One year after the release of the Urban League of Portland's State of Black Oregon report, things have not improved, the organization reports.
On virtually all the societal markers that the Urban League studied in the 2007-08 time frame – education, health equity, administrative justice, housing, income and unemployment – did not improve or got worse for Black Oregonians. Meanwhile, many categories improved for White Oregonians.
Midge Purcell, Public Affairs director for the league, says lawmakers need to address these issues.
"Doing nothing will make these matters worse," she said.
In education, dropout rates improved for students, except for African Americans. As justice policies have shifted to allowing more earned time for nonviolent offenders, Blacks still are jailed at nearly six times the rates for Whites. This trend is also evident in schools, where Black students are nearly twice as likely to be expelled or suspended as White students.
In housing, Blacks had the highest rate of home foreclosures from 2007 to 2009. Blacks were also twice as likely, even when looking at people of similar economic backgrounds, to receive high-cost, high-interest loans.
In income and employment, the gap between wages earned by Whites and Blacks has grown and data suggests that unemployment figures for Black men is increasing.
CEO Marcus Mundy calls the responses and solutions "inadequate" in a statement.
"Many have questioned the legality of addressing disparities within a specific minority population," he said. "We welcome the opportunity to navigate these challenges and call on government to work with the Urban League of Portland. Year after year, unemployment, incarceration, poverty, and health numbers speak to an inherent inequity in business and government; only bold changes will offer redress."
The league suggests several solutions to each of the disparities. The Urban League is proposing that:
• the City of Portland, Metro, Oregon Department of Transportation and other related agencies who oversee new development, including American Reinvestment and Recovery Act projects, devote a percentage of each project's workforce to those who are disproportionately affected by un/underemployment; and that the City of Portland set up a city-wide task force to conduct an equity assessment and propose recruitment and retention strategies;
• that the state legislature preserve and expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Temporary assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to slow economic spiral threatening families struggling to find work and meet their daily needs;
• that Portland Public Schools approve and implement a plan that allocates resources according to need; utilize culturally competent staff , targeted and sufficient resources as first steps towards narrowing the achievement gap;
• that hospitals, county health departments and the state set targeted health disparity reduction goals, using culturally competent strategies and equity tools to implement and assess improved health outcomes;
• that the state legislature require preparation of racial impact statements for any proposed laws that would affect the racial composition of Oregon's criminal offender population.