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The Inclusive Economy

Toxic Inequality: It’s Not Just an Environmental Issue

By Emanuel Nieves on 05/04/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News, Federal Policy

Despite recent attention to the economic and social vulnerabilities facing people of color—Black and Latino populations in particular—the Trump presidency has shifted a great deal of national attention to the plight of White, working-class voters, many of whom elevated the President into office. While the 2016 presidential election may have catalyzed these voters’ sense that their concerns were finally being addressed, the attention being paid to White, working-class Americans since Election Day has also reshaped our conversation about the growing problem that is impacting us all and will continue to well into the foreseeable future: the racial wealth divide.

Today, African American and Latino families face a racial wealth divide that sees them owning just $11,000 and $13,700 in median wealth, respectively, compared to the $142,000 owned by the median White household. While solving issues of economic insecurity requires that we be sensitive to the economic insecurities of all Americans, as President Obama suggested during his farewell speech, we must be mindful that not all economic suffering is experienced in the same ways, nor are they the result of the same historical factors.

With this in mind, CFED and New America co-hosted an event last month to feature Dr. Thomas Shapiro and his new book, Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide and Threatens Our Future.

The event, which welcomed several expert panelists—Washington Post’s Janell Ross, New America’s Cecilia Muñoz and CFED’s Jeremie Greer—set the stage for a conversation on the racial wealth divide, public policy and the politics that continue to deepen our financial, racial and social divides. During the conversation, Dr. Shapiro and others noted that although recent public policies have been blamed for the pain experienced by White, working-class Americans, there have been a whole host of discriminatory public policies—from redlining to the tax code—over the past century and beyond that fueled the unfortunate realities faced by communities of color today. Indeed, as we work to uncover the social and economic unrest felt by White, working-class families, we must also remain steadfast in our work to reverse the trend of growing racial economic inequality.

As we look toward building an economy that works for everyone, Toxic Inequality is a solid playbook from which we can start. Putting a job with a livable wage and good benefits, access to education, homeownership that is affordable and more within the reach of everyone—not just the select few—will require policies at all levels of government that intentionally lift up communities of color who for far too long have been left behind.

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