Recapping the Urban League’s 2021 State of Black America Report

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The COVID-19 pandemic not only unmasked the stark racial inequities in the nation’s economic, health care and public safety status quo, but it gave rise to a fierce resistance to that status quo and fueled demand for racial justice that grows more intense with each passing month.

That’s according to the National Urban League’s 2021 State of Black America® report, “The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable & Inclusive.”

“The United States finds itself at crossroads of racial reckoning,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “One path leads backward, toward the “old normal:” a return to the marginalization, discrimination, and segregation that left Black and Brown Americans exceptionally vulnerable to a deadly virus and economic desperation.  The other path leads toward a nation where police approach the communities they serve as allies and collaborators, and not hostile combatants; where every citizen has equal access to the ballot box, where fatal complications in pregnancy are just as rare for Black mothers as for as white mothers, where the value of a home is not determined by the race of its owner.”

Some of the findings came as little surprise including the fact that higher unemployment, lower net worth and increasingly unaffordable housing made Black Americans particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and the economic fallout from it.

One pandemic threatened America, the report states. Three pandemics ravaged its communities of color.

The New Normal: Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive makes the case that dismantling structural racism —  identifying and repairing the cracks in our national foundation – will result in more resilient and dynamic institutions that expand opportunity for everyone,” Morial said. “To quote a flippant sentiment frequently shared on social media, equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.”

Analysis from research partners  Brookings InstitutionJohns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, and Center for Policing Equity not only revealed how structural and institutional racism magnified the devastation inflicted by COVID-19 infection and death, economic collapse and police violence, but also offered a glimpse of a more equitable future.

The report includes a focus on two major policy proposals the National Urban League 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. 

Each of the 21 Pillars addresses one of five goals for transforming public safety, including holding police accountable in court, banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, conducting financial and operational audits of police departments and preventing police union contracts from blocking accountability.

With close to 17 percent of Black households lacking basic financial services and forced to rely on check cashing centers or payday loans—which cost 50-100% more per month—the Urban League is looking to a new normal for banking.

The report cited Mobility Capital Finance, or MoCaFi, which provides free or low-cost financial services to low- and moderate-income individuals who are underserved, discriminated against or shut out from traditional banks as an example. Customers who pay their rent with a MoCaFi debit card can choose to have those payments reported to credit reporting agencies, thus rebuilding their credit scores. MoCaFi’s partnerships with minority-owned small businesses give account holders access to discounts on goods and services.

The pandemic also highlighted the high cost of childcare and how much the Black workforce depends on it.

“Without it [childcare], hundreds of thousands of working parents have had to leave the workforce,” said Erin Robinson of the Center for American Progress. “It’s why economists and Americans of every political stripe agree that our economic recovery depends on boosting federal investment in childcare. Put simply: Childcare is a matter of racial, economic, and gender equity and is crucial to the productivity and competitiveness of this country.”

Other critical areas covered in 2021 State of Black America Report include voter suppression legislation, broadband access and health inequities. For a look at the full report, visit www.stateofblackamerica.org. 


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