Citing bleak data on incarceration, joblessness and AIDS, the National Urban League said Monday that problems facing black men represent America’s most serious social crisis and proposed an aggressive campaign to provide them with more opportunities.
The 97-year-old black empowerment organization, in its annual State of Black America report, called for universal early-childhood education, more second-chance programs for school dropouts and ex-offenders, and expanded use of all-male schools emphasizing mentoring and longer class hours.
According to the report, African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males while earning 74 percent as much per year. They are nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated, with average jail sentences about 10 months longer than those of white men, the report said.
In addition, it said, black males between 15 and 34 are nine times more likely to be killed by firearms and nearly eight times as likely to suffer from AIDS.
On several key measurements, the report found greater disparities between black and white men than between black and white women.
For example, it said unemployment for black men was 9.5 percent, compared to 4 percent for white men, while the jobless rate for black women was 8.5 percent, compared to 4.1 percent for white women.
In terms of annual median income, black men earned less than 75 percent of what white men did, $34,443 vs. $46,807. Black women made 87 percent of what white women made even though they earned $5,000 less than black men$29,588 a year.
However, the report cited a widening gap after elementary school as blacks begin to fall behind on standardized tests. In fourth grade, the report said, blacks perform at a level of 87 percent of whites; by the time they reach 12th grade, their scores are at 74 percent of whites.
By high school, blacks are more likely to drop out15 percent compared to 12 percent for whites. For black males, the percentage rises to 18 percent compared to 14 percent of white males, the report said.
The report suggested that all-male schools with a strong emphasis on mentoring could help keep black boys “focused on their education and away from distractions that could lead them down the wrong paths.”
The Urban League also recommended increased federal support for a summer jobs program in cities nationwide, and stressed that any overall progress will need a boost from parents.
[Editors Note: “The State of Black America” (2007) can be purchased here, where the abstract and a summary can be downloaded.