Investing in America Fifty Years after the Kerner ReportEdited by Fred Harris and Alan Curtis
In 1968, the Kerner Commission concluded that America was heading toward “two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Today, America’s communities are experiencing increasing racial tensions and inequality, working-class resentment over the unfulfilled American Dream, white supremacy violence, toxic inaction in Washington, and the decline of the nation’s example around the world.
In Healing Our Divided Society, Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, along with Eisenhower Foundation CEO Alan Curtis, re-examine fifty years later the work still necessary towards the goals set forth in The Kerner Report. This timely volume unites the interests of minorities and white working- and middle-class Americans to propose a strategy to reduce poverty, inequality, and racial injustice. Reflecting on America’s urban climate today, this new report sets forth evidence-based policies concerning employment, education, housing, neighborhood development, and criminal justice based on what has been proven to work—and not work.
Contributors include Oscar Perry Abello, Elijah Anderson, Anil N. F. Aranha, Jared Bernstein, Henry G. Cisneros, Elliott Currie, Linda Darling-Hammond, Martha F. Davis, E. J. Dionne, Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, Delbert S. Elliott, Carol Emig, Jeff Faux, Ron Grzywinski, Michael P. Jeffries, Lamar K. Johnson, Celinda Lake, Marilyn Melkonian, Gary Orfield, Diane Ravitch, Laurie O. Robinson, Herbert C. Smitherman, Jr., Joseph E. Stiglitz, Dorothy Stoneman, Kevin K. Washburn, Valerie Wilson, Gary Younge, Julian E. Zelizer, and the editors.
“It's been fifty years since the Kerner Commission offered a wake-up call long in the making, holding up a mirror to confront the reality of a society deeply divided by both race and economic status. Half a century later, how many more wake-up calls do we need before we face the tragic reality that in many ways—despite pledges by politicians and remarkable local accomplishments by innovative, creative leaders—in the aggregate, as a country, we've fallen backward. It's time to get real about both the challenge and the work required to bring great models to scale and break a cycle that downgrades the American Dream and diminishes our very definition of ourselves as a country of equal opportunity. In Healing Our Divided Society , Fred Harris and Alan Curtis have curated a collection of brilliant essays authored by a diverse group of respected experts and activists, to examine where we’ve gone wrong and wrestle with what we must do to respond at last to the alarm bell of the Kerner Report and live up to the promise of our country. This book is a must-read for anyone who is tired of the status quo and in need of both the inspiration to make a difference and proof that there’s still time to do it. "
—John F. Kerry, sixty-eighth U.S. Secretary of State
"(T)his book contains voluminous information on evolving disparities and inequities, what has worked and what has not worked in efforts to ameliorate them, and steps we need to take going forward.... The editors assert that the nation made significant progress in the first decade following the (Kerner) report but has fallen back since then, with some exceptions during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Then the editors offer that the primary reason for this book is to put issues such as racism, poverty, income inequality, women's and children's rights, health, education, police–community relations, and related challenges back on the public agenda. The book certainly provides a lot of ammunition for those who share these objectives.... (A) rich collection of empirical evidence, policy analysis, and recommendations for future actions."
—Journal of Urban Affairs
"An anniversary publication like this could easily be a dry academic exercise or mere retrospective, but Harris and Curtis choose a bolder, more urgent tact.... As a whole, the volume comprehensively catalogs America's comprehensive failures – and does so in short, readable segments. Many of the contributors' essays are successful standalone briefs on America's lasting problems and serve as useful capsule lessons on the dimensions of our (still) pressing racial divide and socioeconomic crises. The book is also laced with biting and concentrated evidence of our lack of progress, the collection of which, alone, gives the project merit."
—Journal of Children and Poverty
"This collection of expert voices (Harris is the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission; Curtis is equally esteemed as an expert on this subject) brings powerful messages regarding the destructive consequences of the inequalities and discriminatory policies that shape life in the US. As an appraisal of contemporary injustice and inhumanity, the volume certainly stings.... Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"Healing Our Divided Society explores mobility through a much wider analytical lens of 'progress,' broadly defined. In this collection, progress is explored in a variety of realms, including economic and employment shifts, educational improvements, housing and neighborhood investment, criminal justice, and equality and equity. The main theme of the thirty-one essays is that in terms of
'progress,' the United States remains relatively unchanged since the 1960s.... For all of these reasons, the editors argued, 'The warning of the Kerner Commission is as relevant today as it was then.'"
—Journal of Urban History