After reading some discussion at the Daily Nous about the Ferguson situation (also addressed in this post by Leigh Johnson), it struck me that it might be helpful to open a forum dedicated to discussing steps for improvement and change. Some ideas for improvement and change may reasonably focus on specific issues at the intersection of race, law, and legal force. One article linked in the comments goes in a more general direction, targeting economic inequality and economic reparation:
But this story is neither old nor unfamiliar. Rather than asking “why,” let’s focus on the banal laws and policies needed to redirect the distribution of wealth — stolen from black Americans, such that whites can no longer summon police, law or politicians on their behalf to erase or suppress black Americans, and other minorities. That will require more than revealing the name of the police officer who shot Michael Brown; it will require asking who, in the next round of city council elections, state elections and, of course, presidential elections, is ready to compromise their political career in order to work toward redirecting wealth, jobs, opportunities toward black and Latino populations that constitute the majority of the United States. Only when wealth changes hands will black Americans have a fighting chance to resist police power and violence.
This is a powerful suggestion that leads me to wonder about how economic change might address the problems of racial injustice we have seen in Ferguson and elsewhere. Although racial injustice and economic inequality are no doubt related, the former is a distinct problem from the latter, as was noted during the Occupy Movement. In January of this year, the Pew Research Center presented data showing that not only has economic inequality worsened since 1967 but that "the black-white income gap in the U.S. has persisted" since that time. Thus, although it is possible that "narrowing the gap" of economic inequality may partially and indirectly improve the problem of racial injustice, we ought not forget the specific issue of racial inequality in seeking economic change. To improve economic inequality, Standard and Poor recommends investment in education. Here are some bullet points from the overview of a recent report:
- At extreme levels, income inequality can harm sustained economic growth over long periods. The U.S. is approaching that threshold.
- Standard & Poor's sees extreme income inequality as a drag on long-run economic growth. We've reduced our 10-year U.S. growth forecast to a 2.5% rate. We expected 2.8% five years ago.
- With wages of a college graduate double that of a high school graduate, increasing educational attainment is an effective way to bring income inequality back to healthy levels.
- It also helps the U.S economy. Over the next five years, if the American workforce completed just one more year of school, the resulting productivity gains could add about $525 billion, or 2.4%, to the level of GDP, relative to the baseline.
This is only one suggestion, and I would love to hear others. But assuming that this is a plausible political solution to economic inequality--to encourage investment in education on behalf of the poorest members of society--can we adapt this goal to better account for the racial injustice highlighted by Ferguson? Or are separate measures required? If separate measures are required, what shape should they take? I welcome anonymous comments and suggestions.