Strategies for overcoming the effects of structural racism

May 21, 2019

Dear Changemakers,
 
I’m thrilled to share with you our sixth Catalyst brief, which examines what it would take to overcome the damaging effects of structural racism and ensure a more equitable future for our nation. In this latest Next50 release, Urban Institute experts highlight bold solutions that acknowledge and address our country’s history of unjust policies and eliminate drivers of persistent inequities. Based on interviews and discussions with civic leaders, advocates, elected officials, and philanthropists, we also identify key opportunities to build knowledge that would help these changemakers overcome the legacy of discrimination, exclusion, and injustice to close today’s profound equity gaps.
 
As with all the inquiries we’re conducting for our Next50 effort, we are guided by a vision for the future in which everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. We can imagine a more equitable society in the decades ahead in which structural racism—that is, the policies, programs, and institutional practices that have generated inequitable outcomes—is eradicated and its consequences are remedied.
 
Achieving this vision will require innovative measures, and leaders across the country are already taking steps to advance ideas that promote equity and expand access to opportunity.
 
Our newest Catalyst brief focuses on a handful of bold remedies that take aim at four critical sources of racial inequality and injustice: the racial wealth gap, inequities in public school quality, disparities in employment and earnings, and punitive policing.

Although these are by no means the only challenges to racial equity that warrant serious attention, all four play crucial roles in hindering upward mobility. Meaningful progress toward narrowing these gaps could help tear down other barriers to an equitable future. Here are a few ideas people are discussing, where bringing evidence to bear will be important:

  • baby bonds, which would provide all newborns with progressive, publicly funded endowments
  • public education financing reforms to ensure that all communities have enough funding, based on their needs, to deliver high-quality public education
  • job guarantees to provide good jobs to those who are looking for meaningful work, living wages, and stable benefits but cannot find them
  • justice divestment and investment, which redirect public resources from policing and incarceration to give communities greater control over their safety

Urban also identified three priority areas where today’s leaders say more knowledge and data would help inform and accelerate solutions to overcome the legacy of structural racism:

  • pilot and evaluate the cost, feasibility, and effectiveness of emerging bold remedies
  • use microsimulation models to forecast how equity gaps could be eliminated by bold remedies, innovative policy reforms, and incremental investments over time
  • quantify the full costs and benefits of potential remedies, including the costs of inaction 

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this latest Catalyst brief and what solutions you may be pursuing to advance racial equity in our country.
 
Warmly,
Sarah