National Urban League

WASHINGTON ( – National Urban League President Marc Morial is calling his membership to embark on an economic “crusade” to try again to make good on the promise of economic opportunity and prosperity for all by narrowing the gaps that exist in the American “Equality Index.”

The need is clear. In measurable ways, Mr. Morial said, at the National Press Club April 5, equality for Blacks with Whites in urban America is not getting better.


“Our Nation must wake up. The growing wealth gap in this country is not just leaving behind Black America,” he said in a statement, “it’s leaving behind the middle class, urban America, rural America and Hispanic America, too. When one community in America suffers, our entire economy suffers.”

In fact, the organization reported that its “Equality Index” contained in this year’s “State of Black America” revealed that, “despite societal progress, the overall status of Black Americans is just .73, or 73 percent, compared to the conditions of their White counterparts.”

Critical attention must be paid to the state and well-being of young Black males, Mr. Morial said, with an emphasis on those who may be re-entering society after incarceration. And just as importantly, those who have benefitted from opportunities created by the Civil Rights Movement must engage in “civic tithing,” in order to give something back.

After a decade in which Blacks began to see income gains, the recession after the 9/11 attack produced economic stagnation, especially for Blacks, according to the report. The gaps in the “Equality Index” are widening. Black economic status measures 57 percent of that of White counterparts, an equality gap 20 percent wider than any other category. Black unemployment continued to remain stagnant, at a rate more than twice as high as that of Whites.

The Equality Index constitutes a “statistical measurement of the disparities or ‘equality gaps’ between Blacks and Whites in economics, housing, education, health, social justice and civic engagement,” according to the National Urban League (NUL).

The Black health status is 76 percent of that of Whites. Obesity rates for Blacks are also increasing faster for Blacks. And the life expectance for Blacks is six years shorter than for Whites: 72 years, compared to 78 years.

The Black education status is 77 percent that of Whites, even though the least experienced teachers are twice as likely to teach in minority schools as at White schools.

In the area of social justice, Blacks also fared poorly. When measuring sentencing, enforcement and victimization, Black vs. White equality under law is 68 percent that of Whites. That figure is five percent less than in 2004, the worst decline in Equality Index figures overall.

Blacks are three times more likely to become prisoners once arrested, and a Black person’s average jail sentence is six months longer than a White person’s for the same crime, according to the report.

“Let us develop, for this nation, a comprehensive re-entry program for ex-felons in need, so they can become working, able, independent citizens and contribute to society, and not go back in the revolving door to the correctional facilities and jail-houses of this nation,” Mr. Morial told reporters and a ballroom full of supporters.

During Mr. Morial’s two years at the reins, the manner which the NUL presents its “State of Black America” event has grown. This year, for the second time, the group hosted its annual Legislative Policy Conference in association with the release of the report to the press.

The conference included several hundred participants who spent several days in Washington, visiting their local Congressional representatives and senators, delivering to each of them a copy of the “State of Black America” report.

There are also some “important” economic goals that can be achieved by practicing thrift along with wise financial planning, Mr. Morial said. “Simply putting aside money when your child is young for their college education is a way to save. Twenty, or $30 a month can make a difference, if put in a fund that’s invested over the years.

“We also encourage African Americans, especially the emerging African American middle class, which has most clearly benefitted from the Civil Rights struggles, to increase their commitments to ‘Civic Tithing.’ Civic Tithing means financially supporting, as well as giving volunteer time to, African American institutions, like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, churches, civil rights organizations, like the Urban League and its affiliates.

“It’s time for us to face the greatest civil rights challenge of this new century head on. It is an economic challenge. It is a challenge to close the jobs gap, the housing gap, the savings gap, the investing gap and, yes, the wealth gap.

“Ours is a crusade,” Mr. Morial continued, quoting former NUL president Whitney Young from a speech 40 years ago. “It’s for justice, for decency and for morality. A crusade to put into operational framework, on a day-to-day basis, a person-to-person basis, the American creed and democratic promise.”

Mr. Morial challenged his organization to take those words and engage in “a new crusade” to make true “the promise of economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”