National Urban League releases 'State of Black America' report

The National Urban League’s annual report on the State of Black America highlights how higher unemployment, lower household incomes and net worth and larger burden of housing insecurity left Black Americans uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19’s economic fallout.

The report, The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable & Inclusive, addresses the urgency of ending “three pandemics” in economics, health care and public safety.

“This report should be understood as trying to chart a course forward because 2020 and 2021 are what I call years of a pivot,” NUL President and CEO Marc H. Morial said during a virtual media briefing.

“We’re trying to frame up that the country has a choice to make coming out of the pandemic, coming out of 2020 and George Floyd. We have a choice as to whether we want to go back to yesterday or whether we want to move forward in a way that is more equitable and more diverse. The broad frame is that we still have wide disparities in unemployment, housing and net worth,” he continued.

“We’re trying to chart a vision of a new normal in this country. This pandemic unmasked and took the covers off a lot of long standing problems in this country and what we don’t want to do is put the covers back on and just rock and roll as though we had a little momentary interruption.”

Economic burdens like lack of high-speed internet access and a dearth of health-care facilities in Black neighborhoods contributed more to the vaccine racial gap than hesitancy, the report said. Another key finding was that overpolicing of Black communities — particularly frequent stops of Black boys — is associated with more crime among those boys, not less.

The report includes a focus on two major policy proposals the NUL developed in 2021 to address racial inequities in public safety and the economy. 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Community Trust is a comprehensive framework for criminal justice advocacy that takes a holistic approach to public safety, the restoration of trust between communities and law enforcement, and a path forward for meaningful change. The Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion is a strategy for leveraging the tools of the information economy to create a more equitable and inclusive society.

Analysis from research partners Brookings Institution, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, and Center for Policing Equity revealed that structural and institutional racism magnified the devastation inflicted by COVID-19 infection and death, economic collapse and police violence and also offered a glimpse of a more equitable future.

The report offers solutions for overcoming racial barriers, such as free and low-cost banking services that allow households to build wealth and a credit history, an approach to treating hypertension that focuses on social needs like housing and transportation, and virtual responses to some police calls.

The 2021 report does not include an Equality Index, a calculation of the social and economic status of African Americans relative to whites in five areas including civic engagement, economics, education, health and social justice. Since 2018, the index is calculated every other year. The 2022 Equality Index is expected to reflect the upheaval of the pandemic.

The report also includes a tribute to the late Vernon E. Jordan, who served as president of the National Urban League from 1971 to 1981, issuing the first State of Black America in 1976. Jordan passed away in March.