When we talk about rapidly changing demographics what we are talking about is our nation and communities becoming more diverse. With this in mind, first let’s define diversity. According to McNett in Diversity in the Workplace: Ethics or Pragmatism or Some of Both, “By diversity we mean valuing, respecting, and appreciating the differences (such as age, culture, education, ethnicity, experience, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation, among others) that make people unique.”
Why should we care about this rapid change in diversity? Here in Dane County (and the rest of the country) we do not have strong track record of supporting diversity. According to Race to Equity a report on Dane County, 75% of black children live in poverty compared to 5% of white children. 48% of black children in 3rd grade are not proficient in reading compared to 11% of white children. Juvenile arrest rates are six times higher for black children than white. Sadly these inequities are not isolated to our county and state. New York Times recently published an article “1.5 Million Missing Black Men” about the disproportionate number of black men in our country who are in jail. As our county becomes more diverse these statistics will become even more staggering if we do not do something.
These statistics point to the institutional racism that exists in every community in America. It is a sickness that many pretended was cured until the media picked up on these staggering statistics of inequity, pointing to the two America’s we live in. Here in Madison, many found out about our own institutionalized racism as we read Race to Equity. Many others already knew what the report said and didn’t need a study to prove to them what they saw and lived.
Then Tony Robinson was killed. Another shooting of a black man by a white police officer. Falling inline with an ever growing list of horrors, growing numbers of dead black individuals that plaster our newspapers each day and each week. Confronted with the growing number of lost lives is paralyzing.
What can we do as leaders? We can listen. We can acknowledge that we are scared. We can acknowledge that we are often wrong. We can remember are only one view point. We can bring together leaders from all of our communities in Dane County and keep listening. We can step aside knowing that there are more important voices than ours or we can speak out louder and demand to be heard. We can work to correct the education gap. We can re-educate ourselves on equity. We can stop pretending we live in a society that treats everyone equally. What we can’t do is ignore the facts: there are 1.5 million missing black men in our country. Black children have worse educational outcomes than white children. Black children live in poverty at rates much above white children. Our society does not provide equal opportunities for all.