U.S. progress towards Black equality seen unraveling in pandemic

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 13 August 2020 10:31 GMT

A demonstrator wearing a protective face mask takes part in a Black Lives Matter protest, amid nationwide unrest following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd. Photo taken in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid

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Black Americans were making only slight progress in equality even before pandemic hit

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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Aug 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Black people in the United States were making slight progress towards equality, but even that is being undone by the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus, according to an index of American equality released on Thursday.

Research by the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, found Black Americans' levels of equality with white people had risen slightly since 2018, aided by improvements in health and social justice.

But the calculations were made before the outbreak of COVID-19, which is wiping out Black gains in wealth and jobs, while killing about twice as many Black people as white, said the National Urban League report, "2020 State of Black America".

On a scorecard gauged with white people at 100%, Black Americans scored 74% on economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement, up 1.6 percentage points from 2018, the League said.

Since those calculations were made, the United States has grappled with the impact of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, which was sparked in large part by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody.

"America is in crisis. Black America is in a doubly difficult crisis," said Marc Morial, National Urban League president.

"You've got the health issues related to COVID and the disproportionality of deaths and disease, and you've got the economic fallout, disproportionality in terms of unemployment, the impact on businesses.

"The you've got the racial justice crisis, which was put into plain sight by the death of George Floyd," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Even before the coronavirus and the economic recession, the study's findings "reflect longstanding racial and ethnic disparities across nearly every area of American life," the report said.

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(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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