Sometimes overlooked in the national hue and cry over “law and order” is that, in fact, we all want law. We all want order. The cry for law and order is not about violations of the law, but rather, about threats to a certain kind of “order” – the order of racial hierarchy in America.
I am an urbanist. I grew up in a city and have spent most of my professional career in service to cities. What I have seen firsthand is that arguments about “law and order” frequently directed at urban communities of color, generally have little to do with either.
As we approach this consequential general election, 47% of likely voters agree “law and order” is an important issue—even more than the 45 percent who cite the pandemic as the most important. With 60% of likely voters pointing to “violence and unrest” as a “major” problem, there is a clear pattern of concern.
While the national call for justice has been coupled with months of protests, this shouldn’t be the basis for these concerns. Despite media shock jocks and race baiting politicians alluding to the opposite, the data speaks for itself. The fact is that more than 90 percent of Black Lives Matter protests since the death of George Floyd were nonviolent.
The perceived link between violent unrest and the fight for racial justice isn’t a coincidence, but reflective of resistance to systemic change that would challenge the country’s racial hierarchy. Yet, this order is what needs to be challenged in America, starting with building wealth in underserved communities of color.
Racist inequities in America are baked deep into the fabric of our society, public policies, business practices and power structures. They permeate our criminal justice system, health system, and our food system, and more than 150 years after the end of legal slavery, they still define so much of the inequity in our economic system.
The racial wealth gap has remained one of the clearest examples of racist policies and practices. The typical White family has a net worth of 10 times more than that of a Black family, illustrating their significant barriers to opportunity. It takes wealth to make wealth, but Black Americans have not benefited from inter-generational access to capital and finance.