle of the civil rights movement. Dr. King, John Lewis, many other greats called Atlanta home. And this was, if you will, one of the epicenters of the 1960s civil rights movement.

    But then, on the other hand, Georgia has become ground zero for voter suppression. The way in which the Georgia legislature has reacted to the January 5 election and then the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection is to literally lead an assault on the right of people to vote.

    So, we thought we needed to come again to the front lines, the front lines of where people can really get a close-up look at what is happening here in Georgia.

    We also believe that going to one of our great historically Black universities and including the students from Spelman, and Morehouse and Morris Brown, along with the Clark Atlanta University community, places a spotlight on why protection of democracy and closing the racial gaps in this country is important to this next generation, to the students who now are in an activist mode, who now are poised to fight.

    And our civic engagement campaign says to people, frustration is not a strategy. Cynicism is not an option. We have to fight voter suppression. But we have to do everything in our power to participate in the elections this fall, because we have got to put this effort to remind people that, if you do not have a seat at the table, you will literally be on the menu.

  • John Yang:

    Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, thank you very much.

  • Marc Morial:

    Thanks for having me.

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