The State of Black America: Prescriptions for Change

By Morial, Marc H. | National Urban League. The State of Black America, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

The State of Black America: Prescriptions for Change


Morial, Marc H., National Urban League. The State of Black America


If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

So goes the old saying.

But what if the rest of the house is as hot as the kitchen?

What if the heat is turned up high in every room?

What if there's no hiding place?

The first answer to the myriad questions-or, perhaps challenges is a better word-contained in that formulation is obvious:

There is no hiding place in today's world from the "heat" of living in today's world-from our responsibility to prepare all of our children to conquer the regime of high-stakes testing in elementary and secondary schools; from our finding ways to improve the access to health care and other facets of the quality of life in black communities; from our protecting and expanding the political gains and future political possibilities produced by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; from our ensuring that the global fight against terror does not erode America's moral character or Americans' civil liberties; from our exercising the entrepreneurial discipline and innovation it takes to build up black wealth in individual and group terms.

All of these challenges, and many more-the "heat" of the world today-are powerfully presented in the pages of The State of Black America 2005: Prescriptions for Change.

They are presented in text form by the authors of the volume's essays, reports, and op-ed articles. And those challenges are presented in statisticaJ form in the 2005 National Urban League Equality Index, which we created last year to measure in clear numerical terms the equality gaps that still separate African Americans and white Americans. We were driven to do so partly because, as I wrote in The State of Black America 2004, "We consider it critically important to Black America to quantify and enumerate just how far African Americans have climbed on the Index of Equality since that moment two centuries ago when the white men who constructed the American government created an invidious concept of measurement-three-fifths of a person-to define the value of the enslaved Africans and African-Americans who were doing more than their share to build the American nation."

The decision to construct a nation in which some were free and some were slaves has ever since haunted the character and the reality of the American democratic experiment. That was underscored again for us last year when our inaugural Equality Index determined the status of black Americans to be 0.73 of their fellow white Americans. That figure, drawn from examining the status of African Americans in the five areas of economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement, was a stunning indication of the glacial pace of the progress America has made toward equal opportunity in the century and a half since the end of the Civil War, the emancipation of blacks from slavery, and the constitutional correction, via the Thirteenth Amendment, of the wrong of the three-fifths clause.

The 2005 Equality Index finds Black America's overall index value to still be 0.73, materially unchanged from last year. However, no one should take that to mean Black America has simply stood still in terms of the equality gap. To stand still in today's world is to fall further behind. Thus we view this year's Equality Index as the continued sounding of an alarm to work harder; for what our authors' cogent discussions make clear provides a second answer to the question I posed to begin these remarksto repeat: There is no hiding place, and that means that individuals and ethnic groups must act to not merely protect themselves from the heat but to develop the material and spiritual resources to thrive in it.

Certainly, one cannot read any of the articles gathered here without being struck by the sense of urgency the authors share. …

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