2024 State of Black America: Economic and political gains made by Black people threatened by current US politics, report says

BY Nii Ntreh March 4, 2024 9:48 AM EDT
Over the last decade, the Black Lives Matter Movement has tried to reiterate the need to guard the gains Black people have made and to improve upon them. Photo Credit: Blackpast'org

Economic, social and political progress made by Black America since the apogee of the civil rights era have come under threat more than ever before in the last six decades. That is according to the National Urban League in its at most recent publication on The State of Black America, at the end of this year’s Black History Month.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark law on civil rights and labor that is widely viewed as the most critical foundation of advancements chalked by minorities and workers in modern America. But the authors of the 2024 State of Black America point to the Act coming under attack in multiple states as evidence of political pressure that hopes to compel a reversal of Black American gains.

“Notwithstanding the effort to move forward, there’s always been a movement of resistance to that progress and that resistance has played a role in decelerating the progress that we need to make on the journey to parity. We see it being played out right now,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League after the launch of the report.

Morial, who was one of 12 authors of the report, wrote in his essay that, “No issue in history has met with more resistance in the United States Congress than civil rights.”

On his part, President Joe Biden, who also penned a piece to the report, wrote:

But for all the progress, we know there are extreme forces trying to hold us back. We see it from the onslaught of voter suppression and election subversion efforts to denying the freedom to choose; eliminating affirmative action in higher education; attacking diversity, equity, and inclusion programs across American life; and blocking federal programs designed to support small disadvantaged businesses owned by Black Americans and Black farmers.

Other authors of the report include Cory Booker, US Senator from New Jersey; Marcia Fudge, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Dr. Shavon Arline-Bradley, Principal and CEO of the National Council for Negro Women and Maya Wiley, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Evidence of Black gains being rolled back?

One of the ways civil rights have been guarded is through deliberate policies that targeted America’s underprivileged and disenfranchised. The principle of diversity, equity and inclusion have becoming a yardstick for the government and corporate actors when distributing democratic diveidends,

The Black Lives Matter movement ignited dialogue around diversity and inclusivity, with numerous corporate entities pledging to invest and support Black-owned startups. This conversation also propelled the founding of Black-led venture capital funds to address systemic barriers to funding and bring about a shift in dynamics. But last year, the Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm that invests in female entrepreneurs of color, was sued by the American Alliance for Equal Rights.

With venture capital being the second largest source of of business funding in the U.S., Black entrepreneurs’ access to capital is at stake for what is clearly a landmark case.

The Alliance particularly objected to The Fearless Foundation’s Strivers Grant that exclusively awards grants of up to $20,000 to Black women entrepreneurs. It argued that the grant is in violation of Section 1981 of the U.S. Code, which guarantees equal contractual rights without favor or discrimination based on race. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the group’s request for an injunction, temporarily halting the grant and overturning a lower court’s ruling that found that the funding was protected by the First Amendment.

Efforts to curtail venture capital expressly set aside for Black entrepreneurs have far-reaching ramifications. Only one percent of a total $215.9 billion in venture capital funding went to Black-founded companies in 2022. The gap stems from long-standing biases that have historically prevented Black Americans from securing funding and support for their entrepreneurial ideas. Even as the number of Black business owners in America increases exponentially, founders continue to struggle to raise sufficient funding. The underrepresentation of Black entrepreneurs and investors is a missed opportunity to drive innovation and engender economic growth.

The anecdote above, coupled with attacks on the teaching of Critical Race Theory and the revoking of gains for voting rights in many states may lend credence to the crux of 2024 The State of Black America report.