The following editorial appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star

The latest Kids Count report illustrates a shameful disparity between the outlooks for white and nonwhite children in Nebraska.

The “Race for Results” report, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, scores states on child well-being using a scale of one to 1,000, accounting for academic proficiency, poverty, family life and health. The scores -- 704 overall for white children in the United States compared with 345 for blacks and 404 for Latinos -- are discouraging, to say the least.

Nebraska’s scores show an even wider rift between white and nonwhite children in this state: a score of 746 overall for whites compared with 323 for blacks and 368 for Latinos.

We should be stunned by these numbers, but we aren’t. We’ve been hearing figures like them for years.

For all the heads knowingly shaking over the disadvantages facing nonwhites here and elsewhere, our reactions to this crisis have been insufficient.

“We have the resources and the moral responsibility to ensure equitable opportunities for all children of all races and ethnicities,” the Kids Count report concludes. “We must help all children move forward along the path to self-sufficiency so that their talents can contribute to the future success of our families, communities and economy.”

Nonprofit groups and government agencies have done commendable work with their limited resources, organizing backpack programs and high school food pantries, for example.

But these entities need more help from those of us who live nearby yet fail to do our parts, as well as buy-in from people in smaller communities who are largely insulated from the more obvious race-based disparities in Lincoln and Omaha.

The problem might seem far-flung to some, but fixing it will benefit everyone.

For example, researchers for the McKinsey & Company consulting firm found that if the achievement gap separating white students from blacks and Latinos had been closed by 1998, the country’s gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher.

The stakes are growing. Most of the U.S. labor force will be nonwhite by 2030, according to Census Bureau projections cited in the Kids Count report.

The report’s authors offer suggestions to create opportunities for children, young people and their families. The authors mention “economic inclusion strategies” and other steps devised using “data and impact assessment tools.”

Addressing racial disparity will involve coalitions of schools, corporate foundations and grass-roots nonprofits. It will require studies and approval by voters or lawmakers in some cases. It also will take time.

The solutions aren’t easy, but the first step is simple: We shake our heads at racial disparity -- let’s not follow that with a shrug.


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