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    COVID-19 is third-leading cause of death for Black Americans

    New data suggests the novel coronavirus is the third leading cause of death for Black Americans.

    A report from the Brookings Institution examined how Black families were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and found it has become a leading cause of death. Only cancer and heart disease are deadlier. Black people are twice as likely to die from the virus when compared against white and Asian people.

    “In 2020 more Black Americans will die of COVID-19 than will succumb to diabetes, strokes, accidents, or pneumonia,” the report stated.

    The pandemic is the latest example of health disparities that affect Black Americans because of institutional racism, the report authors suggest.

    “If I told you on Jan. 1 that a new virus that we did not even know about would, in August, be the third-leading cause of death for Black Americans our hair should have been set on fire and we would have an extensive public policy response to this unprecedented pandemic,” report co-author Trevon Logan, an economics professor at The Ohio State University, told WTOP.

    The study also looked at the economic ramifications of COVID-19 for the Black community.

    Bradley Hardy, another member of the research team, told WTOP 50 percent of Black people live in households that have lost income since the pandemic started. Additionally, 20 percent of Black families experience some form of food insecurity.

    “There’s not just well-documented income gaps, but there’s also really yawning wealth gaps,” Hardy said. “[Black] households don’t necessarily have that resource or that cushion to lean on.”

    The study recommended “reliable fiscal policy responses” to help families cope.

    “Inadequate additional federal economic relief — such as legislation that does not provide enough unemployment assistance and supplements to the safety net — potentially threatens the economic security of Black families,” the authors warned.

    The Brookings study comes days after a report backed by the National Urban League found Black people are becoming infected at rates three times higher than those for white people. The report, titled “State of Black America Unmasked,” cited findings from American Public Media Research that showed Black people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19. Black people, along with Latinos, are four times more likely to be hospitalized compared to white patients. Part of the report’s findings is based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

    The researchers also highlighted problems with access to coronavirus tests and racial bias.

    “Black people with COVID-19 symptoms in February and March were less likely to get tested or treated than white patients,” National Urban League CEO Marc Morial wrote in a blog post.

    “Studies showed that doctors downplayed Black patients’ complaints of pain, prescribed weaker pain medication and withheld cardiac treatments from Black patients who needed them.”

    By The Atlanta Black Star

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    Racial Incidents Highlight Need for Black History Education

    Fourteen cadets at The Citadel, South Carolina’s military college, were disciplined after photographs circulated of them wearing Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

    At a Phoenix, Arizona, high school, six students have sparked outrage with a photograph of the girls wearing gold letters on their shirts spelling out a racial slur.

    In both cases, the young people protested no offense was intended. It’s hard to imagine that well-educated near-adults could be ignorant of how their actions would be perceived. But even taking them at their word, these 20 students represent the desperate need for comprehensive Black history education – and not just during Black History Month.

    The president of the Phoenix school’s Black Student Union said, “Something that used to stop my grandparents in their tracks is now being used in regular conversation. Someone needs to put their foot down and say it’s not OK to say that.”

    Would a white student who was fully cognizant of the nation’s history of oppression against African Americans, of Jim Crow and institutionalized humiliation, casually toss around a racial slur for her own amusement, or wear a costume resembling the uniform of the nation’s most vicious and deadly terrorist organization? Possibly, but it’s far less likely.

    Students who grow up with a clear understanding of American history – all of American history – are less likely to perpetuate the sins of the past and more likely to participate in building a better future.

    By Marc Morial
    President, National Urban League

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    COMMENTARY: Dr. King and the gospel of action

    There is no shortage of words in the English language to describe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By now —more than five decades after his fiery delivery of the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.— you may feel as though you have heard them all: leader, hero, visionary, champion, inspiration, pacifist, orator and preacher, to name a few.

    Of all the possible descriptions and titles that have been assigned to Dr. King, history has proven that his legacy endures in our collective American imagination and our national politics not because of what he was, or who he was, but because of what he did. Dr. King changed our society with action. Soaring rhetoric may move our hearts and imagination, but it is action that translates our seemingly impossible dreams into reality.

