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Health care and job creation are important, but Obama must address racism

A racially conscious approach to lawmaking is essential to rooting out institutional racism.

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Will President Obama pull it all off? That’s the question everyone seems to be asking as they wait to see if the Obama administration can deliver on everything from healthcare reform to job creation.

As the media focuses on Senate votes and market debacles, though, there is a larger issue that threatens to rip the country apart. That issue is race.

Nearly two years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama acknowledged the urgency behind confronting our racial divide when he said, “Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.”

So let's address it.

Societal shifts in attitude on race and the presence of institutional racism embedded in our laws are an ever-present challenge for elected officials.

Right now the current unofficial policy of colorblindness ignores the issue. But what if racial equity was a standard for government effectiveness?

The findings of a recent report by my organization, the Applied Research Center, and our partners in eight states indicate the importance of racial equity across the board.

The findings illustrate how a racially conscious approach to lawmaking is essential to rooting out institutional racism. Taking equity into account means addressing the causes of inequality and racially disparate outcomes.

We found that when elected officials consciously considered the effects of policy proposals and budget measures mindful of racial issues, they increased the state’s ability to address racial disparities and prevent unintended consequences that harm whole communities.

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