Economic recovery efforts overlook communities of color

My co-worker and friend Ajamu Dillahunt is one of the authors of a new report from United for a Fair Economy called State of the Dream 2010: Drained – Jobless and Foreclosed in Communities of Color. It’s an in-depth look at how the Great Recession has devastated black and Latino communities (considerably more so than white communities) and how federal economic recovery efforts have failed to target those most in need.

The unemployment rate for Black and Latinos is at a 27-year high, 16.2% and 12.9% respectively. But sadly, the stimulus effort has overlooked that. In fact, much of the stimulus has overlooked communities of color all together.

From Ajamu’s column regarding the report, which appears on HuffingtonPost.com:

But even the aid for Main Street favors less-needy whites. By asking states for “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, the President steered the money towards laid-off construction workers, disproportionately white men who recently had good jobs, rather than to human services and other more diverse occupations. The Associated Press reviewed more than 5,500 transportation projects using federal stimulus money, and found that 50 percent more per person will be spent in the lowest-unemployment places than in the communities that need the jobs most…

A fair jobs policy would not have to explicitly spell out race-equity; literal racial quotas might be controversial enough to kill a bill. But as the 2009 “Put America to Work Act” proposed, it could require the government to target job-creation spending to communities with the highest unemployment rates, or to the workers who have been jobless for the longest time.

President Obama has acknowledged the existence of structural racism. He knows that poor people of color face additional obstacles that poor whites don’t have to deal with.

But when he told the [Congressional Black Caucus] that all he “can do for the African-American community is the same thing [he] can do for the American community, period,” he was operating as if he believed the tired, old, color-blind myth that general anti-poverty programs will reach every group in need. Only by affirmatively targeting the communities pushed backwards by historic racial injustice will recovery efforts reach everyone.

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