Sunday, March 2, 2008

When a D+ is considered generous

A D+!? I can't believe it.

Some 40 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson originally appointed the Kerner Commission to investigate the cause of the civil unrest in Detroit, as well as incidents in other cities across the nation, a recent report from a commission reconvened by the Eisenhower Foundation shows that the gap between blacks and whites in this country is still massive.

The report was highlighted in a Feb. 29 Detroit News article and reveals information compiled last year when the group started its follow up by taking another look at the city. Unrest in 1967 Detroit claimed to more than 40 deaths and changed the landscape of southeast Michigan forever. The problems then are, apparently, remain issues today.

Education, unemployment and underemployment which contribute to poverty were identified in the report as major issues -- after all these years. Among other findings, the Detroit News highlights reveal that unemployment among blacks has remained twice as high as in the white population in each decade since the 1960s. Wealthy school districts are spending nearly 10 times as much as poor districts, with their higher minority populations.

Poor African-Americans are three times as likely as whites to live in deep poverty, below half of the poverty line. Poverty leads to drug use, crime and other problems that set people on the road to ruin. The Detroit News also reported that blacks and other minorities receive longer sentences than whites for the same crimes. So once they head down that road, the prospects for ever correcting course are dim.

So where's the progress? It's depressing, really. A member of the investigative panel suggested in the story that the Eisenhower Foundation grade wasn't bad enough. She would have "recommended a D-."

This the result of the war on poverty? How does the war in Iraq look in comparison? Both are examples of tremendous, tragic wastes of life, of money and of hope.

I read somewhere recently that diversity and inclusion work is really just a scam. It is perpetuated by consultants and professionals who capitalizing on problems that will never be fixed, conflicts that will never be resolved. I refuse to believe this. I have to.

About a month ago we were celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thinking about how much closer we are to his dream.

The News pointed to one of its polls as reason for optimism. The paper found that six in 10 African-Americans said they "feel blacks have made at least some economic progress since 1967."

That provides hope, but it must be taken with a grain of salt.

I'm waiting to see the numbers that come out of this foreclosure mess currently gripping the country and showing no signs of relenting. After the dust settles, I want to see how many minorities lost homes, assets and dreams as a result of taking advantage of sub-prime mortgages. I suspect they will be disproportionately represented, although I hope I am wrong. Because the neighbors I see walking away from their homes each week in my part of town look like me.

Still, I want to believe we have come further than the numbers suggest.

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