Good times hard to find for blacks

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The African American Economic SummitIf proverbial gold’s been struck in this state, then black people sure haven’t found it, according to discussion during a Sunday summit in UNC’s Hyde Hall about black folks and money.

The African American Economic Summit continues today in a conference room inside Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute, 2024 W. Main St. The meeting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is free and open to the public. More details are at www.unc.edu/iaar.

During the exchange of ideas at UNC, Andrea Harris, president of the Durham-based N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, said people are moving to North Carolina because of what they’ve heard about economic prosperity in this state. But the good times obviously are bypassing a whole lot of black people – just look at the unemployment numbers, Harris said.

Both blacks and whites are migrating to the South, said Ferrel Guillory, the director of UNC’s Program on Public Life. That’s opposite the trend many years ago when black people sought better fortunes up north.

Guillory said both black people and white people who are migrating south tend to be better educated. Troubling, though, is the number of Latino adults here who haven’t completed high school, he said. That gap must close, Guillory said.

Bruce Carney, UNC’s executive vice chancellor and interim provost, stressed the importance of education and said UNC consistently ranks first or second in the country in terms of admitting black students. The university still has more work to do, though, not only in that regard but also with respect to having a diverse faculty.

More specifically about the economy, Guillory said the income gap through the late 1990s until now has widened. But the poor aren’t getter poorer – the rich are getting richer, he said.

The demand for services from those with larger incomes has drawn into metropolitan areas more low-wage workers to do service-oriented work, Guillory said. Which creates an income disparity, he explained. Finding a way to pull up the poorer people is the challenge, Guillory said.

Guillory – pinch-hitting for state Sen. Dan Blue who missed the session to handle some business, according to a summit moderator – lamented the downsizing of local media. That stands to diminish the government-watchdog role that for so long has been such a valuable function of the local media, he said. Universities need to step into that role to inform the masses that include civic leaders and policy-makers, said Guillory, who used to be a mainstream journalist.

Bending the ears of policy-makers is where it’s at, because public policy leads to power moves like schools getting built in black neighborhoods, Harris said. Which would be boons since development follows school construction, she explained after addressing the crowd.

The state of the black economy is not good, Harris said. It’s a crisis situation, she said.

Sure, black students are going to college, but they get out of school saddled with tremendous debt and find themselves out of the loop for certain jobs because their credit is messed up, she said.

Harris reminded those at the summit about the amount of income not coming into black households on account of incarcerated loved ones not being able to contribute. And many older black people out of necessity will have to stay in the work force longer, she said.

During an interview, Harris offered this nugget to chew on: What’s been the economic impact of Research Triangle Park on black people here? Has it made all that much difference for them?

Copyright (c) 2009, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.