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South s.t.a.r.t. Joins Anwatin Middle Students for 11th Annual Time to Talk

October 24, 2013

s.t.a.r.t. Joins Anwatin Middle Students for 11th Annual Time to Talk

South High s.t.a.r.t. and Anwatin Middle students joined together for the YWCA’s 11th Annual It’s Time to Talk Dialogue about Race.

The guest speaker was Andrés Tapia, author of “The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity.” Mr. Tapia began by telling a crowd of over 1300 business and organizational leaders, including our students, that “diversity is a mix, but inclusion is making the mix work.” He spoke to how creating inclusive systems in the workplace and addressing issues of race are “one of the hardest things civilization must do.”

“RACE STILL MATTERS,” Mr. Tapia repeated as he projected the words in all CAPs on the overhead projector. He proceeded to share statistics to demonstrate stubborn opportunity gaps in our country. He reminded us that our educational equity gaps, especially for Latino and African American students, are the highest in our country.

“Who would you trust to take care of your children?” Mr. Tapia asked us, as he showed a photograph of Geoffrey Canada, the African American founder of the Harlem Achievement Zone, and another photo of a young white woman in a graduation cap, who went on to become a convicted murderer.

“Now,” said Mr. Tapia, “to be a minority is to be a majority. In 50 of our U.S. cities, the majority of residents are people of color. In 10 of our U.S. states, white men are a minority.” He pulled up a slide showing the estimated buying power of groups that have historically been marginalized in the U.S.: 1) Blacks at $1 trillion; 2) Latinos at $1.2 trillion; 3) Asian Americans at $718 billion; 4) amount of LGBT buying power at $billion; and 5) that of people with disabilities at: $1 trillion. He reminded business leaders that they don’t want to be alienating their customers.

In addition to knowing that minorities are quickly becoming the majority, Mr. Tapia urged us to “own our biases.” He proceeded to point out the many types of tensions fueled by racism, including Latino-on-Black racism, Asian American-on-Black racism, the MN gaps and other types of colorism in every community, where people of lighter skin are valued more than those with darker skin. “We lose moral authority when we do that,” he said.

“We have to share our stories,” he said. Latinos, as one population, will comprise 25% of Americans by 2025. They represent over 1/3 of those living in California, half of the babies born in Texas, 9/10 of those born in New Orleans and 1/2 of the recent population growth in the U.S.. “57% of Latinos prefer to speak English,” he added, “and 16% of young Latinos self-identify as white, compared with 30% of adult Latinos.”

Mr. Tapia pointed out that inclusion is a skill, not an attitude, and that there are equally compelling studies to demonstrate that increased diversity can improve or impede an environment. Over time, the research has proven that the difference lies in how diversity is managed. “Greater diversity, when managed well, leads to greater creativity and productivity,” he said. “The key is in the words: when managed well.”

Andrés Tapia ended his talk by saying that we must not let anyone take away our rights, and that we must learn to stand up for the rights of others. He gave the example of the Rockwell Automation Project, the mission of which is to “equip white men to play a central role in creating inclusion without relying on women and people of color.” He pointed out that it’s an opportunity for white men to own their collective privilege.

At our table dialogues, we continued to reflect upon Mr. Tapia’s presentation, talking between us about why it is challenging to talk about race, how we confront racism when we see it and what we plan to do to in our lives to address the issues. At our table of students, one student reflected on “hipster racism,” and the ways that some youth can use irony to mask racism. She added that getting peers to talk about race is challenging, especially when they can’t recognize their privilege and have the advantage of not having to think about it. Collectively, we agreed that talking about race is an important step towards bringing issues to light in our school community so that we may address them. For that reason, It’s Time to Talk was an unforgettable opportunity to receive support for our work. It was thought-provoking and also daunting to face together the change we still must be and must see. Yet, knowing that over 1300 people, committed to dismantling racism, were in the room with us was a huge inspiration–and left us dreaming of as many ways as possible to bring the message home.

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