THE BLOG

Washington Watch: Week 24 -- "After Trayvon Does it Matter?"

07/15/2013 09:24 am ET | Updated Sep 13, 2013

Following the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, and recent news concerning the status of people of color in the country (particularly African-Americans), we are tempted to wonder if what happens in Washington really matters.

Let's look at both sides of the battle -- what we face, and why we keep going:

Being Black in America Today

There is no doubt we suffered greatly from the effects of the recession. So much black wealth -- mostly tied to home ownership -- was lost.

Here are some recent headlines that bring home our challenges in the years ahead: (Click on links to read full stories.)

"It's true that the country's middle class is collapsing for everyone, but that trend is most profound among African-Americans. In 2008, as black folks flocked into higher ed, the Economic Policy Institute found that 45 percent of African-Americans born into the middle class were living at or near poverty as adults."

"Deep job losses in occupations such as construction, information technology, manufacturing and insurance are not likely to recover. Middle-class families also saw nearly 30 percent of their wealth disappear over the past decade, while the cost of goods and services they rely upon steadily climbed."

"At a time when non-whites make up roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population, the percentage of minorities in the newsroom has fallen to 12.37 percent from its 13.73 percent high in 2006."

"This means that fewer minorities are getting the opportunity to work in news, and news organizations are losing their ability to empower, represent, and -- especially in cases where language ability is crucial -- even to report on minority populations in their communities."

Racial Diversity Efforts Ebb for Elite Careers, Analysis Finds
Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael Cooper, New York Times, 5/27/2013

"While about 12 percent of the nation's working-age population is black, about 5 percent of physicians and dentists in the United States are black -- a share that has not grown since 1990, according to an analysis of census data that was prepared for The New York Times by sociologists at Queens College of the City University of New York. The analysis found that 3 percent of American architects are black, another field where the share has not increased in more than two decades.

The share of the nation's lawyers who are minorities and women, which had been growing slowly but steadily for years, fell in 2010 for the first time since NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, began keeping statistics in 1993."

"It's difficult to get in the door in a lot of upscale places," sous chef Karl Adams told Redd. "A lot of time, they'll see my resume and when I step in I'll get the eye, like they can't match up the resume to a black person."
And while opportunities aren't handed out to African Americans at the same rate they are to chefs of other ethnicities, they're also often taken away, Adams adds. "We don't get the promotion, we don't get the experience or we're stuck in one station for one year, two years," he said."

"The welfare benefits I received under the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program were barely enough to live on, but they paid for housing, food and medical care while I pursued my education. I was poor, but hopeful about the future.

I don't see the 1970s as a panacea for the disadvantaged in this country. I also know that policy makers and social scientists disagree about whether the social programs of the 1960s and '70s had much impact on poverty. Still, if I had to be a poor, single mother in this society, I'm glad it was then and not now."

Yet, Still We Rise

In spite of... and BECAUSE of what African-Americans face in today's America -- giving up is not an option. Here is why:

If men, women, and children brought here in chains, and treated as chattel, did not give up their fight for dignity, neither will we.

If the civil rights workers who were spat on, beaten, jailed, and killed so that we could have the right to vote, did not give up their fight for equality, neither will we.

If the masses who spent MANY hours in line to vote in Florida in 2012, in spite of those who try to take away our voting privileges... well they did not give up. Even when they were told Barack Obama had won, they still stood in line to cast their ballot. They did not give up their right to vote, neither will we.

We will not give up.

For our future....
For our children...
For Trayvon Martin...

We will not give up on the promise of America: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."