For Immediate Release: November 09, 2020
Contact: Sean O’Leary, 304-400-8899
Charleston, WV – In the 1960s, Black Americans across the country marched, protested, and even rioted as decades of institutional racism and oppression came to a head. Now in 2020, over half a century later, extraordinarily high numbers of Americans of all backgrounds marched once again in protest of the systemic racial inequities that continue to plague our society.
This report, the thirteenth edition of the State of Working West Virginia, comes at a moment of heightened racial consciousness and resistance. It is also the 10-year anniversary of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy’s report “Legacy of Inequality,” which chronicled the experiences and history of Black West Virginians, and analyzed the data showing the inequities that have always been and continue to be central to that experience.
And while there has been progress, the inequities that existed in 2010 — and that have existed throughout the nation’s history — still persist in 2020, and West Virginia is not immune to them.
“Black West Virginians are almost twice as likely to be living in poverty. Black households have only 70 percent of the income of white households,” said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst and report author. “Black men and women face higher unemployment rates and lower wages. Disparities persist in education, wages, health, and throughout the criminal legal system.”
Both the annual State of Working West Virginia reports and the Legacy of Inequality report are typically collaborative efforts, with different organizations and advocates making contributions each year. This year, the pandemic presented challenges to bringing people together to work on a single report, which is why this report is organized a bit differently. While it still includes the usual data analysis section, in lieu of traditional policy recommendations as we have historically provided, this report includes a series of essays from advocates for and practitioners of racial justice in West Virginia, who will speak in their own voices to share their stories, experiences, and policy ideas for addressing racial inequality.
Find the full report here.
While the findings provided in this report reflect concerning levels of race-based inequity present in all areas examined, it is important to keep in mind that the data available for use came from before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and was followed by economic collapse. These crises disproportionately harmed the Black community, so it is safe to assume that the extent of inequity has only increased since then.