"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Thursday, March 30, 2006,9:32 AM
Hurricane Katrina Exposed the Face of Poverty
by Maya Wiley
Director Center for Social Inclusion

As a nation, we face a rising tide. The flood waters of Lake Pontchartrain and the mighty Mississippi River reminded us that poverty, while it comes in all colors, is disproportionately black. The broken levees also showed us that our disinvestment in our public infrastructure harms us all, even if it does not harm us all equally. We have eliminated legalized racial discrimination against people of color, but have left the structures it produced intact.

This is structural racism, which has five primary characteristics: 1) it is not race neutral; 2) history matters in that the structure of our society has been constructed over time and racial hierarchy has been an integral part of that restructuring; 3) effects matter because they tell us how the structure operates so that intentional bad acts are irrelevant; 4) racial disparities are effects that show the structure does not operate neutrally; and 5) everyone is harmed by the structure, even if we see it most glaringly in majority people of color communities.

The structures have unevenly distributed the benefits and burdens of our public policies and private actions. For example, many outer-ring suburbs, which have become among the most opportunity-rich communities in most metropolitan areas, have received a much larger allocation of transportation infrastructure funds than their urban neighbors. When these wealthy, lesspopulated suburbs are built, inner-city tax dollars subsidize their sewers, utility lines and new schools. The poor are paying for the rich. And often lower-income blacks are paying to support better-off whites.

Policies and actions driving racialized suburbanization have divided us as a nation. It has reduced our cross-racial interaction, fragmented our governmental structures between cities and suburbs, and it has made both city and suburbs, still critical in the globalizing economy and in the national consciousness, weak and unsustainable. However, there is a way out—the rising waters are also a rising tide of possibility. Efforts to reduce central city poverty have led to an increase in regional wealth and a reduction of regional poverty.

We must cross urban and suburban governmental fragmentation, business and community group divisions, and racial group identities to work together and invest in the poorest people and their communities, to connect them to opportunities like jobs in growth sectors, training and educational opportunities, transportation and housing. The state of Black America is the state of the nation. We, black and white, single mother and two-parent household, citizen and undocumented, all of us are critical to the strengthening of our nation and the success of our democracy.
posted by R J Noriega
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