The state of Black America and Black Cleveland is troubled: Gregory L. Brown and Marsha Mockabee

CLEVELAND — Two recently released reports benchmark and illustrate the effects of systemic inequities, racial hatred, and discriminatory policies and practices experienced by people of color in America, particularly African Americans.

The first is the National Urban League’s “State of Black America,” which is an analysis of the explosive growth of domestic extremism and systemic inequities in the areas of economics, employment, health, housing, criminal justice, and civic participation. The report details how domestic extremists in America are now advocating for the elimination of our civil liberties, infiltrating our military ranks, law enforcement and political systems.

The second, titled “The State of Black Cleveland,” was produced by PolicyBridge, a locally based “think and action tank.” This report describes the effects of many issues over recent years, ranging from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the digital divide, and systemic disinvestment in communities of color.

“The State of Black Cleveland” specifically reviews community conditions in five areas: health disparities, education, economic opportunity, neighborhoods and housing, and community violence. These community conditions have contributed to troubling outcomes that have stymied progress and perpetuated poverty, unemployment, and trauma. The challenges associated with these five areas have resulted in the current State of Black Cleveland being defined as “Troubled” or “Marginalized.”

The dire environmental and community conditions detailed in the two reports continue to represent the need for urgent and sustained investments and actions to significantly change the trajectory of those who have been and continue to be “marginalized” and “victimized in Cleveland and across the nation. The racist ideology supporting the domestic extremist movement can be tied to the dramatic increase in hate crimes, mass shootings and police brutality claiming lives in communities of color every day.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has quantified an increase in racial violence and tracked the growing domestic threat of extremists working in our law enforcement ranks and in our military.

We can no longer afford to minimize this troubling trend by painting these actions as isolated incidents and by protecting the hate speech from politicians by invoking the same freedoms they seek to limit for other Americans. Though systemic inequities may seem like isolated issues, the outcomes are actually instigating cross-sector consequences that are interconnected and intersectional and hinder the ability of communities to thrive and grow.

The Urban League of Greater Cleveland is “empowering communities and changing lives.” In our community leadership roles, we are called upon to serve as thought leader, convener, and service provider, to mitigate many of the issues detailed in the two recently released reports. Our imperative is to ensure that every member of our community has equitable civil rights, access to education, workforce development and economic empowerment. Our goal is to eliminate the racial, economic, and societal barriers that prevent Black Americans and other underserved communities of color from achieving their full potential.

The “State of Black America,” “The State of Black Cleveland” (PolicyBridge, 2023), and “Resetting the Table; An Urban Agenda for Cleveland” (PolicyBridge, 2021) serve as launching pads for our community to galvanize around this goal.

It is time for all of us to commit ourselves to the elimination of policies and practices that result in systemic inequities, racial hatred, and domestic extremism. To do this, we will need supporters and change agents from across our political, civic, and business spectrums to provide leadership and resources to successfully combat the clear and present dangers to our nation and communities, while lifting up the importance of balanced economic and social prosperity for all. The lasting impact of this social change movement will lead to an inclusive society where everyone is respected as a human being worthy of every opportunity to thrive. The time to act is now!!!

Gregory L. Brown is executive director of PolicyBridge. Marsha Mockabee is president and CEO of The Urban League of Greater Cleveland and co-chair of Cleveland’s Racism as a Public Health Crisis Coalition (RAPHC-C).

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