D Kevin McNeirNational

Is Technology the Key to Ending Disparities in U.S.?

The long list of troubling conditions and disparities still plaguing the majority of African-American communities may have improved within the last several decades due, in part, to the determination and leadership of and sacrifices made by Blacks and their allies during the civil rights movement, but disturbing, even life-threatening inequities disparities still exist for people of color in the U.S.

And in preparation for the July 29 premiere on TV One, the multi-media company teamed up with National Urban League (NUL) on Tuesday, May 8, to produce the groundbreaking news special, 2018 State of Black America Town Hall. Taped at the Howard Theatre in Northwest and hosted by TV One’s news personality Roland S. Martin, the town hall examined the NUL’s annual State of Black America report — a document that has been published for the last 42 years on racial equality and justice in America. Several hundred members of the Black community attended the taping as members of the audience with some sharing comments and asking questions.

Taped to air as a two-hour special, the town hall brought together some of our nation’s greatest thought leaders, journalists and public figures for a powerful and honest dialogue on what the latest report reveals about the future of urban America and the Black community.

Participants included: Martin, Morial, Benjamin Crump, Esq., civil rights attorney, president of the National Bar Association and founder of the Tallahassee, Florida-based law firm Ben Crump Law; Kimberly Bryant, founder and executive director of Black Girls CODE; Damon Young, editor-in-chief and co-founder of VerySmartBrothas; Linda Goler Blount, CEO and president, Black Women’s Health Imperative; Jason Towns, managing partner, Groundwork Ventures; Brittney Cooper, associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, Rutgers University and co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective Blog; Angela Yee, radio personality; and Shermichael Singleton, political strategist.

Additional information included in this year’s report focuses on NUL programs in St. Louis, Buffalo, Chattanooga and Pittsburgh with themes including STEM education and youth mentoring, jobs and diversity, health care and NUL’s efforts in voting and civil engagement.

The report evaluates the social and economic status of African Americans using an Equality Index, this year including a Digital Inclusion Index that quantifies Black America’s participation in the digital revolution. Both indexes assume a value of 100 percent to be full equality between white and Black America.

The 2018 Digital Inclusion Index, 74 percent, and the 2018 Equality Index, 72.5 percent, indicate improvement within the Black community – but still not a level playing field, says NUL President and CEO Marc H. Morial.

“Historically, while great industrial breakthroughs have profited our nation, African Americans have often been exploited, rather than elevated by these advancements,” Morial said. “Fortunately, the digital revolution is still in its youth and ripe with potential for Black Americans.”

“While it has positioned itself such that the barriers of entry are few and low, the findings of the National Urban League’s 2018 Digital Inclusion Index are unambiguous: we must separate the signal from the noise.”

The report found that African Americans are far less likely than whites to be employed in social media and technology companies; less than 5 percent of the workforce, versus more than 50 percent for whites. Less than 6 percent of total Black employment in 2017 was in the tech industry, versus 8.5 percent for whites.

“Technology is a study in contrasts for Black America,” Morial said. “Black families continue to remain less likely than white families to have dedicated internet access at home, yet African Americans are the second-largest multicultural group, after Asian Americans, for mobile device ownership, with 91 percent owning smartphones.”

“Black millennials are influential, leading users of mobile technology and platforms, and voracious consumers and creators of digital content but lag behind in tech employment,” he said.

Five key points from the report yield the following vital information: 1) This year, State of Black America seeks to answer the question, “Are the new job, business and educational opportunities created by increased digitization of our world being equally shared?”; 2) Our research revealed a paradox: while Black Americans are over represented as tech consumers, we are underrepresented in the tech workforce; 3) Technology is the axis on which the 21st century economy turns. Economic parity relies on access to high-tech tools and the capacity to make the most of them; 4) The overall Equality Index remains 72.5 percent, same as 2017, while the Digital Inclusion Index is slightly higher at 74.1 percent; and 5) Technology can eliminate disparities in areas like medical treatment and credit scoring, all of which contribute to overall economic inequality.

The State of Black America Report continues to serve as one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics (including employment, income and housing), education, health, social justice and civic engagement.

“Without full, equitable inclusion into the digital economy, communities of color will continue to be forced to the fringes of every marker of well-being,” Morial said. “Therefore, the National Urban League stands on the digital horizon, poised to secure the promise of the digital future. And there is no app for that.”

The report will be released on Friday, May 4 at 6 a.m. ET at www.stateofblackamerica.org.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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