    Dr. King’s all-too-short life was a monumental one that moved our nation to enact large-scale, course-correcting policies like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, and genuinely contemplate a day when we would “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” but he departed from this earth with unfinished business.

    Our nation has made undeniable progress since Dr. King described his dream of an America set free from the bondage of racial animosity, injustice and economic inequality. Today, people of color are achieving milestones that would have been impossible without the decades-long accumulation of constant acts of courage to make change happen. But Dr. King did not dedicate himself to a life of action only to create wealth and opportunity for a privileged few, to diversify the palette of America’s corporate offices, or even the White House. While Dr. King would have likely been proud to live in a country that judged an African-American not on the color of his skin, but the content of his character, and elected him president, he would be disheartened to witness the mounting rollbacks in voting rights, disappointed to stand at the cusp of the ever-widening chasm of economic inequality, and disillusioned at the loss of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement. Progress must not grow into passivity. Complacency will only serve to erode the gains our nation have made and can make under the constant vigilance and activism of its citizenry.

    In his last State of the Union address to Congress, President Barack Obama acknowledged the necessity of every day acts of courage and quiet citizenship to move our nation closer to fulfilling its founding promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all its people. “What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”

    That better future is what Dr. King saw on the mountaintop. He did not live to get there with us, but his clarion call to justice lives on. We, as the heirs of the change he sought, can make this holiday a more meaningful one by engaging in civic, community and service projects. We can spend the day doing what Dr. King did for a lifetime: serving others. But this is about more than a day. Full, unfettered access to voting will not be restored in one day. Police brutality in communities of color will not end in one day. Economic inequality will not be resolved in one day. It will take days, years, decades and perhaps generations, but if we are wedded to the idea of a more perfect union, it is imperative that we continue Dr. King’s long and worthy climb to the mountaintop.

    Marc Morial
    President, National Urban League
    New York

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    To the Class of 2015: ‘Don’t You Turn Back’

    Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. / It’s had tacks in it, /And splinters, / And boards torn up, / And places with no carpet on the floor-Bare. / But all the time / I’se been a-climbin’ on, / And reachin’ landin’s, / And turnin’ corners, / And sometimes goin’ in the dark / Where there ain’t been no light. / So, boy, don’t you turn back.” – Langston Hughes, “Mother to Son,” 1922

     

    If you are disposed to using the Internet as your guide, a diploma will generally be described as the proof of your successful completion of a course of study, or the bestowal of an academic degree. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that diploma in your grasp, occupying a prominent space on a wall or waiting to be pressed into your eager hand is so much more than the sum of your years-long efforts to be where you are today. Your degree is a key that opens a new door, a new phase of life and a new set of challenges.

    Your life’s journey-and its achievements-does not end here. Celebrate, because you’ve earned it; bask in your well-earned feeling of accomplishment today, because tomorrow you will find that there is much work to be done.

    On the other side of that new door is a staircase, and that staircase may not be the kind fashioned from crystal with smooth, reliable, clear-cut steps. Obstacles may slow or impede your climb. There may be tacks, broken floorboards and torn up carpet that would trip, or at worst, defeat someone without the training you have been so fortunate to attain. There is no shortcut here, no elevator, or bypassing of these difficult steps and turns. There is, however, the choice to apply the perseverance and commitment to excellence you have already shown in your higher education journey.

    On the one hand, there is much to celebrate in our country when it comes to academic achievement in African-American communities. Today, we enjoy the highest high school graduation rates in history. More students of color are in college and dropout rates are at historic lows. But the wealth and unemployment gap between Blacks and whites remains wide. While the Black unemployment rate has finally dipped into the single digits, it stubbornly remains more than twice as high as the jobless rate for whites. As our country’s economy continues to make steady gains after the debilitating 2008 recession, millions in Black and Brown communities are being left behind. In this country-founded largely on the principle of economic progress through hard work-the American dream of upward mobility remains only a dream for too many of its citizens.

