Press Release ● Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity
For Immediate Release: 
May 17, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - Yesterday, the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity and the Congressional Black Caucus held a forum entitled, “50 Years After the Kerner Report,” to discuss persistent racial and economic inequalities in America. Panelists, including former U.S. Senator and member of the Kerner Commission Fred Harris, presented strategies to tackle the enduring crisis of poverty and racial injustice fifty years after the release of the Kerner Report, which was written by the Commission following the 1967 race riots.

"Fifty years ago, the Kerner Commission issued its landmark report on American poverty and deep racial biases that perpetuate it,” said Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer.  “The Democratic Whip Poverty Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity heard from witnesses, including one of the Kerner Commission's members, about what progress has been made and where our nation has fallen short since then. In many parts of the country, dire poverty continues to strain the cohesion of American society, and it is critical that Congress not lose sight of its responsibility to tackle poverty and racial bias head-on.  Democrats are committed to this effort and will not rest until this mission is achieved.”

“Congress should take heed of the lessons within the Kerner Report. Despite the progress we’ve made over the past half century, we still have not fully addressed many of the challenges identified in the Kerner Report, nor achieved our goal of racial and economic opportunity for all,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity. “In order to ensure our nation’s prosperity reaches all Americans – including the African American community – we must take serious action in Congress to dismantle the institutional and structural barriers to success. Through our work on the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, we will keep fighting for policies that help struggling families lift themselves out of poverty.”

“In 1968, the Kerner Commission released its final report and concluded that civil unrest in Black communities was the result of African-Americans’ frustration with their lack of economic opportunity and that this lack of economic opportunity was the fault of state and federal governments. In other words, despite African Americans’ social justice gains years earlier with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, many economic justice gains were still well beyond reach,” said Congressman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Although African Americans are better off now than we were in 1968, a lot of the issues that the Kerner Commission raised are still issues today and the Congressional Black Caucus will continue our 47-year-long effort to address them. In fact, last week, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018, a comprehensive 1,300-page bill that would, if passed, increase the upward social mobility of Black families, and help ensure equal protection under the law. In short, although African Americans have come a long way, we still have a long way to go, and the goal of the Jobs and Justice Act of 2018 is to help get us there.”

A video recording of the forum is available here. In addition to Senator Harris, whose prepared testimony you can find here, the following panelists testified and took questions at the hearing: