50 years after the march, much has changed and much hasn’t

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it’s important to celebrate progress. But it is perhaps more important to take stock of what hasn’t improved in the last half-century. When it comes to the economic division between black and white Americans, the needle hasn’t really moved (WaPo, 8/28):

When it comes to household income and wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On other measures, the gaps are roughly the same as they were four decades ago. The poverty rate for blacks, for instance, continues to be about three times that of whites.

“The relative position of blacks has not changed economically since the march,” said William Darity Jr., a professor of public policy, economics and African American studies at Duke University. “Certainly, poverty has declined for everybody, but it has declined in a way that the proportion of blacks to whites who are poor is about the same as it was 50 years ago.”

This should be especially troubling to all of us in the social sector, since we know the impact of economic disparities on every single issue we’re concerned about. We’ve made a lot of progress, but not enough.

Related: Next month, Dr. Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, will speaking on this issue and discuss how the context of our country’s history is affecting current realities. [More info.]

COMMUNITY
Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and chair of WRAG’s board, reflects on the same issues mentioned above with a philanthropic lens (CFNCR, 8/26):

I think it says we need to work a lot harder to use philanthropy to help those who need it the most. Not simply by funding individual projects and programs, but by also working to change the social service delivery systems that touch real people’s lives through the funding of advocacy and public policy. We must get out of our comfort zones, both literally and figuratively, to find out where the biggest bang for our buck will be.

Fifty years and we are still largely fighting the same fight. But are we really in the ring fighting, or are we simply standing in front of a mirror shadow boxing?

Lisa Hall, president and CEO of the Calvert Foundation, writes about how social impact investing is helping to realize Dr. King’s dream (Calvert, 8/27):

Four days before his assassination in 1968, King delivered a sermon on poverty entitled “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution” at the National Cathedral…I firmly believe that impact investing will endure as a transformative mechanism to advance the dream. In another 50 years from now we will have succeeded in using the resources at our disposal to eliminate poverty and its detrimental effects, exercising our will as King called on us to do.

DEMOGRAPHICS | Aging Boomers could have huge impact on suburbs (GGW, 8/28) The ones who aren’t aging will have no impact whatsoever.

WORKFORCE | It looks like D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson finally found the living wage bill that was passed almost two months ago. At a rally to support the legislation yesterday, Mendelson said that residents can’t live on $8.25 an hour, which is very true. But the legislation does absolutely nothing for the vast majority of the city’s hourly workers. Now the bill goes to Mayor Gray for approval or veto. (WaPo, 8/28)

EDUCATION | DCPS tries to bring a writing revolution to the District (GGE, 8/28)

VIOLENCE | Here’s the third and final part of Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence, from guest contributor Linda Bowen of The Institute for Community Peace. (Daily, 8/28)


I’m following in the steps of my old friend Jimmy this weekend and heading to Fog City. Rebekah will hold down the fort until I get back.

I’ll leave you with a classic example of a Japanese TV show using a fake dinosaur to prank an unsuspecting passerby.