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On behalf of the National Urban League’s Board of Trustees, I am proud to present this year’s edition of the State of Black America®: Unmasked.  The report takes a look behind the headlines and examines the alarming spread and tragic consequences of the coronavirus on Black American life. 

Since the pandemic’s onset in March, the news has barely changed. COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc and create challenges that are unprecedented in our country’s history.  The urgency of this moment demands that we work together to steer ourselves through these challenges and connect all communities in need to the networks and resources they need to survive and thrive.

While this crisis touches everyone, the evidence is clear: communities of color are being hit far harder than others.  As COVID-19 impacts these already vulnerable communities, we have all been forced to reckon with the resurgence of our common understanding of systemic racism, a disease our country has yet to cure.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many other Black men and women at the hands of police officers demonstrate that systemic racism and discrimination—problems long observed—have been met with far too little action or progress.  As our fellow Americans march united in streets across the country demanding change, COVID-19 has further complicated the situation.  Protestors are forced to choose their constitutional right to assemble and protest over the still looming threat to their health and lives. 

The dual crises of coronavirus and national unrest have cast a spotlight on our nation’s systemic inequities for all of the world to see.  Inequalities in healthcare, education, policing, criminal justice, employment and more have led us to a critical tipping point in our modern history.

Since its founding, the National Urban League has readily taken its place on the frontline of every crisis—and this extraordinary moment in time will be no different.  We will hold an unwavering mirror to our society, calling out the need for concrete actions that ensure equal and unfettered access to COVID-19 recovery relief.  We will continue to use our voice and our leverage as a historic civil rights institution to insist that America uphold the true values of our nation—for all of its citizens—setting the stage for progress and opportunity in our urban communities.  

Out of great tragedy can come newfound clarity, courage and conviction to carve new paths that lead to an American future rooted in equity.  I invite readers to consider the recommendations advocated by the report’s contributors as a starting point in our shared conversations and commitment to create real and lasting change.

The road to recovery from the coronavirus and our reckoning with entrenched racism will be long and hard, but we can change the course of our nation’s trajectory.  We will face this crisis together, resolved to advocate for our nation’s most vulnerable and united in our goal of becoming the more perfect union we aspire to be.


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