Let’s Talk: Race Still Matters

Many argue that we are living in a post-racial society.  They claim that because we elected our first black president, the civil rights movement has accomplished its purpose. But President Obama’s story, while inspiring and influential, is an exception to the rule and does not and cannot turn around the historic, continued oppression of communities of color.

In fact, focusing on the president’s story actually distracts us from confronting the very real racial disparities that are perpetuated today.    

Look around your community, and you’ll find racial disparities in every quality-of-life-indicator, including health outcomes, educational attainment, employment, and home ownership.

I feel passionate about this because of my own story. I arrived in North Carolina in 2000 eager to find a place within the immigrant justice movement. I felt that my voice was important, and very quickly I became a leading advocate for immigrant justice. I soon realized that our advocacy wasn’t informed by a racial equity lens. We were perpetuating power dynamics by ignoring how privilege amplified some voices while minimizing and marginalizing the voices of those who felt the most impact.  I knew something had to change.    A colorblind narrative exists today that ignores current power, privilege, and oppression related to race.  Structural racism like this drives a wedge in organizing efforts of those trying to create social change.  This wedge affected the organized efforts of slaves, indigenous natives, and indentured servants when our country was first colonized.  Today, it can still block our efforts to organize African American church congregations, undocumented immigrants, and LGBTQ communities.

To help build communities that intentionally engage in racial equity work, we have to be willing to start somewhere.  We must participate in an intentional, explicit conversation about racial equity to deepen the social change in North Carolina. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundationconvened regional gatherings throughout the state last year to help their grantees examine this important issue. 

I invite you to be part of this discussion by attending the workshop, “Racial Equity: A Path to Community Change,” at the N.C. Center for Nonprofits’ 2012 Conference.  We’ll talk honestly and respectfully about the issue and see how nonprofit organizations can affect social change.  After all, it’s what you do best.

Marisol Jiménez McGee is Director of the Racial Equity Initiative at OpenSource Leadership Strategiesand will co-facilitate the Friday workshop with colleagues Kathleen Clark and Sterling Freeman. Marisol Jiménez McGee is Director of the Racial Equity Initiative at OpenSource Leadership Strategiesand will co-facilitate the Friday workshop with colleagues Kathleen Clark and Sterling Freeman.

Comments

What a fascinating topic!? One thing I find puzzling about a discussion on racial disparities is that there is always a fear or apprehension that leaves minorities vulnerable to their emotions of the disparities and Caucasians guilty or concerned about offending others. I think this article highlights the social plight at best being a historical trend set by those in power who dictate that the lighter complexion is a privilege in our society and has universal appeal. This universal appeal is not only dictated by the perception of those who control the media but it also responsible for the social conditioning and identity crisis in many minorities and immigrants. More commonly, non-white people are ashamed of being themselves because of the narrative society has created about race. I am truly passionate about this topic as well. Please send me more information and I would love to join any conversations or panel discussions concerning this topic. Thank you.

KP

Thank you for your comments.  You are indeed right that the issue of racial equity is a sensitive topic.  We will dive into this topic in an in-depth workshop on September 14th at our 2012 Conference.  We hope you will join us to share more of your thoughts on how we can join together to create lasting community change.

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