Pillar Three of "Talking Poverty & Economic Opportunity Today"

We all have a responsibility to address systemic injustice.


Most Americans agree that today’s current economic system is off track because it results in ever-increasing inequality and persistent poverty. Remind audiences that this is due to systemic injustices; not the sum of an individual’s personal choices. In the past, powerful interests created and promoted economic policies (and continue to do so) that favored some populations and discriminated against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.

Today, politicians attack anti-poverty policies and programs based on deep-seated stereotypes or short-term political goals. These tactics are often rooted in legacies of racism and classism. Myths about the individual effort required to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps persist and ignore the policy and structural change we need.

Messaging about poverty and economic opportunity must continuously counter politicians’ discriminatory strategies. We have to remind audiences that a just economic system works for everyone, regardless of what you look like or where you come from, and that workers have more in common with each other and greater interest in each other’s well-being than corporations and the 1% do.

Suggested Language: 

The economy is the sum of our activity, shaped by the decisions, policies, and practices that specific decision-makers pursue ­­-- not an uncontrollable force or state of nature. The racial and gender inequities we see today are a direct product of discriminatory political decisions. To build the economy of the future, we must address these injustices and the legacies of our past.

Powerful interests, such as politicians, the wealthy, and corporations, continue to create and promote economic policies that favor themselves and discriminate against others based on race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, and ability. 

There is a significant gulf between our vision of equal opportunity and the daily reality for millions of people living in poverty.

We must challenge systemic threats to economic opportunity: harmful policies based on racist and classist perceptions of people living in poverty, misinformation, and biases. We must address unequal obstacles to opportunity based on the color of your skin, your accent, the zip code where you were born, or other aspects of who you are. We can do better.

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