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50 Years After Kerner Commission: How Far Have We Come?

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Fifty years after the Kerner Commission, African-Americans still are finding a fraction of the economic potential of their white counterparts, according to new analysis. (TaxCredits.net/flickr)
Fifty years after the Kerner Commission, African-Americans still are finding a fraction of the economic potential of their white counterparts, according to new analysis. (TaxCredits.net/flickr)
March 14, 2018

RALEIGH, N. C. – It has been 50 years since the historic Kerner Commission found that discrimination against African-Americans had created barriers to their ability to be successful in civic life.

The commission, formally known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, was established after America's 1967 race riots.

Researchers from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) have analyzed some of the same measurements of success in a new report, to discover whether – and to what extent – the same barriers exist.

William Munn, policy analyst for the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center, part of the North Carolina Justice Center, also looked at the data to find out where things stand, specifically in this state.

"Generally, African-Americans are doing better than they were in 1968," Munn said, "but there are some worrying trends that, if we don't rectify, will continue to have gaps in equity in our society."

Both organizations' research found that, nationally and at the state level, the disparity in unemployment rates has widened in the last 50 years.

Poverty has decreased for African-Americans from 39 percent in 1968 to 23 percent in 2016, but more people of color continue to live below the federal poverty level.

Munn observed that much of the existing bias comes from deeply-held stereotypes and assumptions that shape decisions, both in the public and private sectors.

"I think what we have to do is take a hard look at some of the barriers that the studies are saying persist," he explained. "And what we are finding is that implicit bias plays a huge part in the way that we see black folks able to become a greater part of the economy."

The EPI analysis found that African-American workers continue to earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by white workers, and said virtually no progress has been made in the rate of home ownership.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC