By Richard Muhammad
Contributing Editor

( – As a Black man ascends into the highest political office in the country, Black America remains mired in a “silent depression,” according to United for a Fair Economy’s State of the Dream report for 2009.

The group’s annual assessment of the economic state of Black America that coincides with the King Day celebration was released Jan. 15 and the findings were dismal: Blacks have suffered from a five to seven year recession that one scholar described as “Black America’s permanent recession.” Black unemployment is expected to rise from 11.9 percent to 29 percent. Just over one in every three young Black males is unemployed. And the age-old problem of structural racism haunts the Black community and stymies its economic progress.

“During economic booms, people of color typically benefit much less than their White counterparts. And during economic downturns, especially those that reach the level of a recession or depression, people of color are disportionately–and severely–affected,” said the report, “The Silent Depression: State of the Dream 2009.”


“In addition, regardless of the yo-yo (‘You’re On Your Own’) economic rhetoric of public policy officials, pundits, opinion leaders and the mainstream media, this crisis plagues entire communities, not just individuals, not just communities of color, and not just poor people. We are now seeing the decline of housing values, increases in school closings, across-the-board budget cuts, unaffordable higher education, and divestment from community-based assets like credit unions, small businesses, and public transportation,” it noted.

The bad times, however, offer the possibility of new programs that could help usher in renewed economic progress for Blacks–unlike the prosperity programs of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s–which locked Blacks out, the report said. Programs like the G.I. Bill and infrastructure projects, which helped foster the White middle class, largely excluded Blacks, the report said.

Blacks not only still trail in income but also wealth accumulation, and nearly one-third of Blacks have no wealth. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be poor, stay poor and fall back into poverty from any class status than Whites.

“As in today’s recession, the Great Depression’s mixture of stagnant wages, job losses and falling housing prices created by poor public policy made the foreclosure crisis the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. However, a unique characteristic of the contemporary foreclosure crisis is its concentration among people of color. Disproportionately, people of color received subprime loans at higher rates than their White counterparts, and consequently are suffering relatively more. For example, in Chicago, African-Americans were 14 times more likely to receive a high-cost (subprime) loan than their white counterparts. Upper income Latinos and Blacks/African-Americans were more likely to receive subprime loans than their White counterparts. While on a national level foreclosure rates are exceeding those of the Great Depression, they are nearly twice as high in communities of color,” according to the report.

The report also revealed: “Due to systemic inequality, communities of color get the fewest benefits during economic booms and experience the largest deficits in economic downturns. The economic structure, caused by policies that disproportionately affect people of color, continues to cause gaps in incarceration rates, neighborhood quality, housing affordability, job access, health, retirement and educational attainment.”

The report authors call for a new understanding of wealth creation, which includes greater understanding of the importance and impact of investment of public resources; rebuilding the housing market to strengthen ownership and solid regulation of related industries; investing in America’s future through job creation in public works and “green jobs” programs, a comprehensive national savings program that matches funds; spreading the wealth through more corporate taxes, closing corporate tax loopholes and tax policies that have the wealthiest pay a fair share; retooling the nation’s health care and Social Security systems and using affirmative action measures. Affirmative action has meant inroads for groups locked out of the system and have helped build businesses, the report authors said.