Amid ongoing tensions over the deaths of unarmed black men and teenagers by police, the National Urban League released its 2015 State of Black America report Thursday.
“Black America is in crisis — a jobs crisis, an education crisis and a justice crisis,” the civil rights group’s president and CEO, Marc Morial, told CBS News.
In part, the report analyzes nationwide figures from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to create equality indexes.
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The measurements compare blacks and Hispanics to whites in terms of economics, health, education, the justice system and civic engagement, with 100 percent signifying total equality.
According to the report’s executive summary, the overall index for black Americans is 72.2 percent, compared with a revised figure of 71.5 for 2014. The Hispanic index is 77.7 percent, an improvement from 75.8 percent a year ago.
For black Americans, the largest growth was in the area of social justice, which improved from from 56.9 percent in 2014 to 60.6 percent for 2015. The change was based on “fewer Blacks being victims of violent crimes and fewer Black high school students carrying weapons, while at the same time, the rates for white high school students increased,” according to the Urban League.
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That improvement comes despite high-profile cases of police violence over the last year, including the August 2014 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and a Justice Department investigation that found a pattern of racial bias by the city’s police and courts.
While the Ferguson case and others have increased awareness of racial disparities, Morial said the issues are nothing new.
“Ferguson raised it to a high-profile nature. Ferguson woke many up who may have been dozing or sleeping about the nature of these problems,” Morial said. “These problems are of a long-standing nature, they just didn’t pop up yesterday. Now, I think, we must muster the resolve to try to fix them.”
According to Morial, a wide-ranging discussion is needed “about police-community relations and police accountability and the criminal justice system.”
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“Working to keep the peace in a neighborhood does not give license to disrespect, use excessive force or violate the rights of citizens of that community,” Morial told CBS News.
“You want good, strong law enforcement and you want policing that can police communities of color effectively,” Morial said. “But what you don’t want is a police department that becomes a de facto occupying force where many citizens in the community fear the police, distrust the police.”
Morial said he hoped the report prompts people to take action, both on the individual level and for broader policy improvements.
“Change does not come by serendipity. Change does not come automatically,” Morial said. “It comes because people work for it.”
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