The State of Black America® is the signature annual reporting of the National Urban League. Now in its 44th edition, the State of Black America® is one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, criminal justice and civic participation.
Each edition contains penetrating commentary and insightful analysis from recognized authorities and leading figures in politics, the corporate and tech sectors, the nonprofit arena, academia and popular culture.
The 2020 State of Black America®, Unmasked, matches the national mood for serious introspection, exposing the human toll and economic devastation of a global pandemic on Black America while laying bare the deep rooted inequities that predated the pandemic and accelerated the virus’s deadly spread. Watch the State of Black America Virtual Series: 2020 Unmasked and read the full report on stateofblackamerica.org.
The 2020 Report
America caught the coronavirus and Black America caught hell. As states began to collect race-based data, a bleak picture emerged: Black, Latino and Indigenous people were getting sick and dying in higher numbers. African Americans are reportedly three times as likely to contract the coronavirus and nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white people.
The latest findings tell a chilling tale of a nation divided along racial fault lines that first erupted at the arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619, and whose institutions and laws were built on the pillars of racist ideology that continues to oppress, terrorize and disenfranchise the descendants of the enslaved today.
Against the grim backdrop of an exploding public health crisis, the nation watched as a Black man was denied his God-given right to breathe, losing his life under a police officer’s knee pressed into the back of his neck for almost nine minutes. George Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe,” ignited a firestorm of protests. Americans spilled out into the streets, insisting, once more, that Black lives matter.
Our reporting reveals the common denominator in the alarming and disproportionate ratio of Black people left gasping for air in emergency rooms and at the hands of law enforcement: centuries of systemic racism.
Through our partnership with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, we examine the racial underpinnings of the pandemic, honing in on the indisputable link between our legacy of systemic racism and higher rates of Black death. Our authors tackle the insatiable reach of the outbreak into how we live, work and vote, delving into the erasure of Black wealth and job gains in the wake of the historic recession and recording setting unemployment; our interconnectedness, reminding us that prisoner health is indeed public health; the fate of HBCUs come fall; and the increased risk to our November 2020 election, undoubtedly disrupted by the pandemic, to disinformation and suppression.
The pandemic has forced Americans to grapple—yet again—with the enduring consequences of slavery and the prevalence of systemic racism in our society. Our public health systems, economic, education and housing policies, and political and criminal justice systems have all been infected by this insidious disease—and must be remedied.
The National Urban League stands united with all people committed to the monumental task of reckoning with our nation’s racist past—and present. We stand resolute and ready to leverage our influence and resources to break the pattern of empty reforms that tinker at the edges of injustice, because without justice, there can be no peace. To cure our nation, we must fearlessly acknowledge and address the straight and unbroken through-line that connects 1619 to COVID-19.
To access all State of Black America® content—including complete author essays, datasets, and a ready-for-download version of the executive summary—visit the State of Black America® website.