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Brexit and inclusion

Great Britain's referendum decision to leave the European Union pushes a lot of "buttons" but underscores the need for inclusion.

Brexit and thinking about Inclusion at home 

Many housing advocates think of inclusion as a tool for racial justice, but really inclusion is a strategy to bridge the gap between 19th century “nationalism” and 21st Century “internationalism.” Stick with me, this thought does circle around to housing. 

With Brexit (Britain's decision to leave the European Union) all over the news this week, it seems like a good time to “think globally so we can act locally.” The Brexit vote signals a change in the Post WW2 social order. Jim Tankersley writes in the Washington Post: “Now the question is whether the movement will ultimately push the world into a more Western-worker-friendly form of globalization – or a full-fledged retreat to protectionism.” 

At the end of World War2, European nations were determined to bring permanent peace by defusing the passions of “nationalism” through open trade and cooperation. Economic and social equity were not so important to them at the time. With the growth of global communication and transportation, traditional communities were confronted with global realities in the form of job loss, outmigration of young people and the arrival of "outsiders." 

Because the US started as an immigrant melting pot, there were already some hard-fought-for traditions of inclusion in the form of “non discrimination” laws based on a person’s demographic characteristics. (race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status, or disability.) 

More recently, especially during the Obama years, the US rediscovered “affirmative action” as a tool to remove systemic barriers that go beyond individual discrimination. Affirmative action differs from non discrimination by focusing on policies, programs and practices that breakdown system wide barriers to certain demographic groups. 

But inclusion in the 21st Century has a third component beyond non discrimination and affirmative action: supporting “equality of outcome”. Equality of outcome means giving more support to people who are starting with fewer life resources. Policies that could support equality of outcome might include 
  • Raising the minimum wage, expanding Earned Income Tax Credit, or creating a Universal Basic income;
  • Removing financial barriers to health care and education;
  • Funding social services that address personal trauma or loss that prevent full social participation; and 
  • Creating digital mobility through universal access to information. 
A new book on housing mobility programs in Baltimore, Coming of Age in the Other America, outlines an ambitious agenda of income, education and social supports that complement families moving out of "the projects." Being “born on third base” can no longer be the key factor for social success. 

For housing advocates, embracing all three components of inclusion (non discrimination, affirmative action, and equality of outcome) means thinking systemically. 
  • Making sure that the “who benefits and who pays” equation measures both tangibles (taxes and income) and intangibles (life opportunities and social mobility), and 
  • Ensuring the socially disenfranchised have a voice in the plans that affect their lives. 
Acting locally means starting where you are.  posted June 26, 2016