Plain facts: By 2015, in just three years, white youth in the United States will no longer comprise a majority, and then all of our kids will be members of a minority group. The Star Tribune and other Minnesota media was abuzz last week confirming this transition. In 2011, for the first time in our nation's history, more than 50 percent of our newborns were non-white or Hispanic and in Minnesota more than 30 percent of our kids under 5 are kids of color.
This will be good, for Minnesota must become a world community to compete in an age of globalization. But the more important corresponding reality is that our white population and our education systems must adapt faster to changing demographic realities for this state and nation to thrive. That was the key message delivered by Georgetown University Law Professor Sheryll Cashin during a recent forum in Minneapolis.
Sheryll Cashin, Georgetown University Law Professor
“The Latino population grew at a rate 40 times that of the white population during the last decade, and these are people born here; not immigrants. Growth in the Asian population is high as well,” Cashin said during the 15th Annual Julian Parker Lecture held earlier this month at the Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas.
Cashin, who writes extensively about issues of race and inequality, said that social psychology holds that most people harbor biases, and people who are the most isolated tend to believe the worst stereotypes. This can be dangerous because separation perpetuates stereotypes of people perceived as “the other.''
“It is no secret that American public schools are rapidly resegregating,” Cashin said. “Blacks and Latinos have become more segregated than ever in the last 30 years.” Economic segregation is rising as well, she said, noting that in 1970, 65 percent of the people in this country were middle class while today, 44 percent are middle class.
The better news is that some areas of the nation have been able to counter this segregation and the widening gap in various measures of school success rates, to the benefit of all, Cashin said. She cited Montgomery County, Maryland, where longtime zoning laws required 10- to 15-percent affordable units in wealthier communities. Now, Montgomery County has emerged as a leader in closing the achievement gap between low-income and affluent children, she said. (See the July 2011 Growth & Justice policy brief on this topic.)
Referring to different perceptions about race and inequality, Cashin said whites frequently view racism through its more blatant and outrageous history, in the context of laws and policies of the previous century that more brutally and intentionally held certain groups back. So, whites are more likely to see progress around the issue. People of color, however, seek a future of true equality, which they see as quite distant, Cashin said.
Although whites and people of color typically disagree about the subject of race and addressing disparities, Cashin urged unity and called for establishing multicultural coalitions that “narrow rather than widen gaps” between people.
Louis Porter II
(Note from Growth & Justice President Dane Smith: Louis Porter II is a new policy fellow for Growth & Justice. He's a communications teacher at the University of Minnesota, a former journalist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and he holds a doctorate in education.)