Since assuming the mayoral office, Keller has emphatically proven that his intentions are pure, borne out of a deep and passionate love for his (and our) city and community. But unlike so many politicians, he has also made tangible efforts towards rectifying the shortcomings that bedevil Albuquerque and prevent it from truly thriving.
Though the early stages of his tenure have ostensibly been dominated by his supervision of the calamitous chaos into which ART has dissolved, his early accomplishments include a restructuring of the police department, promotion of home-grown businesses and crucially establishing newfound channels of transparency and conversation between the public and his administration. He is here to help—and help everyone.
One of the less glorified, but potentially most influential, moves made by the Keller administration was the decision to restructure the Human Rights Office into the Office for Equity and Inclusion.
In pursuit of their vision for a more inclusive city—one no longer marred by racial, economic and geographic disparity—the Office for Equity and Inclusion this week published a thorough profile of Albuquerque that both explicates the injustices limiting the city’s economic potential and provides strategies that will propel Albuquerque towards an equitable future where “all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”
At its core, the profile finds that one of our city’s greatest strengths is its diversity; we are well ahead of the national curve in realizing a people-of-color majority, with those communities continuing to drive population growth. It is those same communities of color, however, which continue to be plagued by disadvantages in educational and economic opportunity.
Income inequality is increasing, along with poverty and working-poverty levels—with communities of color disproportionately affected. Workers of color earn lower wages across the board, with a $4/hour wage gap leaving college-educated men of color left in the wake of their white counterparts—and women of color even farther behind. Racial disparities in education appear in disturbingly early years of learning, and culminate in massive disparities in educational attainment.
These are symptoms of a city-wide culture of injustice in which we all participate at some level—and we all stand to benefit from their rectification. Should we as a city become truly equitable—a word that encompasses universal participation in economic vitality and equal access to social, political and economic opportunity—then we will all, collectively and individually, benefit.
The Office’s report shows that Albuquerque’s GDP would have increased by over $10 billion in 2012 if racial income gaps were closed; that number increases to $11 billion in 2015. Equity would see local Native Americans realize a 91 percent average gain in annual income, and Latinxs a 56 percent one.
These are measures that would unite the city and bring wealth to families, communities and the economy alike. In order to achieve that, the Office presents a series of recommendations that will bring equity and prosperity to the city.
At their core, these show that economic growth demands that we connect our vulnerable and disadvantaged communities with the educational and economic opportunities that are sure to arise as we enter into a new economical era.
In order to do so, we must accept, encourage and embrace diversity as a virtue of the city and a major economic asset, and pursue that diversity tirelessly by breaking down racial and socio-economic barriers through policy, investment and community.
We must brandish our diversity proudly as we soar into a brighter era, not use it as a crutch to justify our languishing.