Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield Talks About the Impact of Persistent Poverty in the Black Community

Representative G. K. Butterfield
Representative G. K. Butterfield

On April 30, Representative G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and members of the CBC took to the House Floor where they spoke on how persistent poverty in the African American community fosters feelings of hopelessness and called for the need for Congressional action and law enforcement accountability. 

**Remarks as Prepared for Delivery**

Representative G. K. Butterfield Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus on the Impact of Persistent Poverty in the African American Community

April 30, 2015

Today, our hearts go out to the family of Freddie Gray, and all affected by his unfortunate death. Too often we are seeing these incidents occur, and I assert Black America is in a state of emergency. We see this emergency every day. But what we see happening in Baltimore is not just about police misconduct, it’s about poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunity, hopelessness and despair.

Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, more than 25 bills have been introduced by members of the Congressional Black Caucus that address the need for increased law enforcement accountability.

One such bill is the End Racial Profiling Act, introduced by the Dean of the Democratic Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman John Conyers. The bill has been cosponsored by nearly all CBC members and enforces the constitutional right to equal protection under the law by changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice of profiling.

We call on ALL members of Congress to take a bipartisan path to legislation that ensures law enforcement accountability. While the gap in accountability disproportionately affects Black and brown people, this has an impact on us all. This is everyone’s issue.

A second issue that must be addressed is that of the economic disparities that African Americans face in communities across our nation. The civil unrest we are seeing in Baltimore comes as no surprise to those who experience the reality of inequities in their daily lives.

The economic climate in Black America and the divide that has persisted for generations is due largely to our country’s history of racial divide, oppression and lack of access to opportunity.

While much of the country has experienced an economic recovery over the last six years, it has not reached every community. There is still much work that remains and nowhere is this more evident than in the Black community.
Recently, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Joint Economic Committee released a report on the economic challenges facing the African American Community. African Americans are struggling and continue to face high rates of persistent poverty, unemployment and long- term unemployment as well as significantly lower incomes and slower wealth accumulation than White households.

The following stats are illustrative of what we had already surmised:

•    The median income of African American households is $34,600—nearly $24,000 less than the median income of white households ($58,300).

•    The median net worth of White households is 13 times the level for Back households.

•    Black Americans are almost three times more likely to live in poverty than White Americans.

•    At 10.1 percent, the current unemployment rate for Black Americans is double the rate for White Americans.

•    Black Americans currently face an unemployment rate higher than the national unemployment rate reached during the peak of the recession.

•    African Americans are less likely to obtain education beyond high school than White students, and they are less likely to earn a college degree.

•    Even among college graduates, Blacks face worse job prospects than Whites.

•    The unemployment rate for Black workers with at least a bachelor’s degree is 5.2 percent compared to just 2.9 percent for White workers.

•    Only 44 percent of Black Americans own a home compared to nearly 74 percent of Whites.

In my home state of North Carolina, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 9.9% based on an unemployment rate of 3.2% for Whites. The poverty rate for African Americans is 27.5% while for Whites it is 12.6%.

And right here in the District of Columbia, our Nation’s Capital, the median household income for African Americans is $38,300 while for Whites it is $115,900. Yes, that’s right. That is a gap of $77,600. And the poverty rate here in the Nation’s Capital is 27.4% for African Americans compared to 7.6% for Whites.

Colleagues, the stats tell the story and these numbers are staggering, troubling and highly problematic. It’s time for a renewed focus on Blacks in America and a need for real solutions on issues that have persistently plagued our communities for generations.

America is not working for many African Americans and we, as members of Congress, have an obligation to fight harder and smarter to help repair the damage. We must work thoughtfully and collaboratively to rectify these persistent inequities. It’s time for real solutions and policies that work to reduce wealth inequality and help build economic stability and mobility for all, particularly for African Americans. I yield back the balance of my time.

Source: New Pittsburgh Courier Online

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