In 1968, following the worst riots in U.S. history, the Kerner Commission warned that America was splitting into "two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal." Twenty-five years later, a major report documents that the warning remains unheeded.
The 350-page report from the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, issued March 1 in commemoration of the Kerner anniversary, concludes that "overall, in spite of some gains since the 1960s but especially because of the federal disinvestments of the 1980s, the famous prophesy of the Kerner Commission...is more relevant today than in 1968, and more complex, with the emergence of multiracial disparities and growing income segregation."
The authors of the report found that the greatest obstacle to progress is "federal legislation and bureaucracy—which is categorical, fragmented, narrow, inflexible—and doesn't allow for local, neighborhood-based 'one-stop shopping' for coordinated services." They propose major federal investment in "disadvantaged" children and youth and in reconstruction of inner cities.
Jim Rice is editor of Sojourners. Brigitte Kerpsack and Jeff Shriver assisted with research.