Black and Hispanic Americans continue to lag far behind whites economically -- and their prospects look much worse under President Trump, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the National Urban League.
Despite promises of a “new deal for black America,” any recent progress made towards racial equality is increasingly under threat, said Marc Morial, the league’s president and chief executive. The president's incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail has translated into discriminatory public policy, he said.
“The social cancer of hate continues to metastasize, thriving in a climate conducive to hostility towards religious and racial minorities, permeating even at the highest levels of national discourse and threatening to further crack our fractured nation,” Morial wrote in the report.
In an interview with The Post, he pointed to Trump's intent to roll back key Obama-era policies from expanding health care coverage to greater police oversight as evidence that the future for black America is precarious.
The annual report found the standard of living for African Americans is 72 percent that of the average white person.
That measurement, known as the “equality index,” has been virtually unchanged for blacks for years, but its various components -- economics, education, health, social justice and civic engagement -- have moved up and down.
African Americans have made gains over the past year with increased access to health care as well as in education, as a higher percentage of blacks are receiving associate’s degrees. Their economic picture also improved slightly, with a boost in black women’s earnings and growth in the percentage of black-owned businesses.
But those gains were neutralized by a decline in social-justice equality between blacks and whites, the report said. African Americans experienced an increase in incarceration after an arrest. And whites posted a greater decline than blacks in terms of their likelihood of being the victim of a violent crime.
The only area in which blacks have achieved parity with whites is in civic engagement.
“While the Obama years were no panacea for America’s long-standing racial inequities, they were a steady climb toward improvement,” the report said.
Trump, who attempted to woo black voters last fall with a 10-point plan for urban renewal, has promised to further improve life for African Americans with increased school choice, safer communities and financial reforms to make it easier to start a business. Trump, in his “New Deal for Black America,” also promised to restore African Americans' civil rights by "protecting" them from illegal immigration.
“No group has been more economically harmed by decades of illegal immigration than low-income African American workers,” Trump said in the plan’s announcement. He vowed to reinvest into the “inner cities” the money saved by barring Muslim refugees from entering the country.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus executive committee, said in an interview that blacks and Hispanics see past Trump’s effort to pit the two minority communities against one another.
"He is intentionally trying to drive a wedge between between two populations that are both in need," Bass said.
Inequalities between Hispanics and whites were slightly narrower than for African Americans, according to the report.
The standard of living for Hispanics is 78 percent that of whites, with continued improvement over previous years driven by gains in health and education. In health, Latinos saw improvements in maternal mortality and greater insurance coverage, for both adults and children, compared with whites. Health is the only area in which Latinos have achieved parity with whites.
Like blacks, Hispanics also saw a rise in the share of young adults earning associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and a decline in high school dropouts. Hispanic women also saw a boost in earnings, and Hispanics overall experienced a growth in business ownership.
Latinos lost ground relative to whites in the area of social justice, with a rise in incarceration rates and female homicide rates.
The economic inequalities exist in all parts of the country, the report shows, but the income and unemployment gap is wider in certain cities.
For the second year in a row, Milwaukee was the least equal metropolitan area for African Americans, with a black unemployment rate of 14 percent compared with 3 percent for whites. Other Midwestern cities such as Toledo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit also fared poorly in terms of racial disparities in unemployment.
The five cities are all former manufacturing towns, where African Americans were disproportionately employed in the auto, steel and meatpacking industries. Those industries have migrated to the Sunbelt to escape the influence of powerful unions, said Bernard Anderson, a former Labor Department economist who helped develop the first State of Black America report 41 years ago.
Whites, meanwhile, were more likely to have other job opportunities, he said.
"The nature and pace of the industrial transformation had an impact on the ultimate racial disparity and employment," said Anderson, management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
San Antonio posted the smallest black-white unemployment gap.
Rochester, N.Y. has the biggest unemployment disparity between Hispanics and whites. But Hispanics appear to have achieved racial parity with whites in terms of unemployment rates in Sarasota, Fla.; Salt Lake City; and El Paso.
Minneapolis-St. Paul had the largest black-white income inequality, with the median household income for African Americans at $31,672 compared with $76,581 for whites. California’s Riverside-San Bernardino area has the smallest black-white income gap for the third year in a row.
The Washington metropolitan area posted the highest median household income for both blacks and whites, although with a yawning disparity -- $68,054 for blacks and $112,177 for whites. Latinos also earned the most in Washington -- $69,481 -- compared with other cities.
African Americans in Toledo fared the worst, with a median household income of $23,693. That figure is half of the lowest median household income for whites, at $46,012, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The income gap between Hispanics and whites was largest in Springfield, Mass., where the median household income for Hispanics was $24,929 -- the lowest for Hispanics in the nation -- compared with $62,321 for whites. Modesto, Calif. had the smallest Hispanic-white income gap.
The report presented a range of solutions to protect progress that has been made in narrowing the economic gap between white America and blacks and Hispanics, including universal preschool, doubling federal investment in Pell Grants to allow more low-income students to attend college, and enacting a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.
The report also called for expanding summer youth employment programs, broadening access to low-income housing assistance, protecting food assistance for poor families, and providing incentives so that more doctors accept Medicaid, government health insurance for the poorest Americans.
Some of these solutions had been presented to Trump during a White House meeting in March with Congressional Black Caucus leaders.
In response to the one question Trump repeatedly posed to black Americans during his campaign -- “What do you have to lose?” -- Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-L.A.) said African Americans have plenty to lose under Trump given his budget priorities, proposed policies and personnel decisions.
“From appointing an attorney general with a hostile record on issues of justice, equality, and civil rights, to proposing massive cuts to programs of critical importance to the most vulnerable in our communities, this president has made it clear that he intends to roll back the progress we have made in recent years,” Richmond wrote in a column included in the report.
Trump has proposed major budget cuts to agencies responsible for overseeing federal programs spanning housing to health care that help low-income Americans, who are disproportionately black.
The administration has also proposed rolling back President Barack Obama’s Labor Department initiatives that would expand the number of workers eligible for overtime. Trump is also pulling back from the Obama Justice Department’s recommendations on police reform.
“Given what we’ve seen so far in terms of the kinds of policies that are being set forth by this administration, I don’t sense that there will be great gains on narrowing these gaps, and in some cases, they could widen,” said Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy and one of the report’s authors.
She said in an interview that the annual reports provide a consistent barometer of how black and Hispanic Americans are faring “beyond the political talking points.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did the Labor Department.
The Urban League issued its first State of Black America report in 1976, prompted by President Gerald R. Ford’s State of the Union address, which neglected to mention black Americans, and the Democratic response by Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine), which also omitted racial equality from his list of endangered promises.
It introduced an “equality index” in 2005 as a way to measure how far African Americans have progressed in achieving racial equality with white America. The Hispanic equality index was added in 2010.
The report will be formally released during a news conference Tuesday morning in Washington, coinciding with the National Urban League's annual policy conference during which the civil rights organization will share its findings and recommendations with members of Congress.
"What happens in Washington counts -- for the good and potentially for the bad," Morial said. "We must remain vigilant and protect our progress."