April 18, 2022
On April 12, the National Urban League released its annual The State of Black America report. Media across the country reported that “The state of Black America is grim.” Despite showing gains in economic and health status, Black Americans lag behind White Americans on every index and have slipped even further behind in education, social justice and civic engagement.
The Associated Press reported that, “Educational gaps abound: Black and white preschoolers are roughly equally prepared, but the classrooms they enter are starkly different. Schools with more minority students are more likely to have inexperienced, less trained and even uncertified teachers. Fewer of these students are enrolled in the STEM classes that can lead to higher-paying jobs. Black students are less likely to graduate from college.”
Specifically, the report’s 2022 education equality index for Black Americans is 74.5 percent, down 2.6 percent from 2020. Translation: Things have gotten worse. Even as all students suffered during the pandemic, overall, Black students suffered more than their White counterparts.
This is grim, indeed. At the event to release the report, National Urban League President Marc Morial noted the interconnection of education with the other indices included in the report saying, “institutional disparity based on race seems to be built into American society.”
This reality is the foundation of a report released earlier this year by the Southern Education Foundation, Economic Vitality and Education in the South: The South’s Pre-Pandemic Position. That report provides data on a series of indicators which comprise the “social determinants of education,” that is, the non-academic issues that affect a person’s ability to access and benefit from a high-quality education. Those include poverty and food insecurity, housing, employment and workplace practices, and access to childcare and early childhood education.
The State of Black America’s indices reinforce how far the United States still needs to go before we achieve equity in this country. The equality index for economics stands at 62.1 percent, it is at 84 percent for health, and at a disappointingly low 57.85 percent for social justice (which includes percentages of U.S. residents who have negative interactions with the justice system and percentages of U.S. residents who are victims of violence).
The highest index is that for civic engagement at what should be an encouraging 98.9 percent. But therein lies the rub. Within this category, the National Urban League includes registered voters and people who voted, and it is that right which The State of Black America notes is most under attack today. In fact, the report’s subtitle is Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy, and the majority of the narrative – including three of seven guest essays – focuses on the growing and often successful efforts to disenfranchise Black voters. It also provides five steps that individuals can take to reclaim their vote.
There is no question that the right to vote and exercising that right are the keys to achieving equity, not just for African Americans, but for all people of color in the United States. Through exercising the right to vote, we can work to support policymakers who will support and implement policies aimed at reducing the inequities that persist in all areas of our lives. Now, more than ever, we must fight to preserve that right.