Academic journal article The Foundation Review

The Urgency of Now: Foundations' Role in Ending Racial Inequity

Academic journal article The Foundation Review

The Urgency of Now: Foundations' Role in Ending Racial Inequity

Article excerpt

Keywords: Racialized poverty, racial inequity, adaptive systems, targeted universalism, collective impact, structural racialization, good jobs, financial capability, opportunity mapping

The challenge [of eliminating poverty] is greater than it has been in generations.... One in every eight Americans now lives in poverty, a rate that has nearly doubled since 1980. - President Barack Obama

The Growing American Challenge

For centuries, people of color in the United States have endured disproportionate poverty and been excluded f rom economic opportunities. They have been labeled "minorities," as though their fewer numbers somehow made their suffering acceptable. Yet people of color will become the majority in America by 2050 (Center for American Progress & PolicyLink, 2013). One of the major challenges of our time is how America will reconcile the fact that the emerging majority still endures oppressive poverty.

How will we handle this crucial shift in demographics? What investments will we make in people, systems, and communities? Answers to these questions will determine if America will continue to maintain its quality of life and its competitive position in the world.

Fifty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people of color are doing worse - and often much worse by every measure, - compared to whites. Examples of these racial differences in economic outcomes are stark and abundant. According to a 2013 Urban Institute study, whites possessed six times more value in financial assets than Af rican Americans and Hispanics. The median household net worth for whites in 2010 was $110,729, in comparison to $4,995 for Af rican American and $7,424 for Hispanic households (McKernan, Ratcliffe, Steuerle, & Zhang, 2013).

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2012), communities of color faced significantly higher unemployment rates than whites, whose jobless rate is 7.4 percent, in comparison to 13.6 percent for Af rican Americans and 11 percent for Hispanics.

According to the American Community Survey (2013), f rom 2007 to 2011, 43 million Americans, or 14 percent of the nation, were living below the poverty level of $11,500 in annual income for an individual or $23,000 for a family of four. Yet the distribution of poverty has been unequal. Up through 2011, the poverty rates were:

* 27 percent for Native Americans and Alaska Natives,

* 26 percent for Af rican Americans,

* 23 percent for Latinos/Hispanics,

* 18 percent for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders,

* 15 percent for Vietnamese and Korean Americans, and

* 12 percent for whites.

A recent Institute on Assets and Social Policy study found that institutional and policy practices have been driving the widening racial-wealth gap between white and minority households (Shapiro, Meschede, & Osoro, 2013). These practices create inequitable opportunities in areas such as homeownership, income, unemployment, college education, and family financial support. This study also revealed that historic racial practices of neighborhood segregation, workplace discrimination, lack of access to credit, and educational inequity account for much more of the wealth and income gap than cultural or social factors.

Poverty and race continue to be intimately intertwined. In fact, it is impossible to address poverty without dealing directly or indirectly with the issue of race. The profound racial demographic shift this nation is undergoing requires a response that is both universal in its goals and targeted in its strategies (powell, 2012).

As Martin Luther King, Jr. so prophetically pointed out, "We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." King offers us a poignant reminder that if we cannot figure out how to address racial inequities as the "minorities" are becoming the majority, then the quality of life for almost everyone will be diminished. …

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