Jared Council, Forbes, May 23, 2022
Over the past 24 months, politicians and business leaders have invoked the name of George Floyd in calling for racial equity for Black Americans. Companies and foundations pledged billions on initiatives to recruit and promote Black talent, invest in Black-owned businesses and promote equity in everything from policymaking to policing.
Despite an evolution in the dialogue and effort, there’s been little progress in outcomes for Black lives and livelihoods.
Black families still have a fraction of the wealth, owning about 13 cents for every dollar held by white families. All that allyship and money hasn’t really moved the needle on the National Urban League’s equality index, which tracks how Black America is faring relative to white America on measures such as income, health outcomes, education quality, and incarceration rates. Its 2022 index stands at 73.9% – with 100% representing racial parity – which is one-tenth of a percentage point higher than the 73.8% index in 2020. The index debuted in 2005 at 72.9%. At this pace, eliminating racial disparities will continue to elude even our grandchildren.
One impediment to progress has likely been Covid-19, which hit Black households harder than white ones, even when when factoring for pre-pandemic disparities.
But that doesn’t explain why Black Americans are still twice as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police–or why the total number of fatal shootings by police has barely budged since Floyd’s death. It doesn’t explain why white supremacist terrorism is on the rise and being embraced by a new generation of racists like the 18 year old who shot and killed 10 people in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this month.
The prospect of Black progress often comes with a backlash from those who are too scared or small-minded to believe we can all win together. Michael Eric Dyson, a renowned professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, tells For(bes) The Culture that “the politics of white resentment and white supremacist logic asserting itself was predictable and fierce and ferocious.” And it’s not limited to the powerless. As Dyson notes, it’s “not simply in the streets, with the rise of an antisemitic, anti-Black revival, but also in the halls of Congress, where you’ve got thinly disguised attacks on Black progress and on the insistence that we study Black history.”
Even as new victories are sought, old ones are at risk of being reversed. Just ask Ted Wells, one of the country’s top trial lawyers and a longtime advocate of civil rights through his work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “I try to be optimistic, but it’s tempered by the reality of history and current events,” Wells tells Forbes. “There are formal efforts to suppress Black voting rights and a real possibility that the Supreme Court will ban affirmative action in higher education next term.”