Race and Income Equity with Leon T. Andrews, Jr.

- 5:13

"How do we respond to the injustices and the inequities?"


Oct 12, 2016

According to PolicyLink's National Equity Atlas, full-time workers of color currently earn 23 percent less than their white counterparts. That gap is slightly more than in 1979, and it's still growing. With Leon T. Andrews, Jr. of the National League of Cities. Visit the National League of Cities on the web, on Facebook or Twitter.

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Traynham: According to PolicyLink's National Equity Atlas, full-time workers of color currently earn 23% less than their white counterparts. That gap is slightly more than in 1979, and it's still growing. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham, and joining me today is Leon Andrews Jr. He's the Director of Race Equality and Leadership at the National League of Cities. -Leon, welcome to the program. -

Andrews: Thanks, Robert.

Traynham: It's good to have you here.

Andrews: Thank you.

Traynham: Wow. That's pretty stunning, that statistic that I mentioned a few moments ago. 1979. I mean, you would think, here it is the latter part of 2016, that things would have progressed so much more quickly in the context of African-American wealth going up, brown people's wealth -- and what I mean by that is Latinos, Indian, Asian-Americans? wealth going up. We have an African-American president. But it doesn't seem to be really transcending to the lower levels. Is that accurate?

Andrews: Well, yeah, I think there's a reality, and then there's the reality, right? And I think in the context of how you've described it, I think there's a lot to celebrate. And we should never dismiss as we take in data that there's always two sides to the coin at least. And so there are definitely success stories out there, but we also know that as we look at how our communities are being impacted, particularly African-American, black, and Hispanic and Latino, that there is a need to be much more intentional about how we're responding to the kinds of actions that are needed.

Traynham: You know, Leon, I read last night that the average ethnic household, if there's an emergency and they need $500 to fix the car, the average person cannot find that money. In fact, they would have to put it on their credit card simply because they just simply do not have that type of money in a savings account. That's pretty chilling in many ways.

Andrews: And not surprising for probably people that are living in those conditions to hear, right? And I think as we're really trying to frame this conversation around, "How do we respond to the injustices and the inequities?" it really is important that, as an organization, the National League of Cities, that we're being very explicit about acknowledging issues of institutional and structural racism, right, and really helping reframe the narrative that goes beyond just how we talk about this at an individual level. There's historical context. And most importantly, it's important for us as elected officials -- mayors and city council members -- to be thinking about what they can do in their leadership roles to be able to take on policies and looking at practices and budgets and really the ways that we're engaging the community.

Traynham: Leon, as I mentioned before, I introduced you to the audience. You're affiliated with the National League of Cities, which obviously deals at the state and local level, which is extremely important. Do you think there's a federal component to this? And the reason why I mention that -- Here we are in Washington, D.C. We have the U.S. Capitol right behind us. You grew up here in Washington, D.C. I guess my question is, is this a federal issue? Is this a state and local issue? Is this an American issue that all hands are on deck with this?

Andrews: Yeah. There's no one that is immune to being engaged around this work. Sadly, as we are here in the context of this conversation, there continues to be stories of injustice that are happening and events that are happening, whether it's in Tulsa, Oklahoma, now or in Charlotte, North Carolina. We can't run away from the problem. We can't hide. I do think one of the decisions that our organization made at the National League of Cities to create REAL was the acknowledgement that these issues are falling at the doorsteps of mayors and city council members, and they need to be better equipped to know how to understand the impact of race inequity in their communities.

Traynham: How can we get involved? How can the folks that are watching this program now -- How can we kind of mobilize and help you at the state and local level?

Andrews: Well, it's a great question, and it's not an easy answer. I wish I could do it in 30 seconds. But I do think that there needs to be a commitment across the board for each of us to be willing to have the tough conversations, for each of us to be willing to be comfortable being uncomfortable as we are engaging around some of these questions around race relations, around justice, around equality, around policing, and realizing that there are multiple narratives. We can hold both narratives. It's not about the police or the community. It's not about Black Lives Matter or the police. We need to hold both narratives and multiple narratives and be willing to allow people to acknowledge their truths but also, most importantly, looking for leadership in that space to take action. And that's, I think, the work that lies ahead.

Traynham: I hear what you're saying. We've got about 15 seconds left, and I think it's -- I want to drill down to this very quickly. You said it's uncomfortable to be uncomfortable, and I think that is so very important to acknowledge the truth and to chart a path forward. -

Andrews: Yes. -

Traynham: Leon Andrews Jr., thank you very much for joining us.

Andrews: Thank you. My pleasure.

Traynham: Keep up the great work. And thank you for joining us for this editionof "Comcast Newsmakers."I'm Robert Traynham.Have a great day, everybody.We'll see you next time.Bye-bye.

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