Now is not the time to be reminded of Charles Dickens or the French Revolution, it would seem. Life in 2009 America is already plenty bleak. Yet Marc Morial, National Urban League president and CEO, channeled “A Tale of Two Cities” to summarize the league’s State of Black America 2009 Report.
It is “the best of times and the worst of times for black America,” Morial said.
The best, the election of an African American president at this point in history, something that could not be predicted even 24 months ago, he said. Black legislators hold an unprecedented level of clout in Congress, with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
The worst, the economic ground lost by African Americans in the last eight years when it comes to jobs, median income and home ownership, he said.
In a conference call the day before the report was officially released (March 25). He marveled at the number of Americans – black and white – who say that the election of President Obama proves that equality has been fulfilled.
That belief, he said, does not “deal with what the truth is.”
That truth, according to the report: “African Americans remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated.”
The truth, the report says, is that “in education, attainment and enrollment data suggest that although achievement in these areas is similar for blacks and whites … there has been a growing, rather than a diminishing, gap.”
And misery is shared among all communities in the same way as the prosperity of the 1990’s benefited blacks and whites, Morial said.
Among the report’s recommendations, outlined by Morial: aggressive steps to insure green jobs are open to minority communities and businesses; a commitment to mandatory, universal early childhood education, and home-buyer counseling and education.
And, like Obama, Morial spoke of greater personal responsibility, “to family, to self, to community.”
The best times, Morial hopes, are yet to come. The challenge is finding a commitment to the hard work necessary to get the country there.