The Rebirth of Economic Justice

Is it time for a great coming together of the movement for racial justice and the movement for economic justice?

During the Civil Rights era, the political agenda of the Left began to divide. Young, liberal activists and people of color gravitated toward a racial justice agenda while more traditional Democrats clung to a New Deal agenda focused on economic justice. As the racial justice agenda became dominant, the economic justice agenda lost support. We may now be at a historical turning point because of growing concern about economic inequality.

The chasm between rich and poor has surpassed race and immigration as the most important source of societal tension. According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, two thirds of Americans believe there are “strong conflicts” between the rich and poor. That number has increased 50 percent since the 2009 survey.

Race also remains an important issue. Although only 38% of Americans believe there is a conflict between blacks and whites, large percentages of African Americans see both race and class as sources of societal strain. Many people of color experience economic inequality every day. What’s new is that whites are starting to catch on.

Concern about income stagnation, the decline of the middle class, and the wealth of the richest 1 percent has reached a tipping point. It is time to come together around an economic justice agenda.

Every election year politicians say we are at the crossroads. This time, we really are. As a nation we can consciously move toward a society that embraces economic disparity or we can consciously move toward shared prosperity.