Race, Poverty, and the Environment

Race and Regionalism

Race-Regionalism CoverThe election of Barack Obama represents a turning point in the role of race in United States politics. It proves conclusively that the United States electorate has moved past simple prejudice based on the color of a person’s skin. And it demonstrates that there is a majority coalition in favor of progressive change. This is a milestone, and it offers an outstanding opportunity to advance a new national agenda.

Unfortunately, the election in itself does very little to challenge the economic and social system that inflicts racism on vast segments of the people in this country. To make change, our movements will need to maintain consistent grassroots pressure on the new leadership. But we also need to deepen our understanding of how racial inequality is maintained. Furthermore, we need a solid theory of how and where we can redistribute opportunity so that communities of color and low-income people can gain their fair share of benefits and remedy past wrongs...

Over coffee a couple of weeks before the election, a colleague said to me: “Sure, they will let a black man be president just like they let all those black men become mayors of cities in the 70s.” At that point, cities were bankrupt, the productive sectors had fled to the suburbs, and the tax base wouldn’t recover for at least 20 years—who better to preside over the declining urban shell than someone who could be discredited, then discarded after the dirty work was done. More...

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Who Owns Our Cities?

Who Owns Our Cities Cover image, Design by Jesse Clarke In this issue of Race, Poverty, and the Environment we take a look at the fundamental power relationships that shape life in the urban United States. Who owns and who controls our public resources and how has the dividing line between public and private shifted over the last century?

Roads, ports, parks, schools, libraries, community centers, public housing, government buildings, military bases, and digital rights of way are all nominally controlled by democratically elected bodies that are mandated to act in the public interest. But across the nation, a pattern of economic exploitation of public resources for private gain has undermined public control of these resources and increased the divide between rich and poor. [More]

Educating for Equity

%altBy B. Jesse Clarke
This summer's United States Social Forum was singularly successful in its use of popular education, holding over a thousand workshops in three days. This issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment opens with a quick look at the forum and then delves into the many complex ways people are using education to strengthen the movements for social justice.

We start by acknowledging that the struggle for equal education organized by the civil rights movement is a vivid example of successful social change.  From the initial trainings at the Highlander Center, (described by John Hurst) to the curriculum of the Freedom Schools (by Kathy Emery), there is much to be learned by today’s organizers about the foundations of widespread civil disobedience and mass action. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions on voluntary desegregation Maya Harris from the American Civil Liberties Union reviews the current state of legal strategies to address equity in education at the federal level. Michelle N. Rodriguez and Angelica K. Jongco from Public Advocates detail a successful lawsuit by parents in California fighting for equity on the state level. Jacob Rosette describes a similar effort in Maryland where a court decision to remedy inequality is going un-enforced. 

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