Black Americans are living longer, but need more to improve their lives

The National Urban League’s State of Black America 2017 report is optimistic on some points, but outlines a lack of access to opportunities.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

While the National Urban League’s State of Black America 2017 report, which was issued Tuesday, is optimistic on some points, it still outlines a lack of access to opportunities for growth and improvement for African-Americans in the United States.

More African-Americans are going to college now, and life expectancy is increasing. Both of those are good things, but they are counterbalanced by the report’s other points: unemployment is twice as high for African-Americans as for white people, and the average African-American household only brings in half as much income as the average white household. Those wealth disparities haven’t changed in about four decades.

“If you are middle class and African American in this country, there is no guarantee that your children will be middle class,” Urban League President Marc Morial said in an interview. “We are seeing many instances of second-generation African American middle class falling into the lower middle class and back into poverty.”

Joshua Holland, writing for the Nation in August, noted, “If current economic trends continue, the average black household will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their white counterparts hold today. Absent significant policy interventions, or a seismic change in the American economy, people of color will never close the gap.”

Morial spoke to declining voter turnout and said there was a need for more involvement if the black community can ever hope to see help in this regard from its elected leaders.

“In state, local and off-year elections, black voter turnout has been low, and it’s trending lower,” Morial said. “At the same time, you have voter suppression efforts underway in more than half the states, which can have an adverse impact on over 50 percent of African American voters, you have declining participation among blacks in the political process.”