Last Kerner Commission member haunted, hopeful on race in US

FILE - In this July 15, 1967 file photo a National Guard officer passes the smashed window of a black-owned flower shop in riot-torn Newark, N.J. The last surviving member of the Kerner Commission says he remains haunted that the panel's recommendations on US race relation and poverty were never adopted, but he is hopeful they will be one day. Former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris says 50 years after working on a report to examine the causes of the late 1960s race riots he strongly feels that poverty and structural racism still enflames racial tensions even as the United States becomes more diverse. AP Photo,File)

FILE - In this July 15, 1967 file photo a National Guard officer passes the smashed window of a black-owned flower shop in riot-torn Newark, N.J. The last surviving member of the Kerner Commission says he remains haunted that the panel's recommendations on US race relation and poverty were never adopted, but he is hopeful they will be one day. Former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris says 50 years after working on a report to examine the causes of the late 1960s race riots he strongly feels that poverty and structural racism still enflames racial tensions even as the United States becomes more diverse. AP Photo,File)

Associated Press from The Sacramento Bee

 

OCTOBER 10, 2017 11:57 AM

CORRALES, N.M. 

Nearly 50 years after the Kerner Commission studied the causes of deadly riots in America's cities, its last surviving member says he remains haunted that its recommendations on U.S. race relations and poverty were never adopted.

But former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris of Oklahoma also said he's hopeful those ideas will be embraced one day, and he's encouraged by Black Lives Matter and other social movements.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the 86-year-old Harris said he still feels strongly that poverty and structural racism enflame racial tensions, even as the United States becomes more diverse.

"Today, there are more people in America who are poor — both in numbers and greater percentage," Harris told the AP from his home in Corrales, New Mexico. "And poor people today are poorer than they were then. It's harder to get out of poverty." Read More