Gloomy Outlook for Black America, Scholars Conclude

Herbert Boyd | , Nnpa | 3/19/2012, 2:06 p.m.

A group of leading Black intellectuals met at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to discuss the current plight of African-Americans in the United States.

Curiously, at the recent forum, which took place last month and was entitled "Black America: A Prescription for the Future," alongside their programs, attendees were given an article published in the Journal of Negro Education in 1936.

That conference apparently ended without the delegates accepting any of the proposed solutions.

Those participants might have beneted from the work of the panelists at the Schomburg, particularly the remedies offered by Dr. Bernard Anderson, Dr. William Julius Wilson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Richard Kahlenberg.

In 1936, with the solutions seeming unacceptable, the delegates agreed that a next step was necessary and they called for a national Negro congress under the auspices of the great labor leader A. Philip Randolph.

More than 75 years later, Norman Hill provided a living connection to Randolph at the Schomburg as president emeritus of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI).

Hill's task was to set the stage for the panelists with an overview of the Civil Rights Movement, and he did that quite elaborately, covering from 1896 to 1965.

Hill delivered his presentation after a general welcome from the moderator, professor Jerald Podair, and greetings from Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Clayola Brown, president of the APRI; and a representative from the NFL Players Association standing in for executive director DeMaurice Smith.

To address the problems facing Black America, Hill said the renewed movement would be wise to follow the principles and credo of his mentor, Randolph.

"At the banquet table of nature," Hill began, quoting Randolph, "there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can't take anything, you won't get anything, and if you can't hold anything, you won't keepanything.

And you can't take anything without organization." A barrage of statistics came from Anderson and Wilson, with only the cogent words of

Sharpton providing a pause. An esteemed economist, Anderson's analysis is often found in the National Urban League's annual State of the Nation report.

He shared some of that information with a fairly sparse but attentive audience.

On the question of jobs, Anderson said, "Blacks comprise 20 percent of the unemployed."

And that number may be even higher if you include those no longer looking for work and the underemployed. "When you stop looking for work, you are no longer listed among the unemployed," he said.

His was a litany of despair as he compared the prospects of Blacks to a train's caboose. "No matter how fast the train is going, the caboose [Blacks] will never catch up to the engine [whites]."

Sharpton's main thesis had less to do with comparing Blacks to whites and more to do with the expanded Black middle and upper class and the poor or lower class they've left behind. "What we did during the Civil Rights