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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Logo: Miranda Leung/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images

Hard Truths is an Axios series exploring the impact of race in America.

Why it matters: If you’re white or rich, it’s easy to believe that racism is something that ended years ago. But the hard truth is: That’s not supported by facts.

  • Our society, institutions and culture are still filled with barriers that shut out people because of the color of their skin, the origins of where they were born and other factors they can’t control.
  • That didn’t just happen a long time ago. It’s happening right now.

Driving the news: We recognize most newsrooms, including ours, pay too much attention to news of the day, and less time examining what's below the surface.

  • We were challenged on this by an Axios employee, who asked during the nationwide protests this summer: "Why does the news media spend all its time focusing just on events like this and then move on, instead of explaining systemic racism?"

Between the lines: We know that some of you will be skeptical.

  • We promise that Hard Truths — like all Axios coverage — will be grounded in facts, clinical and clear-eyed, so you get the full picture.

What’s next: Each month, we'll examine a fresh topic. Our project begins on Saturday with voting. In coming months, we’ll explore education, housing, technology, sports, health care and more. You’ll find this coverage:

  • In special Saturday bonus editions of Axios AM.
  • On Axios.com in a new "Deep Dive" format.
  • On a special edition of our "Axios Today" podcast that will accompany each new topic.
  • On "Axios on HBO."

The bottom line: Our goal is to equip you with facts showing the full picture of race in America — a topic long overdue for this nation and its leaders to confront.

Go deeper: Our first installment, on race and voting in America.

Go deeper

Former HUD secretary Julián Castro says homeownership can help close wealth gaps in America

Axios' Aja Whitaker-Moore (L) and former Sec. Julián Castro (R). Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Homeownership disparity is one of the root causes of wealth gaps between white people and people of color in America, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro said at an Axios Event aired Tuesday.

Why it matters: The homeownership gap between Black and white Americans is worse today than when race-based housing laws and policies were in effect decades ago. The Census Bureau reports that 42% of Black Americans and 61% of Hispanic Americans own a home — but for whites, it's 72%.

Updated Dec 22, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: America's housing inequities

Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo, Aja Whitaker-Moore, and Russell Contreras hosted a conversation on America's housing inequities as part of our series dedicated to covering the impact of race in America. This conversation featured former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford, and National Fair Housing Alliance president Lisa Rice.

Jonathan Reckford unpacked how structural racism has shaped the realities of housing today and the goal of creating accessible communities.

  • On the legacy of segregated housing policies following World War II: "Black families were denied access to growing communities and then denied access to financing, which meant they largely missed out on that wealth-building boom for so many middle-class families that allowed them to create an intergenerational asset through the housing."

Julián Castro highlighted how homeownership disparity is a fundamental part of the wealth gap between white people and people of color in America.

  • Why owning a home is a racial equity issue: "Homeownership is so important because, for most Americans, that makes up the bulk of their wealth. And that's especially true for Black Americans and people of color."
  • On meeting the needs of renters as well as homeowners: "We know that we have a rental affordability crisis that also intimately impacts communities of color around this country. We need to do both of these things to ensure that there's a path to homeownership and then also address the very real challenges of skyrocketing rents."

Lisa Rice discussed the impact of the pandemic on housing equity and critical issues for the next presidential administration to address.

  • On the importance of enforcing housing laws that already exist: "We've never really had wide-scale comprehensive enforcement of our nation's fair housing laws. And unfortunately, over the past three and a half years, what we have seen from the White House and the administration is a consistent rollback and evisceration of fair housing and fair lending protections."
  • On how artificial intelligence could amplify racial discrimination in housing: "[AI] mirrors and reflects the bias that is existence already in our marketplace. And sometimes they actually amplify the bias that is replete throughout the market."

Axios' Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Capital One Head of Community Finance Desiree Francis, unpacking how disparities made worse by COVID-19 build on past economic crises.

  • On the legacy of the 2008 economic crash: "Communities of color haven't recovered from the Great Recession. High levels of foreclosure equated to loss in housing value...These same communities are overrepresented in low-income jobs that have been greatly impacted by COVID-19."

Thank you Capital One for sponsoring this event.

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.