Friday, December 18, 2020

The Time for a Federal Racial Equity Stimulus Package is Now | Schott Foundation for Public Education

The Time for a Federal Racial Equity Stimulus Package is Now | Schott Foundation for Public Education
The Time for a Federal Racial Equity Stimulus Package is Now

This abridged op-ed was originally published in The GrioClick here to read the full essay.

The story of America is the power of common people coming together around a vision of opportunity, democracy, and a better way of life for generations to come. However, from our earliest beginnings, that vision was executed with instruments of brutal and legalized oppression, heavily fueled by racial bias, which for centuries has metastasized through every system of American life: healthcare, education, employment, policing, faith, technology, and infrastructure. 

Over the past several years, the Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities Index has documented the racial disparities in support for children in families in major cities across the country. The link between structural racism and the opportunity for children of color to learn and thrive is so interwoven that aggressively reducing racial disparities is the clearest pathway to ensuring their educational opportunities, social mobility, and democratic participation for generations to come.

Out of the urgent need to decouple America’s vision of opportunity from America’s historic systemic racism and oppression, this moment calls for Congress to advance a multi-year, $10-12 trillion federal racial equity stimulus package focused on investments in states, urban, rural, and tribal communities, and most importantly in our people as a new reconstruction investment in building one America. This bold fiscal effort could only be aided by a Cabinet-level advisor to the president on racial justice, equity and advancement, a recent proposal made by the NAACP and other civil rights groups. 

Four major events in our nation’s history immensely increased America’s wealth, but equally imposed a system of racism on generations to come: 

  • the genocide and forced relocation of Native Americans
  • the slave trade, which began in 1619 and continued to 1865
  • the 1848 Mexican Cession of Land following the Mexican-American War
  • federal policies like segregation and redlining that locked Black people out of the benefits of the New Deal

These events were essentially down payments on the wealth and growth of the nation. Yet, the people who were the victims of this oppression have never been re-centered in the national vision.

While these events were pivotal, other laws and practices also undergirded centuries of systemic racism, including: it was a crime for slaves to learn to read and write; the U.S. Constitution considered enslaved people as three-fifths human until 1868; Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that separate but equal schools and accommodations were constitutional; the war on drugs and sentencing vastly increased the number of Black people incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Simply stated, racism and oppression have been the operating system in America based on whiteness as the dominant power structure. 

Though many of these acts were implemented centuries ago, evidence of their impact is all around us. Consider this: white, non-Hispanics make up 60% of the U.S. population, and yet:The ten richest Americans are 100 percent white and the U.S. Congress is 78 percent white. 

These and many other abnormal statistical outcomes are clear evidence that America has not achieved a system where there is a fair opportunity to succeed regardless of race. To the contrary, both qualitative and quantitative data clearly indicate success and failure are too often predetermined by race. You don’t get heavily slanted, racially identifiable outcomes without the preferential treatment and head start that whiteness was given from America’s early beginnings. 

Systemic racism has been braided in America’s history and growth, but it is not a problem that is insurmountable or unsolvable. There is nothing wrong with our nation that eliminating systemic racism won’t fix. Systemic racism, which creates outcomes that are racially identifiable, can be weakened, unraveled, and eliminated. We can achieve a time when our children’s success or failure can no longer be predicted by race.  

There is Precedent

From the 1950s through the 1970s, the U.S. began to use the legal lever to tackle systemic racism and its disparities with the passage of Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, fair housing laws, etc. While none of these policies completely eliminated disparities, they helped address some inequities impacting Black children and families. 

It is undeniable that we have seen progress in the presence of Black people in political and corporate offices, yet while CONTINUE READING: The Time for a Federal Racial Equity Stimulus Package is Now | Schott Foundation for Public Education