50 years have passed since the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and it seems like an appropriate time to pause, reflect and evaluate where the U.S. has progressed and failed with regards to the continuing struggle for racial equality.
The March was successful in achieving some of its key goals. Most importantly, it proved to be a catalyst for a series of landmark civil rights laws that helped disassemble legal racial barriers. On the other hand, the U.S. has fallen short on fulfillment of one of the central points of the March: economic equality.
Throughout the 50 years since the March, African-American unemployment has remained approximately twice that of white Americans. According to Howard University Economics professor William Spriggs, the labor market for African Americans remains underperforming; with the current long-term unemployed reaching percentages that far exceed percentages during previous economic downturns.
The current minimum wage of $7.25 is 23 percent less than it was in 1968 in real terms according to Dedrick Muhammad’s recent blog in the Huffington Post. This is significant because minimum wage jobs comprise three of every five jobs created since the economic recovery and African-Americans are more often employed in these sectors. Without discounting the progress that has been made, it is important that it continues with a focus on bridging gaps in economic inequality.