Politics & Government

African-Americans are being left behind, report says. These leaders have ideas to help.

NACCP President Corinne Mack said the organization is looking for “concrete, sustainable change” to address lingering problems of poverty and racial discrimination.
NACCP President Corinne Mack said the organization is looking for “concrete, sustainable change” to address lingering problems of poverty and racial discrimination. jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

Saying Charlotte is at a crossroads, leaders of the NAACP and community groups Tuesday issued a “call to action” to address lingering problems of poverty and racial discrimination.

Charlotte NAACP leaders released a report that addresses disparities in education, housing, economic opportunity and poverty nationwide as well as in Charlotte.

“What we’re looking for is action,” local NACCP President Corinne Mack told a news conference. “Concrete, sustainable change.”

The NAACP’s Economic Inclusion Plan alluded to the unrest in Charlotte and other cities in 2016 that followed police shootings of African-Americans, including Keith Lamont Scott of Charlotte. Such shootings, the report said, “forced thousands to pour in to the streets in desperate attempts to be heard.”

The NAACP report comes months after another report from the Opportunity Task Force. That group was formed in response to a 2014 study from Harvard University and UC-Berkeley which showed that poor children in Charlotte are less likely to escape poverty than their peers in America’s 50 largest cities.

Tuesday’s report echoed the problems. “Despite the major gains in Charlotte, economic data … reveal on-going disparities in income and unemployment rate,” it said.

The new report makes it clear that African-Americans are usually on the losing end of such disparities.

“We’re making sure that the community being left behind knows very well who’s getting left behind,” said James Ford, who co-chairs the Opportunity Task Force. The problem, he said, is “racialized poverty.”

While community activists called for action, two elected officials pledged to make it happen.

Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell said the city should double its goal for minority participation in city contracts from 10 percent to 20 percent. He said the city should also do more for small businesses. According to the report, black-owned businesses employ an average of eight people compared to 11 by the average white-owned business.

Council member Braxton Winston said he would look at disparities in the justice system such as the relatively high number of minority arrests for non-violent crimes.

Activist Robert Dawkins called for increasing housing options by investing in the city’s Housing Trust Fund, a community land trust and rent subsidies.

Justin Perry, an advocate for racial and economic diversity in schools and co-chair of the group OneMeck, said people trapped in concentrated poverty face a concentration of other issues including schools, housing and other issues.

One by one, the community leaders said it’s time for action.

“Now we’re calling the question to the rest of the community,” said Ford. “Are you willing to do something about it?”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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