A White House advisory panel report released Oct. 27 said that in order to fight poverty, the United States must acknowledge and address disparities and unequal treatment — economically, socially and politically — that face communities of color.
The White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships’ report titled “Strengthening Efforts to Increase Opportunity and End Poverty” found inequality “woven into the tapestry of our nation’s policies, practices and laws at every level of government and culture.”
“This structural economic inequality is rarely the result of personal decisions made by individuals from low-income and poor communities,” the report said. “Rather, it is the direct consequence of our economic and financial systems, compounded by histories of racial, gender and class issues that have pervaded our country for centuries.”
The faith and community leaders said instead of addressing historical and structural causes of inequality, Americans often disparage low-income populations and blame them for their situations. One particular “unfortunate” narrative, they said, reduces the causes of inequality to “personal responsibility.”
“This framework has created a moral crisis in which we fail to recognize our failings as a society or to embrace the golden rule of loving and respecting our neighbors as we do ourselves,” the report said. “We instead dismiss structural racism and discrimination as the appropriate explanation for the poverty and exclusion that low income populations so often face.”
Not surprisingly, the report found the most affected by social, financial, health and justice disparity are communities of color.
“To remedy the inequalities and yield future economic stability among these groups, a different narrative must become part of a shared national consciousness, analysis and practice,” the advisory group said.
The advisory panel recommended that the White House work with law enforcement agencies and communities to strengthen accountability, trust and collaboration, create forums to promote racial reconciliation and expand the use of commutations, pardons and expungements as alternatives to prison.
Other recommendations in the 70-page report include urging the president to lead the implementation of sustainable development goals aimed at eliminating poverty in America.
“In the history of the United States and other countries, we have repeatedly seen that a clear statement of goals can have wide influence and drive change,” the report said. “A clear statement of U.S. goals and indicators would raise expectations and set up a framework of accountability.”
Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said members of the council “have tackled some of the toughest challenges facing our country, and we look forward to continuing to be inspired and informed by their work.”
When he introduced the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009, President Obama said: “Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.”
Rogers said the members of three advisory councils to the administration “certainly have fulfilled this charge, and we are deeply grateful for their service.”
Editor’s note: The headline and opening paragraph were edited after posting to clarify the report comes from the White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and not from employees of the federal government.