Commentary: Disparities between races hurt us all

You would think, 150 years after the Civil War and 55 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, that African-Americans and other minorities would be on an equal footing with whites in America. But they're not. Decades after Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, minorities trail whites in almost every objective measure of wellness.

National studies have documented how wide the gaps are across the country. Now, the Urban League of Central Carolinas and the Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte want to create a benchmark of how minorities' quality of life compares with whites' in Charlotte and the surrounding area. The project has the potential to establish an important barometer of the state of African-Americans and Latinos in our region, and to devise potential solutions for narrowing the gaps.

The causes of these disparities between whites and minorities are complex and debatable, and the best antidote to them far from obvious. But the Urban League's work is important, because no community can reach its full potential when a third of its population consistently underperforms in education, health, economics and other areas.

The Urban League's work will result in a report called "The State of Ethnic Charlotte." Its aim is to bring together hundreds of pieces of statistical data to ascertain how Charlotte-area minorities stand in relation to whites in five areas: economics, education, health, civic engagement and social justice. The research, being done by UNCC's Urban Institute, will be updated every three years to track progress, if any, over time.

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