The Vanishing Black Middle Class

George E. Curry | 3/15/2012, 2:04 p.m.

Even though blacks still trail whites in income, there was no significant black middle class before the modern Civil Rights Movement.

"...The civil rights movement of the last 50 years forced open the door of full-fledged American prosperity to all those who had been barred from its many comforts in decades past, either through economic, legislative, a racial apartheid, or some institutionalized combination of all of the above," the report said.

After the Civil Rights Movement and affirmative action opened the doors of opportunity, they are now being slammed in our face. The National Urban League chapter on the black middle class did not address the issue of black net worth, which has also been pummeled.

The Economic Policy Institute, analyzing data collected by the Federal Reserve, found that in 2004, the median net worth of White households was $134,280, compared with $13,450 for black households. By 2009, the medium net worth for white households had declined by 24 percent to $97,860. Over that same period, the medium net worth for African-American households had fallen 83 percent to $2,170.

Despite the Republican crusade for smaller government, the National Urban League report argues that the federal government must be an active partner if these blows to the black middle class are to be reversed.

"Programs such as targeted job training, Pell grants, small business lending, pre- and post-purchase housing counseling, and Medicare and Medicaid provide the foundation which makes middle class life possible," the report stated. "These programs should not, and must not be sacrificed in the hyper-partisan debate designed to produce political winners and losers." George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. Also, follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.