A report released last week by the California Legislative Black Caucus titled “The State of Black California” reveals the glaring inequalities faced by the state’s African Americans and Latinos in overall economic well-being, housing, health, education and treatment by the criminal justice system.

The report, commissioned by the Black Caucus and conducted by Steven Raphael of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and Michael A. Stoll of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA, also found that African Americans’ civic participation outpaces that of the other racial and ethnic groups.

Taking the status of white Californians as a baseline at 1.0, an overall Equality Index found Black and Latino Californians scoring 0.69. African Americans’ economic well-being was rated 0.59, while their quality of housing, health, education and treatment by the criminal justice system ranked between 0.66 and 0.69. However, civic participation by African Americans, measured by union membership and armed services participation, scored 1.30.

At a Jan. 31 press conference, caucus members, including its chairman, Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton), projected legislative and other proposals to redress the gaps and emphasized the measures will help all racial and ethnic groups.

“All Californians who find themselves unemployed or underemployed will benefit,” Assemblymember Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda) told reporters.

Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said she hoped the findings would help correct a misconception among the general public that African Americans are faring well.

“The lack of respect and dignity for African American families in California is astounding,” Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) told the press conference. “The entire Democratic caucus is committed to removing the barriers of inequality that stand in the way of the African American community in our state.”

Among a broad range of legislative proposals being prepared by the Black Caucus are an action plan to revitalize low-income neighborhoods in Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego; the establishment of standards to hire people from poor neighborhoods to work on projects funded by public infrastructure bonds; the reform of education to improve both college prep and vocational courses and provide more counselors; and a study of the disproportionate homicide rates among African American men, particularly in inner city neighborhoods.

The need to help people emerging from the criminal justice system get job training and find employment was highlighted.

Other proposals included expanding community and school health clinics, as well as HIV/AIDS screening and treatment in low-income and minority communities, and using Housing Bond funds to develop affordable rental units. Opportunities for minority-owned, woman-owned and small businesses would also grow, including in infrastructure related projects.

The report, prepared over a year and a half, with funding from Southern California Edison and the nonprofit California Endowment, also included involvement by the nine Black Caucus members in a series of town hall meetings around the state. Caucus members plan follow-up meetings this spring.

Black Californians — 6.6 percent of the state’s population in 2000 — had a median income of $35,000 compared to nearly $54,000 for whites and $36,500 for Latinos. Conversely, the poverty rate among African Americans was 22.4 percent, compared to 8 percent among whites and 22.1 among Latinos. While Asian Americans scored as well as whites on the overall Equality Index, their poverty rate of 12.8 percent points to serious inequalities within that group as well.

A key health index, infant mortality, was much higher among Black Californians — 11.6 per 1,000 live births, compared to 4.1, 5.2 and 4.8 among Asian Americans, Latinos and whites, respectively. Death rates were also higher, and children’s health worse, among African Americans.

Average jail sentences and months of probation were also significantly longer for African Americans than for whites.

The full report and recommendations can be found at .

mbechtel @ pww.org

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