Urban League President Shari Runner Breaks Down 10-Year Plan

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The wealth gap has grown across the country and many of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods are also its most segregated. Now the Chicago Urban League is releasing a 10-year plan for creating a more equitable city.

President and CEO of the 100-year-old civil rights organization, Shari Runner, joins host Phil Ponce to discuss the plan and how they hope to achieve their goals. Go here to read more about the plan, including comments from Chicago Urban League Vice-President Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler.

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Below, some highlights from our conversation.

On inequity and segregation in the city of Chicago

“Chicago is a very rich, culturally diverse city, and we have the unique distinction of being always among the top three most segregated cities in the country,” Runner said. “As a result of that, we know that many of our African-American residents live very differently than white residents in the city of Chicago.

“But it’s not just about acknowledging the fact that those racial barriers exist. It’s really more now about addressing what are the decadeslong policies, practices, laws, institutions that have hampered progress for our community.”

On the report’s call for changing the narrative about why these inequities exist

“I think the big thing about the narrative is that African-American communities are where they are because they have not done the things that they need to do to achieve,” Runner said. “A lot of the things that we’re seeing–the violence, the poverty, the dysfunctional families–a lot of that is occurring because of poverty and the kinds of resources that are being allocated to these communities.

“We need to stop thinking that this is an African-American problem. This is a community problem that we need to address.”

On what aspect of these issues she finds most personally frustrating

“Personally? That we’re still dealing with it,” said Runner. “That we’re still dealing with many of the same problems that we’ve seen for 50 or 60 years. And that we have to understand that policies and structural racism have been with us and that if we do not acknowledge it and do not attempt to change it, that we will be in a very, very bad situation–and Chicago has been very lucky, and we should continue to think about, very quickly, what we need to do to save our communities.”

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