To Be Equal

To Be Equal is a syndicated weekly column by National Urban League President Marc H. Morial, which is distributed to more than 400 newspapers and websites nationwide. Each week's topic focuses on issues affecting both African American's and the nation as a whole. Started in 1963 by CEO Whitney M. Young, Jr., as "The Voice of Black America," the column was immediately picked up by major newspapers and radio stations across the country. Today, the To Be Equal column continues to present a unique insight on national and international issues, and is included weekly in the National Urban League's weekly newsletter, ReMarcs. To get To Be Equal Columns directly in your inbox, please sign up for ReMarcs here.

Below are the Top 10 To Be Equal articles curated for the 2017 State of Black America:

Digital Equality: A Key Economic Opportunity and Civil Rights Issue for the 21st Century

“Therefore, if there is no access to information, there is a denial to citizens of an element required for participation in the life of the community. That is as real politically (in denying voters information about candidates and issues) as it is socially (consider digital social networks) and economically (in a world where entry level job applications at MacDonald’s or Wal-Mart must be made online, denial of digital access equals denial of opportunity).” – The Knight Commission, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” October 2009

The question of equality was a catalyst for the creation of this great republic. The need for new ideas and approaches led our forefathers to be innovative. One hundred and fifty years ago, President Lincoln employed such thinking in the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation that changed the course of history and the destiny of millions of new Americans. Fifty years ago, a coalition of civil rights, social justice and labor leaders organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which had as its core purpose equity in jobs, education, and justice for all Americans.

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decisions on voting rights and affirmative action, and as we bear witness to continued judicial inequities, the time is ripe with possibility for communities of color to maximize the opportunities for advancement made possible through innovation.

Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement

Recommendation: Law enforcement agencies should strive to create a workforce that contains a broad range of diversity including race, gender, language, life experience, and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with all communities. During these trying times when African American communities and law enforcement are grappling with a deep disconnect due to a lack of trust, communication, and implicit bias, the National Urban League welcomes every effective tool available to heal our communities.” – The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing 

The interagency report released this week by the U. S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement,” is a welcome tool that examines key barriers, as well as promising practices in the recruitment, hiring and retention of law enforcement candidates, that can advance much-needed diversity within our law enforcement agencies. 

Repeat Offense: Private Prisons Resurrection Represents Pay-to-Play 

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Russian Novelist, “The House of the Dead,” 1862
 
Twenty-four hours after the election of Donald Trump as this nation’s 45th president, the stock prices of privately run prisons in this country soared. And this reversal of fortune came as no surprise to private prison operators—or criminal justice reform advocates. With Trump in the White House, privately owned prison companies rightly presumed that they had a staunch ally of their business model and motives in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
 
As a candidate, Trump publically praised and supported private prisons. During a town hall meeting, Trump said, “I do think we can do a lot of privatization and private prisons. It seems to work a lot better.” With his appointment of Jeff Sessions—a well-known criminal justice hardliner—as attorney general, Trump’s words of praise and support would inevitably translate into the torrent of policies we have been confronted with since his inauguration that absolutely reverse hard fought for strides in criminal justice reform.   

The Fair Housing Act: 48 Years Later

Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white--separate and unequal. This deepening racial division is not inevitable. The movement apart can be reversed. Choice is still possible. Our principal task is to define that choice and to press for a national resolution … [It] will require a commitment to national action--compassionate, massive and sustained, backed by the resources of the most powerful and the richest nation on this earth. From every American it will require new attitudes, new understanding, and, above all, new will.” – Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (The Kerner Report), 1967

In January of 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference brought the civil rights struggle to the north.

“In the South,” King said, “we always had segregationists to help make issues clear.… This ghetto Negro has been invisible so long and has become visible through violence.”

Following months of protests and marches, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley agreed to build public housing with limited height requirements, and the Mortgage Bankers Association agreed to make mortgages available regardless of race.  Although King called the agreement ‘‘the most significant program ever conceived to make open housing a reality,’’ he recognized that it was only ‘‘the first step in a 1,000-mile journey."

Indeed, throughout 1966 and 1967, Congress repeatedly tried and failed to pass fair housing legislation. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 would become the tragic catalyst for its eventual passage.

A Message to the Next President: Invest in America

"America can't compete if she continues to warehouse a significant proportion of her work force in poverty and ignorance. If America is going to be competitive, she can't do so without investing in human resources." – John E. Jacob, National Urban League President and CEO, 1982-1994

As the major-party conventions conclude and the general election season begins in earnest, the National Urban League has a message for the next president, whoever he or she might be: invest in America. 

