Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday August 11th, 2016, 1:48pm

Chicago Urban League Unveils 10-Year Blueprint For Dismantling Structural Racism

The Chicago Urban League released a 10-year blueprint Wednesday to undo structural racism in the city and create more equitable education, employment and economic development systems for African-American residents living in the most disadvantaged communities.

Chicago Urban League officials released the plan as the organization commemorates its 100th anniversary.

"Our vision is that by 2026, residents of every community area in Chicago will have access to the services and supports they need not just to succeed, but to really thrive as members of the greater Chicago community," said Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, vice president and executive director of the Chicago Urban League's Research and Policy Center.

"The league's 10-year plan is a focused effort that lays out our commitment to making racial equity a reality. When this happens, it sets the stage for a stronger African-American community and that, in turn, makes a stronger Chicago."

The "Blueprint for an Equitable Chicago: A 10-Year Plan" targets 19 Chicago communities considered to be racially concentrated areas of poverty. In these South and West Side communities, such as Austin, Englewood, West Pullman, Woodlawn and others, over 40 percent of residents live in poverty. 

Residents in racially concentrated areas of poverty face greater barriers to opportunities for getting ahead in life than those in other communities, the report explains. 

Addressing root causes of inequality rather than just the "symptoms," such as poverty, violence and family dysfunction, is central to the blueprint's strategy. 

Gun violence, however, is "one of the most pressing public health issues facing some of our communities" and a symptom that must be tackled, according to Chicago Urban League officials, who say they will work with partners on parallel efforts to curb gun violence and gun trafficking.

The report sets several goals in three core areas of education, employment and economic development, which are key to creating thriving communities and improving the well-being of residents, according to the organization. Chicago Urban League officials seek to develop a broad network of government, corporate, non-profit and community partners to help secure resources and support for improvement strategies. 

"There's a lot of great working being done by organizations across the city in trying to address the systemic socioeconomic issues that our communities face. However, dismantling structural racism requires a critical, collective effort," said Chicago Urban League President and CEO Shari Runner. "It is with this sense of urgency that 'Blueprint for an Equitable Chicago' provides concrete strategies with measurable outcomes to drive policies and practices that advance racial equity."

On the issue of eduction, the Chicago Urban League reports that about "half of African-American youth attending predominantly African-American Chicago Public Schools will not graduate from high school." The blueprint looks to increase high school graduation rates among black youth by 15 percent.

The document also sets targets of increasing African-American employment rates by 30 percent for youths and 20 percent for adults. 

Among Chicagoans aged 16 to 64, unemployment rates are now 30 percent for blacks and 14 percent for whites, the report states. 

Chicago's African-American teens face even higher unemployment rates, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Institute. A report issued by the institute earlier this year found that 88 percent of black Chicago teens were jobless in 2014.

The third issue of economic development focuses on boosting African American home and business ownership rates by 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively, while also increasing access to responsible loan products for people with low-to-moderate incomes. 

Thirty-percent of Chicago's black households own a home, compared to 50 percent of white households, according to the report, which states that African Americans are also less likely to own businesses.

Nationwide, racial disparities in home and business ownership have led to a large black-white wealth gap. Median U.S. household wealth was $11,200 for blacks and $144,200 for whites in 2013, the most current year for data, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

"Overwhelmingly, the most frequently reported issues facing African Americans looking to own a home or business are financial barriers, including income and savings, personal credit and access to financial products," the blueprint states. "Lenders play a key role in this process and must also commit to increasing ownership among African Americans."

Chicago Urban League officials have already kicked off the 10-year plan's first phase. They are analyzing the "community landscape" and looking for potential partners.

The organization hopes to have the blueprint's strategies fleshed out and ready for implementation by 2018.

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