Black Lives Matter: Moving from declaration to evidence

Bonnie Cash

The Black Live Matters Movement (BLM) has generated much dialogue and activity around what it means to live in a racist and unjust society. While the killing of George Floyd has sparked a resurgence and more widespread support for the movement, issues of racial injustice have been present in this country for centuries. 

Today a growing number of groups, institutions, organizations, communities, and individuals have expressed their outrage by protesting, posting Black Lives Matters signage in public places, speaking up in the public square, hosting listening sessions on racism, and vowing to become more responsive to eliminating racial and social injustice. 

Unemployment rates for white Americans fell from 14.2 percent in April 2020 to 12.4 percent In May 2020. In contrast, unemployment rates for Black Americans rose slightly moving from 16.7 percent in April 2020 to 16.8 percent in May 2020. This is the highest rate of unemployment for this population within the past decade. Even when employed, Blacks earned less than whites. This gap in salary was larger in 2018 than in 2000. 

The 2019 Census Data showed some gains with regard to educational attainment. Eighty-eight percent (88 percent) of Black Americans have a high school diploma close to the national average of 90 percent. However, 26 percent of Black Americans have a bachelor’s degree compared to the national average of 36 percent. Research has shown that higher educational attainment is associated with better-earning potential, better health, and even longer life expectancy. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation reviewed health care coverage post-enactment of the Affordable Care Act from 2010 to 2018. They reported that Black Americans were more likely to lack health care coverage compared to whites 13.6 percent and 9.8 percent respectively. Disparities in health care coverage were particularly striking for Black Americans residing in the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage.

These are critical areas in need of reform that warrant our attention now and beyond the current presidential campaign. As an African American and professional nurse, I know firsthand the benefit of investing in all three of these areas.

While the outpouring of support for the BLM movement is critical, we also need a well-constructed community informed agenda that holds promise for ensuring meaningful change in Black and Brown communities.  

As the presidential candidates unveil their plans for moving American forward, we need a strong commitment to building healthier, safer, productive, and economically stable Back communities. This is particularly critical for underserved communities where large proportions of Black Americans reside. In addition to the numerous outcries from the BLM movement for broad sweeping police reform, we need reform in practically all areas of life affecting Black Americans. Areas such as housing, health care, education, employment, you name it, there is room for improvement. Equality and justice must be chief cornerstones of any proposed public policies, programs, or initiatives focused on moving America ahead. 

The proof that Black Lives Matter should be evident in public policies that support employment, education, and access to health care, to name a few.

The evidence that “Black Lives Matter” should be an integral component of any candidate’s agenda to move our country forward. Policymakers will need to apply an equity lens during the policymaking process given that racial and social injustices continue to plague the black community. Successful efforts call for moving beyond the declarations that “Black Lives Matter” in speeches and other forms of communication to creating meaningful legislation that can improve the overall wellbeing of Black Americans. In doing so, the country will be moving toward creating a more equitable society. Without a concerted and committed effort, the words “Black Lives Matter” may remain a frequently echoed declaration and a movement void of irrefutable evidence. 

Janice Phillips, Ph.D., is the director of nursing research and health equity at the Rush University Medical Center and an associate professor at Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago. 

Tags Anti-black racism in the United States Anti-racism Black Lives Matter Post–Civil Rights Era African-American history Race and health in the United States

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