    Your education, drive and diploma, may likely shield you from the harsh economic realities experienced throughout communities of color across our nation, but it does not strip you of an obligation to be an actor, rather than a spectator, in our country’s struggle to create one nation with liberty, justice and economic opportunity for all.

    No one gets to where they are on his or her own. You have parents, grandparents, friends and family members who invested in your future success, put you on this path and made sure you stayed the course. How will you repay their commitment to you? Whether your ancestors came here by plane, by train, by ship or shackled underneath the hull of a ship; whether the continent they called home was Asia, Europe or Africa, what they did when they reached the shores of our nation, what they sacrificed-all of it is debt incurred. How will you choose to compensate them for their struggles?

    Among you are the teachers who will lift the standard of education in poor communities and begin to close the achievement gap; among you are the preachers who will heal the wounds of communities torn apart by violence; among you are the elected officials who will institute laws and policies that promote social and economic fairness for all of America’s citizens. Herein lies the answer. The answer our nation has been searching for is you and your talent, put to a higher purpose.

    I cannot promise you that your climb to success in this life will be a crystal stair. You may very well encounter dark corners and obstacles. What I can promise you is that you have been prepared to meet these challenges head on. And more than meet these challenges, you have also been prepared to be an actor in solving so many of the longstanding issues and inequities facing our nation, so “don’t you turn back.”

    By Marc Morial
    Guest Columnist

    National Urban League President

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    DRUM CALL: To Be Equal Eric Garner

    Statement from Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, on the Grand Jury’s Decision to Not Indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Chokehold Killing of Eric Garner:

    “There are absolutely no words that can describe the miscarriage of justice that has just occurred in America – yet again. There is no rational or feasib

    le explanation that can ever justify the Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict the person responsible for Eric Garner’s death – a decision which itself defies common sense. Today’s unfortunate outcome – yet another in a tragic series of killings of unarmed Blacks by police officers in just the past six months – further demonstrates that we need a new approach in this nation to police-community relations, the use of excessive force by law enforcement and police accountability for acts of misconduct.

    Eric Garner did not deserve to die. NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo had no reasonable cause to kill him. After repeated review of the facts of this case and what the video clearly shows, what is most ironic is that Eric Garner was being arrested for the misdemeanor of illegally selling cigarettes; yet, the officer who used an illegal chokehold prohibited by the New York Police Department was neither arrested nor indicted. Officer Pantaleo’s actions directly led to the death of an unarmed man who displayed no threatening acts or acts of violence towards him. This cannot continue.

    To Be Equal

    “Every American lives in safe, decent, affordable and energy efficient housing on fair terms.” – National Urban League 2025 housing empowerment goal

    Mel Watt Lowers Mortgage Down Payment Requirement

    NEW YORK, NY – Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt is taking action to turn the American dream of homeownership into reality for many more people. Director Watt recently announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which he regulates and which are linchpins of the nation’s residential mortgage market, will reduce down payment requirements from 5 percent to 3 percent. This will enable many more low-income, but credit-worthy, consumers to become homeowners while helping the nation’s faltering housing market regain its traction.

    We enthusiastically applaud this move and believe that as a result, more African American, Latino and working class borrowers of all races, who face an especially tough time securing mortgages, will have greater access to conventional loans, which are more affordable than other financing options. We are also encouraged that Director Watt’s plan will allow housing counseling in lieu of costly mortgage insurance to be a compensating factor to help make up for low down payments or low credit scores.

    Saving the necessary down payment to purchase a home is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the American Dream, especially for communities of color. African Americans and Latinos typically have lower incomes and are less likely to receive an inheritance or first-time buying help from their parents than white Americans. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, while it takes the typical white family 14 years to save for a 5 percent down payment, plus closing costs, it takes the typical Latino family 17 years and the typical African American family 21 years to save those amounts.

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