Many young people lack experiential knowledge of sit-ins, stakeouts and boycotts; yet, we come to power and of age with increased access to information, technology and rights. As facades of post-racialism and equality collide with modern reality, today's Millennials (18 to 29 year olds) face harsh economic, educational and political times.
The precariousness of citizen rights is noted in this year's State of Black America report. The National Urban League releases the document annually. It includes statistics on Whites, Blacks, and Latinos, an equality index and essays from activists. High racial disparities are noted in economics, social justice, health and civic engagement.
The report, which is themed "Occupy the Vote to Educate Employ and Empower",
will be released in a town hall meeting at Howard University on March 7 at 7 p.m. The free event, which is at Howard University's Cramton Hall, is open to the public.
The document conveys the importance of minority voting and the need for education. As a Millennial minority woman who recently graduated from a historically black university, I understand the need for my generation to engage in the political process and affirm matriculation through accredited schools to ultimately obtain viable degrees.
SOBA also calls attention to problematic voting trends and voting laws. Numerous states have banned same day registration and voting. Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia have decreased their early voting periods. Florida recently began restricting voter registration drives. Many liken the state of modern voting to the Jim Crow era, as people of color are disproportionately impacted by the changes.
National Urban League President and CEO, Marc Morial, believes that suppression is at play. He critiques the laws, but also connects the need for citizen action (voting) with obtaining education and striving for societal equality.
The SOBA "Occupy" theme acknowledges the peaceful, political efforts of Occupiers worldwide, many who criticize widening wealth gaps and prejudicial government.
A recurring theme in the SOBA report is the validity of higher education. Even as
the nation grapples with everything from achievement gaps to dropout rates and ballooning student loan debt, education still liberates.
But, that does not stop current politicians from negating it, and promoting mediocrity. When GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently maligned President Barack Obama for wanting Americans to go to college, risky logic was employed.
Santorum said, "I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his."
This kind of anti-intellectual rhetoric is not only troubling in its inherent low expectations, but in many instances, it is also hypocritical, as its authors tend to have distinguishing credentials. Santorum has a master's degree in business and a law degree.
Whether we like school for the opportunities afforded by completion or the classroom experience for its sake, in a nation with an unemployment rate of about eight percent, and a rate of nearly 14 percent for African Americans, money still talks. College graduates generally acquire more lifetime earnings, have lucrative career choices and nab jobs with better benefits. The state of minority communities must include prioritizing knowledge.
For more about State of Black America '12 and to view the live stream of the release: