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Race Matters

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a  training in Washington, DC put on by Voices for America’s Children on using the Race Matters Toolkit.  The training highlighted the role that past policies have played in shaping current inequities and suggested ways that organizations can work to integrate a racial equity lens into their work.

The training started by looking at how we got to where we are today — to a place where there are significant disparities in things like poverty, employment, and health care access based on race.  When most people think of past policies that have contributed to these inequities, they often think about our nation’s history of slavery.  What is less often talked about are the more modern and in some ways more subtle policies that laid the groundwork for this.

The training highlighted how federal housing policies have contributed to racial inequities by allowing white neighborhoods access to government-backed low-cost home loans for decades, while not making them available to neighborhoods with high minority populations.  Neighborhoods with minority populations were classified as being a “bad risk” for these loan products based on assumptions about the communities rather than a borrower’s ability to manage the loan.  This meant that from the mid-1930s through the late 1960s, many white families got a significant leg-up from the government in being able to provide a home for their family and an asset for their children, while minority families did not.

A recent CNN Video showed that the consequences of these disparities continue to have an impact right here in Omaha today. The training was an important reminder of why race still matters.  As a country, we have made significant progress, but we also have to recognize that decades of inequitable policies have an impact that lingers for generations.   We should work toward recognizing this and look for ways to build a better and more equitable future for all of our children.

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