The Gazette Editorial Board
The Opportunity Gap investigative series should make all Iowans uncomfortable with the status quo and help focus our state on what it will take to reverse those economic and education gaps among minorities.
On Sunday, The Gazette published part one of “Iowa’s Opportunity Gap,” an investigative series spearheaded by Iowa Watch of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. The Gazette, The Hawkeye in Burlington, the Fort Dodge Messenger and the West Liberty Index collaborated. It continues the next four Sundays. It’s the sort of weighty, in-depth project exploring stubborn racial disparities that demands our attention. And yet, it might be tempting for many of us to flip past it, figuring that it doesn’t apply to us or affect us.
But none of us should ignore the troubling realities exposed by the project and their implications for our state.
Iowa Watch’s analysis of 50 years of U.S. Census data shows sizable, and in some cases widening, gaps in income, education, homeownership and poverty rates between whites and minority blacks and Latinos. Poverty rates for blacks and Latinos far exceed the white poverty rate, the high school graduation rate for Latino students has fallen since 1990, and the homeownership rate for both Latinos and African-Americans is lower now than it was in 1970. Median income in black households is less than half of whites’ income.
“In fact, we hear folks always talking about how things are getting better, but then we have these statistics. Now either the statistics are wrong, or that image that things are getting better is wrong. I tend to go with the statistics,” said Virgil Gooding, a therapist and a member of Cedar Rapids’ African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee.
“The issue here is that there’s never been an honest conversation about racial attitudes in this state and about the various institutions in the state regarding treatment of African American citizens,” he said.
This Iowa Watch project is a good place to ignite that conversation.
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