NEW YORK -- Citing bleak data on incarceration, joblessness, and AIDS, the National Urban League said yesterday that problems facing black men represent America's most serious social crisis and proposed an aggressive campaign to provide them with more opportunities.
The 97-year-old black empowerment organization, in its annual State of Black America report, called for universal early-childhood education, more programs for dropouts and former offenders, and expanded use of all-male schools emphasizing mentoring and longer class hours.
"Empowering black men to reach their full potential is the most serious economic and civil rights challenge we face today," said Urban League president Marc H. Morial.
"Ensuring their future is critical, not just for the African-American community, but for the prosperity, health, and well-being of the entire American family."
According to the report, African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males.
They are nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated, with average jail sentences about 10 months longer than those of white men, the report said.
In addition, it said, black males ages 15 to 34 are nine times more likely than whites to be killed by firearms and nearly eight times as likely to have AIDS.
"I could rattle off the names of African-American men who have overcome the odds . . . But for all the Barack Obamas, Tony Dungys, and Colin Powells out there . . . there are many more black men who face very limited opportunities," Morial said.