Hard Out Here for a Black Man

An Urban League report says he’s more than twice as likely to be unemployed and, if he has a job, he earns 26 percent less than a white man.

African-American men have made some lofty achievements over the past 20 years.

Among the firsts for black men: Colin Powell, secretary of state; Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express; Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy won a Super Bowl; and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has raised millions of dollars to mount a serious campaign for the presidency.

Despite those successes, African American males rank at or near the bottom of every economic, educational and societal indicator, according to a report by the National Urban League.

This dismal accounting means the country must look to empower black men for the sake of the country, Urban League President Marc H. Morial said Tuesday in Washington.

“Empowering black men to reach their full potential is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today,” Morial said. “For all the Barack Obamas, Tony Dungys and Colin Powells out there who have broken through the economic and color barriers to succeed, there are many more black men who face very limited opportunities and diminished expectations.”

Morial made the assertion during the New York- based organization’s annual release of its State of Black America report, which assesses conditions within the black community. This year’s report focused on the black male.

The country needs a public commitment for strategic public policy to help uplift black males and put them on equal footing with their white counterparts, Morial said.

Public and Private Sectors Must Help

“We realize that we cannot do this alone,” he said. “We have to look to corporations, the government and other organizations to bring about comprehensive solutions to the problems faced by black males.”

The report contains what it calls the “equality index,” a statistical measurement of disparities between African-Americans and whites across five categories, including economics, education and social justice.

According to the report, black men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white men, and when they do have jobs, black men earn only 74 percent as much as white men. The report also showed that blacks have a higher national high school drop-out rate.

The report also highlighted some positive findings. A higher percentage of black children are enrolled in early childhood education programs than white children and young blacks have jumped within six percent of their white counterparts in school readiness, a 13 percent increase from 2006.

Morial said that while the report shows that progress is being made, more must be done. The country must recognize black males as more than just numbers in a report and see them as fathers, brothers, sons and contributors in society, he said.

The report provided five recommendations for helping to resolve some of the major issues facing Black America, particularly with regards to black males. The suggestions included comprehensive early childhood education, all-male schools and longer school days, more emphasis on second-chance programs for high school dropouts and ex-offenders, a federal summer jobs program and more parental emphasis on education.

“Poverty, the racial divide and social injustice do not impact only those who suffer most visibly,” Morial said. “They tear apart the fabric of our nation in ways that damage and diminish us all. We need to have a conversation. We need to be shocked into action.” Speakers said that with responsible spending the government and its citizens can afford to fund programs of social uplift in order to help close the gap.

“A country that spends $20 billion dollars on ice cream can spend more on teaching African-American children to read” said Robert Mallett, senior vice president of Philanthropy and Stakeholder Advocacy for Pfizer Inc.

The State of Black America report has been released annually since 1976, but this will be the first year in which the report will be distributed in book form nationally. The published version of report includes contributions from Sen. Obama and cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson.