Most babies born in the U.S. today are children of color. In three decades, more than half of our population will be people of color. By 2050, 42 percent of our workforce will be African American and Hispanics. (Today that figure is 27 percent).
Yet, even as diversity is our future, growing racial disparity is our reality. African Americans and Hispanics have suffered most in the Great Recession. While white families lost a harsh 11 percent of their wealth from 2007 to 2010, African-American families were devastated, losing nearly one-third, and Hispanic families lost a staggering 44 percent.
People of color are disproportionately poor. Their children go to increasingly segregated schools, with gross inequities in funding. Instead of doing more for children in poverty, we provide less – in health care, education opportunity, clean water, safe streets, parks, healthy food. President Obama has said that “growing inequality is not just morally wrong; it’s bad economics.” Diversity could and should be our strength. But at present trends, we are putting our future at risk by refusing to provide opportunity for all.
Equity is now a national imperative. We cannot build a prosperous nation with a broad middle class without lifting the citizens and workers of the future. A new reader — “All-In Nation: An America that Works for All” – a collaboration of Policy Link and the Center of American Progress lays out the implications.
In a series of essays, All-In Nation sketches elements of an ambitious agenda needed to insure that this economy works for all. Policy Link offers an excellent newsletter that summarizes the work. The reality of our changing demography strengthens the argument for active public policy – from universal preschool, to targeted investments in clean water, sewers and mass transit, to insuring access to affordable health care and healthy food.
This will cost money – lots of it. It will require a major increase in federal spending combined with a transformation of federal priorities and the targeting of that funding. To afford this, entrenched corporate subsidies must be challenged; traditional ways of distributing funds disturbed; perverse priorities overturned. Instead of policing the world, we will need to invest in our own communities. We’ll have to shut down corporate tax havens, and insure that corporations pay their fair share. Progressive tax reform must generate more resources. And the money that is spent must be targeted on the communities that need it most.
That, of course, is the rub – and the challenge. We know from our history that the powerful do not give up their privileges. The oppressed must use the space provided by our democracy to demand the change.
Will people of color join together to drive dramatic change at the national, state and local level? We’ve seen the possibility of that in the movement for comprehensive immigration reform, where the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are forcing politicians in both parties to respond.
Or will the Democratic Party – the party of diversity – consolidate its majorities with social liberalism, while sustaining the Wall Street agenda that has generated growing inequality, with workers of all colors sinking together?
All-In Nation provides a clear window on our future. It lays out elements of the agenda that is vital if we are to make our diversity a strength. The only possibility of reaching towards that agenda is if people of color together forge a movement that challenges business as usual in both parties. The rising diverse generation will have to go “all in” if we are to become the “All-in Nation” we need to be.