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Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.
Nelson Linder in the Austin Statesman: City shouldn't shy away from race in dealing with problems
(See original post here)
In a world full of cynicism and chaos, rarely does an idea seem to resonate and strike a chord with such sensibility and pragmatism. In case you did not hear the news, New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and hedge fund manger George Soros decided recently to invest tens of millions of dollars of their own money into a campaign aimed at helping black and Hispanic youths overcome racial disparities. The fact that anybody in America nowadays is discussing the plight of black and Hispanic youths seriously is just cause for jubilation.
In addition to Bloomberg and Soros investing their resources in a problem that public policy officials continue to ignore, the City of New York has also decided to invest $67.5 million to support the efforts of these two remarkable men.
Bloomberg even had the audacity to acknowledge that the crisis of unemployment among black and Hispanic men is inextricably linked to another major challenge: the criminal justice system.
Clearly, this initiative paves the way for cities across the nation to stop running away from race and class and confront the reality that race-specific solutions should be a part of public policy initiatives.
Since 2005, I have been an integral part of Austin's African American Quality of Life Initiative and currently serve as the vice chairman of the African American Resource Advisory Commission. Since 2000, I have been the president of the Austin branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I have witnessed the Schott report, the Austin Equity Commission, the Kaiser report and many other reports that I choose not to recall for good reasons. I remember the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce study, addressing the odds against minority students. I have seen the Austin City Council treat public safety organizations as if they were golden calves and ignore the fact that unemployment, inadequate education and discrimination in housing and employment are all public safety issues.
Bloomberg's youth initiative is proof that the desire to address any social problem is preceded by the will to present ideas and write policies that go against the grain of conventional and popular thought. Of course, it helps to be a billionaire and have an amount of capital to invest in the solution. The fact that Bloomberg and Soros are billionaires makes this initiative all the more impressive and extraordinary. This appears to be one of those rare public policy moments in which public officials have looked beyond their own special interests and recognized the importance of providing opportunities to a segment of American society that is too often ignored.
What Bloomberg and Soros are acknowledging is the reality and impact of structural racism. In the United States, structural racism is defined as the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics that are historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal. In other words, the same people and institutions that created this problem must have the desire and willingness to invest in the solutions.
The City of Austin and all of its private and public institutions should heed the examples of Bloomberg and Soros and realize that without policies that address the impact of structural racism, we will continue to miss the mark. Austin should join the youth initiative.
For frequent Austin branch updates, please visit the Facebook page of branch president Nelson Linder: