Half a century ago, a special commission assembled by President Lyndon Johnson was tasked to better understand the causes of racial unrest in the nation. The result was the landmark 176-page report, “The America of Racism.” Better known as the “Kerner Report,” the massive undertaking—done by National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, headed by Otto Kerner, then-governor of Illinois—examined cultural and institutional racism in the United States, from segregated schools and neighborhoods to housing discrimination, cycles of poverty and lack of employment opportunities.
As Smithsonian.com’s Alice George reports, the historic study came to the conclusion that it was white racism, not black anger that had led to the wide-scale riots that had broken out in poor African-American neighborhoods throughout the country. “White society,” the panel reported, “is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
Now, a new study called “Healing our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report” by the Milton Eisenhower Foundation, which has continued the Kerner commission’s work, returns to the study to look at how far the U.S. has come since Kerner’s day. As Karen Grigsby Bates at NPR reports, this week, in a 488-page book, the study concluded that we haven’t come very far at all.
“We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty for nearly a decade after the Kerner Report and then that progress slowed, then stopped and in many ways was reversed, so that today racial and ethnic discrimination is again worsening. We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty,” Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, said during a talk at George Washington University on Tuesday. [Continue reading…]
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