Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution

solution to racismGlenn Harris, president of the Center for Social Inclusion, wrote this compelling piece on the organization’s website about the legacy revealed by the events in Ferguson, MO and the “Black Lives Matter” movement. He drives home a truth that many people prefer to ignore—that today’s impoverished communities of color are, in part, the result of racist policies at all levels of government.

Historically, local, state, and national governments have played primary roles in creating racially segregated neighborhoods. Historically, redlining and zoning rules across the country consistently have disadvantaged Black folks and downgraded the credit ratings of predominantly neighborhoods of color. Today, Blacks are more likely to receive a subprime loan than Whites earning the same amount of money. Before 1954, segregated schools were the law. 60 years later, our schools continue to have profound racial segregation—and we see the results in school funding and student achievement across race. This is a direct result of discriminatory housing policies and practices as well as the move towards privatizing of public schools. All of this, along with many other racialized policy decisions, results in the huge and widening wealth gap that drive outcomes for Black communities.

What results from the cumulative, multigenerational impact of these policies? Neighborhoods just like Ferguson. And the policies of segregation and disinvestment in these communities then create the very outcomes that fuel racial bias and fear.

Harris’s solutions to changing this legacy and creating thriving communities of color calls on those same government institutions to act—community policing, better schools, infrastructure improvements, quality public transportation and work supports like the earned income tax credit. As Harris says, “All of these are interconnected, and each policy change builds to the next level of opportunity. This is what it means to disrupt structural racism, and this is our charge today.” When the solution uses the same vehicle, in this case government, as the problem that presents a unique communications challenge. That’s why we’ve developed recommendations on how to critique public systems without undermining support for the idea that government should be our tool for racial justice.

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