Report underscores National Urban League's irrevelance

Posted: May 04, 2005 12:00 AM

The National Urban League recently released its "State of Black America" report for 2005.

Those with weak hearts can feel comfortable reading this material. There are no surprises here, either in the data reported or in the recommendations made.

Central to the report is an Equality Index, which is constructed to measure overall black equality relative to whites. Weighting components that measure economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement, the Equality Index places black equality at 73 percent that of whites.

Few will be surprised to learn that blacks earn less, own less, are unemployed more, live shorter lives, attend worse schools and are more likely to be convicted of a crime and be sent to prison.

How, according to the league, should blacks handle this deficit in equality they continue to experience? Here is league President Marc Morial in his remarks introducing this report at the National Press Club:

"The most powerful tool we have to make our voices heard is the vote, and with the vote we can start electing leaders committed to closing this gap."

The report lists 10 "prescriptions" for change. Eight of them are government programs. Of the other two, one suggests that blacks should tithe and volunteer more, and the other admonishes blacks to "focus on savings, investing, and estate planning."

Immediately following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were five black members of the House. Today, the Congressional Black Caucus is 42 members strong. However, according to the league, this eightfold increase in black political power on Capitol Hill still provides insufficient clout to solve our problems.

There is barely a hint in the league report that black problems might have anything to do with things other than politics.

Here are some gaps between white and black America that the study does not see relevant to report:

_ 48 percent of black families vs. 82 percent of white families are headed by married couples;

_ 43 percent of black families vs. 13 percent of white families are headed by a woman with no spouse;

_ Black women are three times more likely than white women to have an abortion;

_ 70 percent of black babies vs. 23 percent of white babies are born to unwed mothers;

_ Whereas blacks represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than 50 percent of new AIDS cases.

The gaps that the National Urban League reports are gaps in symptoms and results. These gaps show the causes.

Consider, for instance, that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income of black families is 59 percent that of white families. If we look, however, at the difference in median income between black families headed by a married couple and white families headed by a married couple, this gap in median family income shrinks to 28 percent.

Consider the compelling picture of studies that show that the major predictor of a child's success in school is the behavior and values that the child learns at home. Family is the best education program our nation can have.

The crisis in the black community today is a crisis of values. It is not a crisis of politics, as the league would have us believe. We can be assured, however, that if blacks really want to believe that their problems are in Washington and not in our own hearts, minds and souls, things will only get worse.

In 1950, long before black life in America became defined by politics, 78 percent of black families were headed by married couples. That compares with 48 percent today. In the 1960s, two of every 10 black babies were born to unwed mothers, compared to seven of every 10 today.

Bill Cosby was nobly trying to convey the truth to blacks that today's challenge is regaining control of, and taking responsibility for, our own lives. Exactly the opposite message from that of the National Urban League.

It is not accidental that on questions of government policy, the league ignores every essential reform that would empower blacks. How can the league seriously decry the poor state of affairs of black ownership and oppose President Bush's efforts to reform Social Security with personal retirement accounts? How can the league seriously talk about the dismal state of inner-city public schools and not utter a word about the importance of introducing school choice?

How can the league talk about crime and recidivism in the black community and not realize what happens when politics displace church, values and family in black communities?

In sum, the real message is that the National Urban League is now just another part of Washington of little relevance to the challenges ahead for restoring a strong, healthy and independent black America.