Monday night’s Facing Race awards presentation opened with a rousing drum circle and song by the Standing Bull Singers that set the tone for an inspirational and exciting evening to follow.
The event, presented by The Saint Paul Foundation, celebrates and honors individuals and organizations working to create a more racially equitable, just and open community where everyone feels safe, valued and respected.
Dr. Manuel Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, gave the keynote address, which provided equal parts statistics, insight and humor. Here’s a quick run down of my memorable moments from his keynote.
The U.S. is quickly becoming majority minority. (Huh?)
- In 2012, a majority of babies born in the U.S. were minorities.
- By 2020, U.S. youth of color will be the majority.
- By 2043, the U.S. will be a majority minority nation.
What’s driving the change?
Births by second and third generation “Brown” Americans. Not immigration — although that’s a common misperception. A look at median age by race really tells the story.
- Median age for Latinos in the U.S. is 27.
- Median age for Blacks, Native Americans and Asian Americans is between 27 and 45.
- Median age for Whites in the U.S. is 45.
There is incredible inequality and a huge disconnect between Haves and Have Nots.
If our current rate of inequality is reproduced going forward, it will have a grim effect on the U.S. economy as a whole — just like 1929’s great depression and our very recent great recession. Inequality is maintained, in part, because of the HUGE disconnect between America’s “Haves” and “Have Nots.”
An example of that disconnect was our collective reaction to the recent housing foreclosure, when the first people to lose their homes were Black and Latino Have Nots. Whites and other Haves said, “That won’t happen to us.” But, it did. It just took a little longer.
As leaders, Pastor implored us to lead through the divide, and to bridge the equality gap.
Tips for Leading Through the Divide:
- As a nation, we must remember our history and the coming America (which some would say is already here).
- American youth is an aspirational — not an angry — constituency. (Young Blacks and Latinos are more hopeful about their futures than many young Whites.)
- Equity and inclusion are essential, not add-ons!
- We must frame our role as bridging generations and geographies.
- We must move from making deals to making change, and focus on transformation, not transaction.
And, before he finished, Pastor left us with a profound thought. He said:
Especially in Minnesota, where we lag behind much of the country (a little bit) in demographic change — when we find ourselves in groups of others like us, we must challenge the privilege of acting like everyone is like us.
I’m thinking about that, and I hope you will too. Do you act like everyone is like you, or do you challenge the privilege of acting that way? Let us know. I hope to blog again on the event, as each of the award recipients certainly deserves their own post! And check Facing Race for a more complete event summary.
– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate