Insight News

Feb 08th

Conference probe remedies to economic inequality

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w-larrypalmerAn event of national and international significance will take place in Minneapolis on October 11-13, 2012. The Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota will host the 4th World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality. This free conference will interest all those who see, every day, the consequences of inadequate education, housing, health care, and income. It is an opportunity to learn from and interact with prominent researchers and policy makers from around the world who are committed to finding solutions.

No matter where you travel in the world, economic disparity can be seen in income, employment, and wealth formation in the minority populations of any region. The consequences of these disparities manifest themselves in home ownership rates, small business ownership rates, credit access, incarceration rates, child welfare system involvement, academic achievement, family structure and even health outcomes. Why do these differences arise and persist across the globe?

"Efforts to combat racial and ethnic economic inequality must be grounded on a solid understanding of the underlying causes of the differences," explained Roy Wilkins Center Director Dr. Samuel L. Myers, Jr., Director, a national authority on the methodology of conducting disparity studies and a pioneer in the use of applied econometric techniques to examine racial disparities, "The traditional process of analysis, on which policies are based, does not account for the structural differences that exist between communities of color and majority-group communities. The history, culture, and relationships in our communities are ignored. In their place, flawed assumptions about the deficient behaviors within communities of color become the foundation of policy. Such policies will not work. Problems of inequality are best solved when those who have the problem act to define the solution."

w-benjamin-t-jealousAt the World Conference, scholars and researchers from India, New Zealand, Kenya, Korea, Bulgaria, Brazil, Norway and China will engage community activists from Portland, Durham, Des Moines, Omaha, Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Seattle to examine successful local initiatives from around the world that show great promise. The interaction between scholars, policy makers, and community leaders will bring a practical dimension not often found in an academic conference. Conferees will examine:

• How the leadership of communities that face the greatest economic distress can be strengthened
• Why racial and ethnic disparities may be traceable to differences in access to early childhood education
• Whether concentrations of poverty via heavy segregation of neighborhoods can explain racial and ethnic economic disparities
• How economic and health disparities influence each other
• How various biological, social and cultural categories interact on multiple levels to contribute to systematic social inequality.

Participants will then ask: Does this model work? If so, why? If not, why not? Will it work here in Minnesota.?

The 4th World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality has attracted prominent researchers and policy makers seldom brought together in one place. The keynote speaker at the opening luncheon on October 12 is who was appointed United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in March of 2012. A career diplomat, Ambassador Palmer entered the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982 and was posted around the globe. Most recently, he was the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 2002–2005 and then served as the President of the Inter-American Foundation from 2005 to June 2010. Ambassador Palmer is a native of Augusta, Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Emory University, a Master of Education in African History at Texas Southern University, and a Doctorate of Higher Education Administration and African Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington.

The World Conference coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice. The Wilkins Center is the first endowed chair established in a major public policy school named after an African American. On the evening of October 12, Benjamin T. Jealous will be the featured guest at the 20th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Appointed as President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 2008 at the age of 35, Benjamin T. Jealous is the youngest person to lead the century old organization. This is the first time in recent memory that a top executive of the NAACP has addressed a University of Minnesota audience.

The appearance of Benjamin T. Jealous is a fitting tribute to the work of Roy Wilkins. Roy Wilkins was a 1923 graduate of the University of Minnesota who spent his entire career with the NAACP. For twenty-two years, he was their top executive. During Roy Wilkins tenure, the NAACP led the nation into the Civil Rights movement and spearheaded efforts that became significant civil rights victories, including Brown vs. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Benjamin T. Jealous, is a product of that history. A fifth-generation member of the NAACP, he is the heir to freedom fighters on both sides of his family. Jealous, a Rhodes Scholar, is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University, the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation and served as the founding director of Amnesty International's US Human Rights Program. As President of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous has opened national programs on education, health, and environmental justice.

The featured speakers, the panelists, and those who submit papers at the 4th World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality will present models for change that can be adapted here in Minnesota. For those who have spent a lifetime working for their community, findings from the World Conference can be translated into ammunition for your community to make its own case to elected officials, policy makers, and funders. In the fall of 2013, Minnesota attendees will reconvene to compare the progress that they have made.

Although the World Conference is free, registration is required. Go to to see the conference schedule and panelists, complete registration, and reserve a place at the Roy Wilkins Center 20th Anniversary Celebration Dinner ($125) on October 12, 2012.

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