Commentary by Marc H. Morial, President National Urban League
NEW YORK - At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2011, Oprah Winfrey made history with the launching of her new television network, OWN. As the first African American woman to launch a major television network, Oprah’s amazing ascension in the broadcast world is emblematic of the progress we have made in Black America and the hopes we all hold for an even brighter future. It is my fervent wish that in 2011 we will all push forward to realize our own dreams, especially those of us who have been struggling to find jobs.
The year 2010 brought us more than our share of challenges – from a horrific earthquake in Haiti to a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We were riveted by the dramatic rescue of 33 men trapped for months in a Chilean mine. We were shocked by the Wikileaks massive dump of secret information. Young Americans continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in two major wars. We saw a dramatic shift in Congress with Republicans capturing control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate. And we begin this New Year almost like we began the one before; with unemployment in many communities of color nearly double the national rate of 9.8 percent.
Double-digit unemployment rates have been a reality for urban communities -- which also tend to be communities of color -- since August 2008 for African Americans and February 2009 for Latinos. In fact, African-American unemployment has been at or near 10% since December 2001. Last year, the African-American unemployment rate was on average 1.8 times higher than that of whites. African-American median household income was 62% of that earned by white households and African Americans were more than three times as likely as whites to live below the poverty line.
Without jobs, families are more likely to lack health insurance and access to affordable health care. Their educational opportunities are also limited, and the possibility of achieving the dream of homeownership grows further out of reach.
President Obama has made repairing our struggling economy his number one New Year’s resolution. While recent data shows our economy is on the rebound, he said “Our most important task now is to keep that recovery going. As President that’s my commitment to you: to do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class. That’s my resolution for the coming year.”
The National Urban League begins its second century resolved to help the President fulfill that promise.
With the 2012 election now in sight, this year gives the President, the Congress, and all of us, one more chance to get it right.
Congratulations Oprah. Here’s to success and happiness for everyone in the New Year.