When Europe found itself in physical and economic ruin after World War II, the United States invested $13 billion ($130 billion in today’s dollars) throughout the continent via the European Recovery Program, more commonly known as the Marshall Plan, named after Secretary of State George Marshall.  Since 2006, the United States has spent nearly $50 billion rebuilding Afghanistan through the Afghanistan Infrastructure Rehabilitation Program.  The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008 infused our nation’s faltering financial institutions with investments of more than $400 billion. The United States’ collections under TARP and affiliated relief efforts have actually exceeded total disbursements by more than $12 billion.

Obama Cares: Celebrating Six Years of the Affordable Care Act

“Today, after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied –- health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.  Today. It is fitting that Congress passed this historic legislation this week.  For as we mark the turning of spring, we also mark a new season in America.  In a few moments, when I sign this bill, all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform.” – President Barack Obama, President Remarks at Signing of Health Insurance Reform Bill, March 2010

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House. 

Six years later, 20 million people who could not afford health insurance, or were deprived of life-saving coverage because of a pre-existing condition, now have health insurance coverage. Today, our nation is actively narrowing the gap on adverse racial health care disparities. Today, under the law simultaneously loved and reviled as “Obamacare,” most insurance plans fully cover preventative health care services; young adults, who might have otherwise been uninsured, get to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26; and women are no longer forced to pay more for health insurance because of their gender. 

The American Health Care Act: Un-American, Un-Healthy and Un-Caring

“All the progress that we’ve made in controlling costs and improving how health care is delivered, progress that’s helped hold growth in the price of health care to the slowest rate in 50 years -- all that goes away.  That’s what repeal means.  It would be bad for everybody.  And the majority of Americans, even if they don’t know that they're benefitting from Obamacare, don’t want to see these benefits and protections taken away from their families now that they have them.” – President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act, October 20, 2016

It’s no exaggeration to say the Affordable Care Act of 2010 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern American history, particularly in regard to its impact on communities of color.

Before the ACA, nearly a quarter of African Americans were uninsured. That rate has been slashed in half. Nearly 8 million now have access to no-deductible preventative care. The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid was critical for African Americans, who make up nearly one-in-five enrollees. And the investment of billions of dollars in community health centers, which disproportionately serve Black neighborhoods, has helped to narrow health disparities.

The Fight for $15: Lifting Communities from Poverty by Raising the Minimum Wage

“We find our population suffering from old inequalities, little changed by vast sporadic remedies. In spite of our efforts and in spite of our talk, we have not weeded out the over privileged and we have not effectively lifted up the underprivileged. Both of these manifestations of injustice have retarded happiness. No wise man has any intention of destroying what is known as the profit motive; because by the profit motive we mean the right by work to earn a decent livelihood for ourselves and for our families.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, State of the Union Address, January 4, 1935

Day in and day out men and women all over our country work hard at their jobs—but hardly have anything to show for it.

As the debate over income inequality and narrowing the ever-widening wealth gap continues to dominate our national and political conversations, private corporations and states are taking matters into their own hands, bridging the dueling divides of income and opportunity by increasing the minimum wage.  

The Color of Money: Reaping the Dividends of Entrepreneurship

“Therefore, if there is no access to information, there is a denial to citizens of an element required for participation in the life of the community. That is as real politically (in denying voters information about candidates and issues) as it is socially (consider digital social networks) and economically (in a world where entry level job applications at MacDonald’s or Wal-Mart must be made online, denial of digital access equals denial of opportunity).” – The Knight Commission, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” October 2009

The question of equality was a catalyst for the creation of this great republic. The need for new ideas and approaches led our forefathers to be innovative. One hundred and fifty years ago, President Lincoln employed such thinking in the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation that changed the course of history and the destiny of millions of new Americans. Fifty years ago, a coalition of civil rights, social justice and labor leaders organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which had as its core purpose equity in jobs, education, and justice for all Americans.

The Great Divide of Income Inequality: A Domestic Crisis on the World’s Stage

We live in a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population. In the United States, the increase in the income share of the top one percent is at its highest level since the eve of the Great Depression.” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International, “Working for the Few: Inequality and the Threat to Democracy,” January 22, 2014

“Income inequality” has become the political buzzword of 2014. President Obama, most recently in this week’s State of the Union address, has made it a central theme of his second term. Both progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress are making it a focus of this year’s mid-term elections, and leading voices for human rights have called on government and business leaders to take immediate action to close the income gap for the sake of long-term economic and social stability.