By Gregory D. Squires
Book Review Preview: Healing our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report, Fred Harris and Alan Curtis (eds) Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2018
“Everybody does better when everybody does better” (p. vi) is the appropriate opening epigram, penned by Jim Hightower, for this retrospective on the 50th anniversary of the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission report, produced by Fred Harris, the last remaining member of the Kerner Commission, and Alan Curtis, President and CEO of the Eisenhower Foundation. This book addresses many issues including economic policy, education, criminal justice reform, the role of the media and more by leading activists and public intellectuals including Henry Cisneros, Gary Orfield, Marian Wright Edelman, Joseph Stiglitz, Elijah Anderson, Linda Darling-Hammond and many more.
Throughout the book cites programs that have made progress in closing some of the disparities documented by the Kerner Commission, frequently supported by randomized controlled trials and quasi experimental design evaluations providing optimism going forward. One shortcoming, however, is the treatment of housing. There is little discussion in the book on the foreclosure crisis (with just 3 pages listed in the index under “foreclosure”) and its continuing effects. This is particularly problematic when HUD, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other federal agencies are retreating in the face of continuing discriminatory housing and housing finance practices.
But this is a minor vent in an otherwise rich collection of empirical evidence, policy analysis, and recommendations for future actions. It is not a page-turner. It will be used more as a reference than as a book to be read from cover to cover. But it is a valuable reference for those who pursue the unfinished agenda set by the Kerner Commission 50 years ago.
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
Gregory D. Squires
Department of Sociology
George Washington University