Finley: What does America do next?
What happens next week?
After a week of marching, what does America do now in response to the death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis?
The easy answer is to go full tilt against racist cops and police brutality. Reform policing tactics and build community relations.
We’ve made those commitments before, after Malice Green and Ezell Ford and Botham Jean and Michael Brown and so many others.
This time we might even get it right. The power of the video of Floyd dying under the knee of a brutal cop has moved the nation to what seems to be a new place.
But police brutality is just the symptom. The disease is inequality. We can debate the causes but not the reality: We have allowed a permanent underclass to persist in this country.
Lifting it up is essential to our economic prosperity. Doing so will be an expensive and exhausting undertaking.
It will take sustained action to erase the opportunity gaps that exist between the races and between economic classes. Economic empowerment is the only effective weapon against inequality.
Start the fixing with schools. America’s education achievement is dismal across all demographic groups, but it is especially so for black and poor children. The direct cause is poverty, which traps them in struggling homes and inadequate and poorly funded schools.
Lower education and fewer skills equate to less income, and explains why white households have on average 6.5 times more wealth than their black counterparts. Privatizing social security, which a smaller percentage of black men ever collect, would be a path toward building in the African American community wealth that can be passed from one generation to the next.
Accelerate skills training. Do better at mentoring black students through college. Make more small business loans in communities like Detroit and economically depressed regions, and nurture those businesses to success. Open the corporate doors wider.
Elect more African Americans to office. Stop filling the seats of Congress with septuagenarians and turn the country over to a new generation better schooled in living and loving across racial lines.
These and a thousand more steps like them will help undo the devastation done by racism.
It was important to see business leaders step forward last week to promise to do their part to combat racism and increase opportunity for African Americans.
It was encouraging to see institutions and individuals speak out against what happened to George Floyd.
And it was a relief that hardly anyone this time is blaming the victim.
All that, however, has raised the expectation among African Americans that real change is actually coming this time, change that goes beyond simply defusing encounters between blacks and the police.
America falls short of delivering that promised change at its own peril.
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