Go to Top
Call Us: (206) 461-3792

Latest News and Publications

Thank you for your interest in supporting the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. Source: http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2025272966_banksopedurbanleague22xml.html
Originally published Sunday, December 21, 2014 at 5:01 PM

Guest: Solving race inequities through education

The issues of justice and inequality demand our community pay attention and take action. And it begins with educating our children.

By Pamela Banks
Special to The Times

THIS has been a time of difficult introspection for the nation and region as frustration and unease grow about the fact that our shared American ideals are not evenly applied across all communities.

The outpouring of anger, sorrow and disappointment in recent weeks was about more than the decisions not to press criminal charges against police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. The larger context includes decades of mistreatment of African Americans and people of color, including racial profiling and disparate treatment in the criminal-justice system. Add to this mix employment discrimination and an education system that overwhelmingly fails African Americans, and outrage and impatience fuel a clarion call for change.

Here in the Northwest, we pride ourselves on our shared values and respect for civil and human rights. We are, as the saying goes, a little different. But, in so many ways, the problems we confront are the same. And maybe worse.

At the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, we’ve been working for economic and social justice for more than 80 years. Our roots in the community run as deep as our history. We are tackling these difficult challenges, and we are making a difference, one life at a time.

As recent events have demonstrated, the issues of justice and inequality demand our entire community pay attention and take action. And it begins with educating our children.

A recent article in The Seattle Times detailed the shocking income disparity in our region. The average wage in King County for an African American is now below $26,000 per year. Meanwhile, the average wage of someone who graduates from graduate school is more than $60,000 per year, and the average wage of a person who graduates with a computer-science degree is more than $89,000 per year.

In fact, there are close to 30,000 open computer-science jobs available in our state right now that cannot be filled. But, the sad truth is that those high-paying jobs will not be filled with African-American candidates. In 2013, only 12 African-American students in the entire state of Washington took the AP computer-science exam and, in 2012 only eight did, according to the Institute for Computing Education at Georgia Tech.

At the Urban League, we are dedicated to improving the educational opportunities of our youths from “cradle to career” by being their voice, collaborating with educational and corporate partners, and offering direct programs and services designed to create education opportunities for our youths and young adults.

The Urban League has teamed with Code.org and other local computer-science organizations to create opportunities for young African Americans to be introduced to computer science. We are continuing to develop an Urban League Technology Center to create new and exciting opportunities for youths and young adults to learn about computer science and have access to STEM education programs and technology.

We are teaming with The Breakfast Group, a nonprofit organization of African-American professional and retired men that has been helping to empower at-risk males for more than 38 years, to expand its “Project Mister” program. It will provide additional mentors for hundreds of African-America youths. And, the Urban League is providing college scholarships to African-American students in our community — we helped send eight amazing young people to college in the last two years, building on a legacy that distributed dozens of scholarships over the years.

Sixty years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, we all know that the promise of equal educational opportunity “with all deliberate speed” was an illusion for many, as the education gap continues to widen.

Statistics from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction show our state ranked in the very bottom five states in closing the racial and ethnic achievement gap for K-12 students, and studies say it could take another 45 years to close the gap between students of color and their white counterparts in our nation.

Children born today in Washington can expect to see the level playing field promised in Brown by 2056 — more than 100 years after the case was decided. That is unacceptable.

We are not a nation that affords equal opportunity to succeed and equal protection under the law.

That simple fact should inspire us to devote even greater energies to creating a better future for all of our children.

You can make an immediate contribution to Urban League on our secure online giving page at http://www.urbanleague.org/donate/.  To make a gift by phone, stock, or wire transfer, please contact ULMS Development at (206) 461-3792 x 3040. If you would like to make a gift by mail or fax, please download the PDF.