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NM to Take a Wrecking Ball to "Structural Racism?"

July 13, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The phrase "structural racism" isn't a new one, but it has been getting a lot more attention since the election of the first African-American President. Now one of New Mexico's state senators says he wants to see his state lead the way in a new push for racial equality and fairness.

Sen. Tim Keller, Albuquerque, says huge racial disparities still exist in some of New Mexico's largest social institutions, such as the corrections system.

"For example, take the incarceration rate - there's a 70 percent disparity between white and non-white folks. And domestic violence and dropout rates - those are also areas where we typically find large racial disparities."

Keller points to problems of inequality when it comes to education, health care coverage and home ownership, too. Recent research shows that programs that help low-income households develop key assets through savings, education, home ownership or starting a business are some of the best ways to fight structural racism.

One simple way to do that, Keller says, is to turn schools into community learning centers that bring continuing adult education and other services into neighborhoods where they're needed most.

"After school and on the weekends, make school buildings available for vocational training for adults, and even for some social service delivery - things like domestic violence counseling."

Keller says one proven way to fight structural racism is by helping low-income households develop long-term assets.

"It could be a degree, an education degree; it could be starting a business; or it could be a home."

Keller says he's working on bills to introduce during the next legislative session that would put New Mexico in a leadership role on the issue.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM