tv Tonight From Washington CSPAN April 11, 2011 8:00pm-11:00pm EDT
of fox news. and then former chairman michael steele and donna brazil on race and politics. we expect house only to be in for a few minutes at 11:00 p.m. eastern. president obama on president obama will lay out his long-term plan to reduce the deficit that comes in friday's spending deal between senate democrats and republican house leaders. we'll have the president's remarks live from george washington university on c-span 3 and on c-span radio. now, a discussion on how the family structures of african-american latino, muslim and asian families in the u.s. have changed in the past decades. this conference on race in america is hosted by the aspen
institute and moderated by fox news political analyst juan williams. this panel is 90 minutes. by omar wassau, daisy kahn, lillian rodriguez lopez and sunny garr. this is a tremendous opportunity to talk about the changes taking place in america on several levels. we just heard a bit on the shifts because of the census report that finds more and more diversity in terms of racial composition of the society, more and more challenges in terms of how race interacts with economics and class in american society and something the professor didn't mention is a high percentage of young people in american society, i think the core of the population under 18, and increasingly what's fascinating to me is increasingly those young people are not only
minority but are of mixed race and bringing different racial perspectives, different ethnic, different religious perspectives to what had previously been a black-white conversation in america. that conversation is now quite different than it's ever been. and we have a panel here to talk about some of these issues, structural issues, racial issues, but i wanted to begin with a different sort of approach which is to talk for a second about the impact all of those changes are having on family structure in the united states, and how family structure is shifting with the shift in demographics and class in america, so omar, let me begin with you in asking -- let me introduce you. i don't think we're going to have any change in terms of rudeness over the years, but omar is co-founder and strategic founder and was
founder of black planet.com, evidence of a new generation and you got a haircut the last time i saw you. >> i had dreadlocks last time we were onstage. so i'm growing up a little myself. >> i want to talk about the disillusion of the black family in specific, if you look at the numbers of children born out of wedlock is 70% in the black community and 50% in the hispanic communicate by and 28% of the white community, so you're seeing a disillusion in the united states compounding the shifts in terms of racial and ethnic demographics. but how do you understand why the family structure is breaking down? >> so thank you, juan, for including me in this panel, and i think you set up question really nicely there in that this is an issue that disproportionately affects african-americans, single family households but is not
unique to african-americans and is an issue that's an increasing question for any community. if you look at the black community, in 1965, 20% of households had -- were -- was a child born to a nonmarried couple and now you mentioned it, it is 70%. a dramatic change in a relatively short period of time. and there are all sorts of other issues that then flow from that single parent households tend to be much poorer, there's all sorts of challenges that those children face in school, and i think part of the riddle for us as a country in thinking about race and class and sort of tangle that kind of unfolds in something like single parent households, on some kind of problems -- crisp answers, but in fighting jim crow c there was a clear dismantle legal segregation and that that would open up all sorts of doors and
it did. or with voting disenfranchisement, we had a clear sense of have legal access to the ballot. for all an equal access to the ballot. but for issues where we have neighborhoods which have 70% or more folks living below the poverty line, where in kind of a post industrial economy, there aren't clear -- you know, the engine of economic opportunity has sputtered to a halt. we don't have a clear answer, and what has sort of fueled those voids, particularly as things like the war on drugs has ratcheted up, is an era of mass incarceration where there are massive underground economies, so it's not just that women are having kids, you know, in the absence of marriage and somehow that's an issue for young women, but young men have a hard time finding jobs, and so turn in many ways --
>> let me quickly say, i remember being at lunch recently with president obama, and we were talking about the recession. and he said that in the recession of the 1980's, you saw black men go through stark unemployment rates and today we have stark unemployment rates, double what it is for whites and the overall unemployment rate is still almost 9% in america today. so we should start talking about black men in specific, it is catastrophic by comparison. but for black women, it's less. so i'm thinking to myself, black women are outperforming black boys in school. black women are outperforming black men in terms of employment, could it be that black women have made the decision they don't need a husband? >> i think the research i've read suggests that black women revere marriage, and that a lot of poor women revere marriage and are waiting for the right partner to come. and that in an economy with where it's hard for men to find
work, in an environment where there aren't good role models, where the people are sort of coming of age in very chaotic communities, it's women are making a rational choice that is, i want to get married but i need a guy who is going to be dependable and love me and show up on -- you know, show up to be a father to my kids. >> that's a radical shift taking place here. in terms of who we are. and i wanted to ask you, lillian rodriguez lopez, the president of the hispanic federation, that when you look at the -- now profess >> spenderhuse said i have to be careful, would i speak of the spanish community, the hispanic community, what would you like me to use? >> you can use either one. for me that distinction is generational. i think younger latinos, younger hispanics prefer the word "latino" they find it friendlier and think it speaks
more to their sort of reality within the united states. if you talk to people who are older, they're more comfortable with hispanic or spanish because that's what they really grew up with. so it's really an age thing that's happening there. as it relates. >> given your vanity, i think i'll call you latino. >> ok. >> all right. >> you're a wise man. >> so ms. rodriguez lopez, with omar we were talking about 70% born out of wedlock and the destructural breakdown, the destructure of the black family, but in the latino community, 50%. there's not much difference. but i always think, and now, again, i may be dealing in stereotype here, but i always think the latino community has very strong families and comes as a shock to me when you realize such a high out of wedlock birth rate exists. >> you know, that's interesting the way this is being posed. i listen to the question and i listen to the response.
first of all, implies if you're not married you're not a family. and so maybe we need to start thinking about what is the construct of family and without getting too political think of the gay agenda, they are families and they're not married. you have a lot of people who are young couples who don't want to get married because, quite frankly, they believe it's a failed institution. so rather than say oh, they don't want to get married or the partners are not out there or we don't have reliable men in the african-american or the latino community, i dispute that. you know, there's a lot of very strong families and a lot of strong partnerships. people just don't want to have the paper anymore because they believe it just creates all kinds of tensions, and difficulties and that it is a failed constitution. -- failed institution. one, two, it is different.
let's be honest. it is different. my grandmother, my mother, they stayed in marriages, there was a different set of values, per se, around what marriage meant and what it meant not to be married. they put up with a lot of situations that were occasionally very, very difficult. some great but some very difficult in terms of family dynamics that nowadays people say good or bad, sad or great for families, you know what, i'm not putting up with this anymore. and they divorced very quickly or they never enter into the institution to begin with, so there's a lot of things that are happening just in general in the 21st century that are really affecting the institution of marriage and how we define family. >> what struck me in your comment was the role of women. that, again, talking to omar about the black community, we talked about women outperforming men. it's also true in the latino
community, and you're saying that in many cases, i don't know why you call marriage a failed institution, i want you to tell me that. but you also say women are making a decision that they don't need the paper, as you put it. so is it that the role of women in the latino community has radically shifted as we've seen them become more american, in fact, the largest minority in america. >> first of all, i say that i believe in marriage. so i want to be very clear that i think it's a great institution, but we have a very high divorce rate in this country. so what's happening is people are not married because they don't want -- they figure, oh, if the divorce rate is so high, why even get married? >> but the quick answer would be children. >> yes. i agree. >> what you see in the research is that for young -- for a lot of low income women, marriage and children are uncoupled. that in the old model income. sex, children were all tightly
bundled together under marriage. and now that's totally uncoupled. >> so what's going in the latino community? >> i think for latino women there is a certain amount of independence. and that they find themselves in situations to do things. if you either find yourself in a situation where your career is progressing, you haven't met someone you want to marry. i want to be clear because i think there are very good men out there. but you just haven't found, quote, unquote, your life partner, the person you want to marry. and maybe that's why they're choosing to have children outside of marriage. >> very briefly, when i am talking to omar or you about breakdown of family structure. i'm tying in my mind the stats we heard from professor spenderhuse about lower income, less resources to help those children move forward in a society. do you see it that way? >> i see a lot of women who are
educated, career-minded, having children without a marriage and without partners. i can't give you the percentage, and i'm going to look to see what the full census data shows. but they're out there, too. i just don't want to victimize the poverty, the low income because i think there are too many factors that are really switching and shifting the way we live our lives, the way we make our decisions, and what you said, a whole decumming of what -- decoupling of what comes first. i graduate, i get married, i buy a house, we have two kids, i get a dog. all that is out the window. now what you do is i get married, i have the kid, it doesn't work out, he leaves, the kid goes and lives with him for a week, he comes back to my house for the week. i keep the dog. i'm divorced. the dog is now with him, too. because the child is out of the
house. so we have these really fascinating ways of managing our life. we're not cookie cutter. and that's scary sometimes that we're not cookie cutter but i think life is a little bit more complex than we want to make it seem, today. >> i want to come back -- this is so fascinating because i wonder what the impact on our children, when you look at the poverty rates in the united states among children, and especially minority children, they're astronomical. >> you raise a good point. i don't want to minimize this. we should also talk about the impact of the lack of that construct on our children. it does have an affect. a positive effect on them. >> especially with media that projects at times negative images for those kids to emulate in the absence of role models. but i wanted to come to daisy kahn the executive director of the american society for muslim advancement. thank you for joining us today. >> thank you. >> we appreciate you being here. when i think about american muslims in the context i've been discussing here, i realize
that american muslims come from different ethnic, racial, linguistic backgrounds. but you're very much a part of us as america. and i think about how does marriage or intermarriage work in the muslim community? >> first of all, i must say that the family unit is highly revered in the muslim community, whether it is a local african-american community that has been a muslim community for generations, or even the convert community or immigrant community. these are like broadly speaking are the three major communities that we have. and we still want the paper. we still have not gone to that americanization where the family unit has split up and is no longer considered to be valuable. so it's held in very high regard, and so -- and it's the -- and women are the glue to the family. and usually the women are also the glue to the community.
so because we have highly educated women at the forefront of the families, they tend to be that glue that keep the family together. >> you think that women in your community are more highly educated in the black or the latino community. >> actually, they are. statistically, they're on par with even muslim men and they also earn -- they are highly educated, people like myself, that have careers. and so -- and those who aren't traditional women tend to be very educated about their religion, so they know that religion should be empowering to women. so that level of awareness kind of permeates into the family and keeps the family structure glued together. so this is the contribution i think muslims will make to america is to have a stable family tradition. >> so we don't see the high rates of out of wedlock birth in the muslim community we're seeing in the black and latino, even in the white community, given as i said it's about a 1/3. >> it's very rare but it's
possible that it might increase and there might be a reason for that. that is because we've seen a very high rate of increased marriages. because our children are highly educated and go to colleges and universities, and what happens? they fall in love. >> sex doesn't happen yet. >> no, not yet. that's later. that's after marriage. but i mean, i don't know what happens but -- but what happens is they fall in love and, you know, and love has no boundaries and you can't prevent people from marrying, so we're seeing an increase in interfaith marriages. and this is kind of work in progress. we have not reached a stage where it's a critical mass of people that are getting married in this way, but we're seeing a trajectory towards interfaith couples and how that will manifest in the generation after is something that we will have to see. >> and do you see right now the kind of -- you talked about
interfaith, but are they also a matter, then, of interracial because that's one of the big shifts we're seeing in the country, intermarriage leads to a new category, literally, of children who are multiracial in growing numbers, as we saw from the chart dr. spenderhughes showed. >> we're seeing a lot of intrafaith marriages between shi'ia-sunni. i remember i had husband conducted a shi'ia-sunni wedding with, maybe a black and white marriage, you know, in the early days, it was that traumatic, so much so the families of the two sides did not come to the wedding because they couldn't imagine the shi'ia were marrying a sunni and both were muslim and both were doctors. but that was 10 years ago and now we see a lot of shi'ia-sunni marriages, we see, you know, black-white marriages, jewish-muslim marriages, catholic-muslim
apparentlies, and of course we're also seeing interracial apparentlies because islam sort of is colorblind and we do come from more than 50 countries and what unites us, we're very diverse ethnically, nationally, but what unites us is our faith. we have -- that is the glue that keeps the community together. so if you can walk into any mosque, you can see the united nations there, and invariably when you have that type of deep diversity and people are in this community together, you know, which is representative of all faiths and all ethnicities, people do fall in love and they come together and so you see black-white-muslim marriages. >> quickly, what percent of the population in the united states is arab? >> i believe it's less than 15%. >> less than 15%. so in terms of intermarriage? >> between? >> anybody. do they marry outside? >> oh, we don't have percentages yet but if i have
to do my own sort of statistic, you know, 10 years ago it was mostly muslim-muslim marriages, between two muslims, and now we're seeing at least a 25% increase in marriages, interracial marriages. >> i want to introduce sunny garr, the president of exelon power. and sunny, you're a first generation asian american. and i wanted to ask in terms of this tremendous mix that we've been talking about this morning and family issues, what it's like to be in that first generation, because one of the things that the demographers increasingly talk about is not the melting pot anymore, they talk with the -- about the american mosaic, different pieces, different parts, people coming here as part of a global social structure were a global economic structure. they talk about america as a salad bowl, all having distinct
identities, the lettuce, the tomatoes, the carrots, retaining distinct identity but working together. what's it like to come into this mosaic or salad bowl? >> well, first of all, let me say, lillian, your comments reminded me a great quote from rita rudner, i date a man and i ask myself, is this the man i want my kids to spend their weekends with? [laughter] >> anyway, i think it's an interesting question, and i'll go back to kind of a simplistic model charlie laid out in terms of the different factors, you know, the individual, the cultural, and then the structural. so i think those are very important when you talk about, at least my personal experience, so on the individual level, like many, at least indian americans, you know, our parents came here well educated and had a significant drive towards achievement. which set the context of which we grew up in our family, great
stories, two of my eldest sisters were born in i said yeah and came over when they were 6 and 8 and knew heartlandly -- hardly any english and my sister finished first in her class and my dad asked who finished second? and my sister finished second and then my dad said this country's gone to hell. i think that's the first piece. >> the first piece for you? >> the family piece. >> and the strength of the family, way you're talking about are tiger parents coming from -- >> exactly. i think that's an important element in this. the second one is the structural. and i grew up in ohio, outside of toledo, and we had all the benefits in terms of good schools, good infrastructure, we didn't have high unemployment, we had good unemployment, we had safety and security. and so that was an important element that i think you can't take for granted as we talk about this notion of asians being model minorities and
such. i think we have to temper that with the second element which is the structural. i think the third one which is the most fascinating to me is the cultural one. not cultural within what it meant to be -- what we brought from india is much. i think that's important. i'm a little hesitant to generalize and say indians believe in education and indians value these things. i think when you have a very -- the cream that comes over, it's hard to generalize about the populations from which you came. so cultural, i'm meaning more of our acceptance within society. and i think where we had the benefit, where my family and myself, we weren't trying to disprove a negative. we weren't starting in a hole. there was almost a neutral association with who we were. there weren't preconceived either conscious or unconscious biases against us. >> so you didn't feel that somehow people would view you as a person of color as black in the black-white structure? >> yeah. i don't think we -- at least
from my personal experience that was not the case. we were more of an oddity. we were more kind of a neutral that was introduced into this salad that it wasn't somebody that said, i don't like cucumbers, it was like, what is this new tomato here? and i may be taking that analogy a little too far. >> right. [laughter] >> i think it had two major outcomes for us, and i think for my family as well as the first generation asian community is we had the ability to really change perception. right? if the positive intergroup relationships were a positive, they weren't necessarily reducing a negative. and so then you do have these sweeping generalizations of indian families love their families and they love education, and so they get this very positive, almost positive stereotype that comes out of it that leads to that notion of model minority. i think the other outcome, for me at least, was somewhat a loss of identity. it was a little bit less of the salad bowl because i remember
when i was a senior in high school, ghandi came out and i was horrified. we showed it at our school and the last thing i wanted is all the kids to watch ghandi because all of a sudden i thought, great, they're going to think of me as the guy running around in a loincloth because they were protected from a broader image of what it meant to be indian and i saw that as being somewhat negative, even though what ghandi achieved wasn't but just the context of india at the time. so i think that was a big piece for me at least is losing a piece of identity in terms of integrating and assimilating into america. >> well, you wanted to make a comment? >> yeah, i -- because this panel is on the state of race. and i think, i appreciate very much what you said, and thank you for that. when -- i'm puerto rican. when my family came over, they came with strong, strong values. >> right. >> of marriage and tradition, and education, and they pushed us to achieve. and so what happens with most
communities is not all the time, but too many times, the more you live in a place and you get acclimated, sometimes you start relying on the systems and the structures that are not the most beneficial structures for a community, for those family structures. so i guess my reaction, the reason i want to comment is -- and, you know, i don't want to speak for the african-american community, the black community, but we're not any different. you know, we came over, wherever you came from, whether you're coming from the south, up north, or whether you're coming from an island, the virgin islands, or guam or wherever, puerto rico, cuba, and you come in with strong, strong traditions and a lot of our communities still have those strong traditions, what has happened is to a certain degree or to a great degree is you start absorbing some of the cultural norms of the american culture. and there are things in the american culture that we don't want to talk about that are
more acceptable, like divorce, or children out of wedlock, than would be acceptable in our countries of origin, quite frankly, that's one thing i want to say that because i don't want it to become skewed with what's happening here. the other thing is we have younger populations. you are absolutely right. we have younger populations. those younger populations who are growing up in poverty, that don't have the same role models also are not being provided with the same safety net or the kinds of supports or guidance that maybe i had when i -- and i was born here -- growing up in new york in the 196o's. so we don't want them to mimic certain behaviors or do certain things that we want them to achieve. but we're not giving them the programs and services they necessarily need. why do we have high out of wedlock rates? we have a high teenage pregnancy rate. >> teenage pregnancy declined
in the last 20 years. >> not in the latino community. it's on the uptick. it's on the uptick in the latino community. and i just -- and i want to say this because this is important. but we don't want to do -- i don't want to socialize or go into social issues but we don't want to do contraception or sexual education in schools and we need to realize that these are important things and in the latino community, it is on the rise. >> yeah. i think the larger issue is we actually don't know how to solve a lot of these problems and that's the new american dilemma in a way is we have a level of entriveraged poverty that we do not know -- entrenched poverty that we do not know how to resolve in any direct way. so in some ways as great an accomplishment as the civil rights movement was, it's small potatoes in some ways compared to the new american dilemma of a rich country and a poor country mashed together where we actually have -- we do not have the economic engines, we do not have the educational institutions, we do not have
the infrastructure to help a persistent class of poor people become middle class. and that's -- that to me is really sort of the big riddle for america in the 21st century. >> hang on. what occurs to me in this context here to keep our conversation focused is that we hear from people who say, you know, we came to this country from cultures that revered marriage and kept it at a high -- in a high place, women would put up with a lot of stuff in order to preserve the marriage. i think that's what i heard you say. >> right. we also have latinos for the most part have a female dominated culture and the mother as 9 matriarch, extremely strong, driving the family. >> and i kind of heard you say that women play a strong role in terms of that muslim community and are maintaining that marriage and therefore, the children have some advantage there. >> yes. but what i wanted to mention is
what sonny said was very important because we, the muslim community, considers itself to be a model community in the united states. so the perception of itself is very high so the motivation is also very high. however, we are at the opposite end of the indian community, for instance. we always have to disprove the negative. so that is having a major setback for us in terms of institution-building. so we're constantly having to disprove that we are not future terrorists, that we really are not foreigners, you know, we belong here. so that's having some sort of a negative affect on. but that also makes us retreat back into the family. >> into the family. >> and the community. so it's making the community stronger. >> but are you separate, then, from the black and hispanic experience, is this a different experience for the increasing number of muslims, asians, in the united states than we have typically thought, you know,
wait a minute, this is a minority experience, maybe that's now an anachronistic we now have a critical mass of muslims the live . going from the the judeo- christian ethic, as we have more muslims and buddhists and hindus, we will go to the children of abraham, children of god experience. we are not a racial doc. >> if i am thinking about -- your level of family structure remains intact and is what might -- much higher than what i am
hearing and the black and latino community. >> we had a higher number of group of people that integrated into the country. the borrower is very high -- the bar is very high. i have a taxi driver in the ivory coast. i always ask him, what do you want your children to be? his bar is so much higher for his kids because he is the godfather of his community. he sees me and our family and other families. so the bar was set very high. everyone else wants their children to be lawyers, doctors, investment bankers. they are not settle and for the -- even the street vendor, why are you working seven days a week? i want my son to become a lawyer, to become president.
they have embraced the american ethos. if i work hard, i can get my mortgage and get my own business and my children can thrive. >> how do blacks said into that ethos? do you see that is separate from the black experience? you do not want to be a minority in america. want to be on par with people, you do not see herself locked into the old dynamic. >> we actually see ourselves as a community had that can help america build itself. >> but are you separate from that history? >> well, right now we feel like a minority. we feel like, for the first time on a my life, i can sympathize with communities that have gone through difficult challenges. and the challenge of acceptance. it is something i have personally experienced last year. it is the first time i actually
realized what he theories of on acceptance. i think most muslims have experienced. we thought we were a thriving community, we work and treating. >> a do you see that as the equivalent of the black experience? >> of course it is. it is the same as at the catholic experience, the jewish experience. it is one of acceptance. we want to be treated as equals, no newcomers. >> you see it fitting into the framework of civil-rights in america. >> first of all, i want to make sure i did not miss a beat. i was not saying our family values were better than anybody else's -- i want to make sure i didn't misspeak. i think it is very difficult, i cannot generalize for the indian-american community. but i think it is important
because each one of those legs of this tool are is stabilizing or barrier-inducing. you can have a great family values, but if you grew up on the structure were there are not great schools, those of values become a very hard to overcome those. i just want to make sure i was clear on that point. >> of the question then becomes, if you have a larger family breakdown occurring in america, and especially on the terms of american communities, what demands are we putting on schools and other structures and to compensate for the absence of models?income or role >> i think that is exactly the right question. if you take the three-legged stool. if you look at schools in inner- city communities and i spent a few years working and the robert taylor homes a neighborhood.
what we're asking schools to do, and the neighborhood i grew up i knew we asked schools to educate. in these neighborhoods, they have to become a surrogate families. there are lunch and breakfast programs, behavioral programs. that is a pretty tall order. i am not sure that you can compensate for a lot of changes in the family structure. >> let's see what others think. >> i was going to say i agree with you. i appreciate it what you said. i thought your comments were excellent. >> here's more. >> here. i mean, my work is all around health and human services and social services for the most part. that was what i was getting to be for where you have the young people, children and adolescents with all of these complex and
needs. they do not have the same family structures. it does affect them, because then you have to create a whole a safety net around them to try to meet all of these needs and the demands of what if they really do need in order to be successful adults. i do not know the school can do that anymore. then you do not have the church as well as active in the lives of young people as they used to be, either. and that is a strong structure. what we are looking at is how you create some form of programs or a community structure that really works to integrate not only children but their parents? and i think that is important for the latino community as well, that people are integrated. this is interesting to me, because i think for many years part of the debate was really a white-black debate. now you have the hispanics and
the muslims and the agents, and now it is like, maybe we should be talking about the state of race. yes, we really should, because it is very different. maybe what it will lead us to is a conversation about human beings and humanities and less about race and all of these other distinctions, because what i am sitting here and you see me starting to get anxious is addressing,'re not at the end of the day, we all want the same things for our families and our children. what i was trying to say before, and maybe it was lost was, that we do, with the very same of values and attitudes and traditions and with people who were educated. but as our numbers grow and you become more acclimated or acculturated, you see a strata. and everybody starts falling into all these different areas
where you do have people who are in poverty and you have less of a middle class. and i think what is happening to the latino and african american community is we are becoming a lot of the american strata. we think everyone who is caucasian is doing well. they are not. we should go into some very rural and suburban areas and see the plight that a lot of people are living in, which is not that dissimilar. we just talk about it less. >> let me ask you this. you represent the hispanic federation. the structure we have to do with race and racial discussions in america are things like the and la raza.- and publicithe naaca, we are having it family breakdown, we need greater structural support for kids to have less support from the family.
but we still have these institutions in 0 way of relating to reace that ties back to the history of america, the black-white conversation. do you think that is outmoded? >> i am not think it is outmoded. why did these institutions come into play? you feel that organized or mainstream institutions are not addressing your needs, so you want to sort of be part of that discourse. you want to be part of the. >> i am not sure i agree. it is like what was talked about in the center spot. hispanics say the blacks of the naacp. so we'll have la raza. >> at some point, which would be way too long for the panel, i can tell you the history of how the hispanic federation came to be. i can say it's simply. it was because united way of new york city existed and hispanic organizations were going there and saying, hey, we would like
to be funded. we would like to be considered for some of your programs, and i love united way and they helped found us, they found us because they felt there was a place and a role for organizations that represented at the agricultural groups. and what concerns me sometimes is that when you have groups their represent minorities or a particular ethnic groups, we get accused of balkanizing. why do we need that? why can you just work and the larger concept? we do not say that about women's group. why do need women's groups/ ? why do have to have jewish philanthropy or jewish organizations? there is some validity to having these institutions represent you. that does not mean that you work -- you do not work with and the construct of larger groups . >> hang on. what i'm saying is so we have all these groups are present, and as you said, when it came to
funding, when it came to representing yourself on a the larger society, you found the necessary mechanism. >> because there was a barrier. >> correct. here we are today talking about family breakdown and what is impacting the overwhelming majority of our younger population disproportionately, minority, a disproportionate immigrant, large representation of the muslims and asians in this community, driving the population growth in the country. but it does not sound to me like that the way of thinking fits the new issues or new problems. am i wrong? >> i agree with you that in many ways we do share a common desire for the american dream and respect of of what community to come from. part of the challenge for these organizations is that these issues -- class mobility issues that face a lot of
communities do not fall clearly along racial lines. solutions are clearly not going to be targeted along racial or ethnic groups. so we have the challenge of how we create a society where there is a lot of opportunity for people to move from the bottom to the top or at least from the bottom to the middle? and we do not have organizations -- part of the problem is that people who are in those ethnic groups will be disproportionately the middle class members of the population. for example, on a the black community, you have a real divide between the middle and upper-class and working class. the issues that are advocated for by organizations representing african-americans have very little to do with the trauma experience by working- class african americans paired >> specifically you are talking about affirmative action. >> it would be a good example. if we are protesting about affirmative action at berkeley, we are not worrying about the
60% of kids who are dropping out of urban schools are and a california. and this is the kind of -- you worry about how many black board members there are on the fortune 500 companies. this is not the kind of issue of grave concern to the working class. >> it is not a legitimate. >> it is a question of priorities. we have finite moral capital to spend. we should spend it on helping the worst off. >> what are you talking about, political capital? in terms of white people be guilty, you owe us this it? >> that is not what i am saying progre. >> what are you saying? >> i think that is what you are saying. i think there is an opportunity on a this country to mobilize this concern around issues that disproportionately affect black and brown communities, right? so you could have people say, we are going to focus on producing
better schools for everybody or conceivably you could spend a lot of energy on other issues that are more particular. i think the way race in america works right now is the concerns, that there is actually a much greater need for people to take concern with class mobility rather than racial discrimination. >> but we are not there because we are still locked and it, i was suggesting, to the old parameters, the old framework that would say, you are present the blacks, but hispanics, you represent the muslims, but you are presented the arabs. that is the way america still works. it seems like an old structure. >> the one thing that gives me some hope about how -- >> maybe it is unnecessary structure. >> there are a lot of issues that still matter. i do not mean to suggest we do not need an naacp. how america now has to see itself as the underdog. china is producing 1 million
engineers a year, and our kids are ranked 40th out of 50 on math and science, suddenly america's concern for education is not about concern for the worst off. it is concern for american agenda. and i think there is an opportunity for black and brown kids to benefit if the country starts to get concerned about some of how we have failed our poor. >> i think your point is an interesting one because i do not know if this is true for -- the socio-economic strata. when you're at the middle or upper end, as your affiliation is strong with your racial and ethnic group as it is with your economic group? what i hear you talking about is at the lower level, do we need to build more of a sense of the economic unity rather than a pure racial or ethnic separation? that concept may not benefit the
folks at the bottom as much as it benefits the folks at the top tier >> given the realities of the family breakdown, especially in of the minority communities, there will have to be some way in which society compensate if we want to rescue those children. to the racial structures that exist now, the civil rights organizations, do they speak to those needs or are they speaking to the old conversation about race in america in terms of resources and sort of white guilt and black of victimization? if that was the dynamic that previously existed, does that dynamic serve us and addressing the needs that are on the table at the start of the 21st century? >> i can say that i need the black-muslim community, they rejected this breakdown of the family unit because they were suffering most from it. so they rejected it by embracing islam, by getting rid of drugs
in their communities. by making their family unit the nucleus of their growth. and it is a flourishing community. i was just in atlanta with 200 members of that committee. it was such a beautiful community. everything about that community was beautiful. the children, there was a future. there were like a model community. it is like somebody showcase this kind of thacommunity because they took the matter in their own hands. we will keep the family -- the family will be the nucleus of our growth. they have decided they are going to impart good education, high ethics, and focus on what, how to build a community. and they have taken matters into their own hand. >> you are suggesting that would be a model reconstituting the families sounds like your -- >> but they are not relying on
outside systems. they said the system is within the family, yes. if the family has a support system that family itself can help each other and elevate each other. >> what do think about that? >> i think it started with a single mothers. many of these women were single mothers. they did not have the structure in place. they decided to get together, strong women, matriarchs, and decided there were going to build it all up. >> that happens around this country all the time by other committees. i want to be respectful, but i feel like what we are being told is you know, maybe this what is interesting to me. what i am hearing is you're siloed. the latino community with all of our complexities and all the work we are doing -- a whole bunch of things i want to react
to, but we do not see ourselves as silos. we went to a small community in texas and took charge and went back into ourselves, and it is manifest destiny. we are part of a larger construct in this country. and i wish that we could go round with the 50-plus million and say, i wish i could do it, high, all of you. this is the way you are all going to lead your lives and these are going to be your values and attitudes and morals and this is the way you are going to push for. destiny as hispanics i made the united states. but it does not work that way. we are way too large, there are way too many factors. when we had this conversation and 20 years and you have these population shifts that are especially in the asian community which is a growing at a rapid rate, i want to see and
20 years what this conversation is like. what i'm trying to emphasize is that, yes, i believe we do have to say for ourselves manifest destiny. we need to shift the paradigm. i am not disputing that. i agree. and we need to figure out what are the things that are going to work for or done people? and it is not all around safety net and social services -- what are the things that are going to work for our young people? >> well, how do you get that then? from the way that things are structured now, you could have the hispanic federation say, this is our priority. and then you go to the political structure, the corporate structure, the religious structure and you say, this is what we are trying to accomplish. is that the way to go? >> no. and we have gone back into our own communities and had dialogues are around how we turn the tide for our children. how we make it different?
what has happened? the same things that have been talked about here, what is happening within our families, in terms of upward mobility. and the 1950's and 1960's, we did not have the same demographics, those very tragic demographics . you recognize this, that we now have on the 2011 third >> so these conversations -- this is not a peculiar conversation we are having this morning. you are saying major civil rights organizations are talking about what is going on with our kids. >> and we are convening our communities. yes, we are talking about what is happening with our kids and we are convening our communities on a different types of settings and saying, look is what is happening to our children. we need to turn the tide and we need to talk to our own families, our own adults and say we need to take control. >> if there is a generational split, given that the kids needs are somewhat different --
older blacks, older hispanics saying this is our focus. we have been barrier breakers. we were fighting against white racism, said addition, limits, trying to achieve up or were billeted. the kids are coming in and are having a different set of issues. there is a generational tension inside your hispanic community? >> are they having a whole different set of issues? >> we just talked about family breakdown as being more pronounced in this generation that it was on a the past . >> so what happens is i do not think they are having a set of issues. i think they feel the more are too weak and there are more problems. what i am struggling with also is this whole sense that we had perfections in the 1940's and 1950's inside these families. these families have alcoholism and domestic violence and a lot of horrible issues affecting them. so what we have is we have a global economy, more news, more
media, more awareness of what is happening around the world in a split second. so we are reading that is that things are so much more terrible, when quite frankly, because we did not have the media outlets and a level of information we have now, 50 years ago, we believe we did not know what was happening. maybe a little bit of ignorance was bliss. i do want to respond to this. we do have the two problems, problems around graduation rates. that cannot be disputed. and achievement. but you know what? i also refused for our community to stay siloed in let's just deal with these issues. there are the major issues and they are big problem and we have to address them. the issue of copper mobility and those conversations that you mentioned -- the issue of copper mobility and those conversations with corporations, those conversations are important. if we want people to move out of poverty. it is not about white guilt. it is about entering into
conversation, creating programs that propelled families afford but also hold people accountable and responsible for lots of people to success. and that is why those corporate conversations are important. we are posted here. we just negotiated a contract with comcast. they agreed to put the latino on their corporate structure. that is important. it is about the access and the leverage that person will hopefully bring with an those decisions that are being made about where they invest, how they invest. and you cannot not decouple them. >> i can decoupled them. we have seen massive growth by the black middle class, enormous success for the upper echelons of african-americans. for the bottom third, things getting much worse. high rates of incarceration, higher rates of single
parenthood. you see all sorts of things that are about being locked out of economic opportunity. if your argument was right, then all of the success for the black middle class, they would have pulled the black underclass with them. that has not been the case carrot the idea that -- i am not saying -- we should focus on the issues that affect the worst off. and the worst off are the people at the bottom of the economy. >> but we are focusing on those issues. but we cannot allow people to tell us we can only focus on those issues. stay here, lillian, do not fit into business interests. >> if there were evidence that these organizations were making a real dent in these other issues, i would say go to it. we are killing it on getting teen moms into college. we are doing a great job of reducing the dropout rate, a
superb job of ensuring that young men are able to get jobs and keep them for a long periods of time, then, yeah, absolutely, let's worry about the board members. i do not see the evidence of that. we have got to prioritize. and prioritizing is focusing on the issues that are most pressing for the worst off progre. >> i think there is an element of mutual expressivity that may not exist. i understand your parting ocean. priority notion. i did not grow up i need a community at the was highly associated with the indian community. are they willing to reach down and help pull up? it is not just your own and where does your affiliation and your sense of identity connect across your ethnic line that
straddles the socio-economic strata and is that happening or not? i think it is important. when i became the president of -- power, my family members called up, and theyre were crying. they thought it was a huge barrier i had broken through. i never thought of it that way, but became a very important symbol that an indian in a non- asian industry light energy had become the president of a major company. -- like energy had become the president of the major commodity. there is a certain responsibility of mine to reach down. when i think about structural barriers that may exist in different communities, is that where i am lending my resources? i think this notion of identity is important. do you identify with those who may be lower on the wrung?
a constant battle is fighting mad separation. >> react to this. there was a poll done by pew a year ago. one of the most amazing things that came back is when you ask african-americans about race, is there one african american or raise in the u.s., the answer was no. the answer from up for blacks was there are two groups. there is the barack obamas and the buguy on the corner. when u.s. upper class african- americans they said, there is one group of african americans. you cannot forget where you came from. that is not the attitude among poor african americans to see barack obama as a totally separate racial group. >> it does not surprise me having spent a number of years in the neighborhoods.
part of where that leads me is the question of responsibility from a broader societal perspective. is it a responsibility of the african americans who are middle and upper class to help -- oprah needs to solve it, michael jordan. from my perspective, it is a broader initiative among anybody who is a middle and upper class to do what omar is talking about >> it is an interesting poll, but to me is more about where it is -- as a society and not just in the black community is where your priorities are going to be. >> doesn't mean you do not identify with that black experience, that minority experience, and your aspirations that i want to be like an
honorary white? >> i think growing up, i aspiration was to be an honorary white. now that i have achieved that status, i think, my aspiration is to help those that don't have access to opportunity, regardless of whether they are indian-american, latino, african-american, it is more of a socio-economic focus that a racial, ethnic focus. >> in a corporate setting, how do you help those people who come from a broken family, who may come from an inadequate educational background, it is such a competitive economic environment. >> what we are facing is the same as what most corporations are facing in this country. these are not low-skilled positions. america was built on
manufacturing. as people fall further and further behind in their ability and education levels, it becomes very hard. we try to build up systems or partner with the community colleges, working with them so that your curriculum is designed in a way that leads to a good outcome for that person. that you know there is going to be a job at the end of it, not just putting for something for the sake of studying. you need to reach back down and look at the systems that are producing folks. we have summer in terms who come from neighbors that do not have a lot of people in corporate america. we spent a lot of time on just basic integration into the corporate world. >> you are compensating for lack of family structure. >> if you want to address the issue, you have to help out in the particular world. it goes back to what we talked about earlier. i don't think corporations are going to solve this problem
independent of all the other, but it goes to zero more -- omar's borader point. helping those who do not have access and don't have opportunities, not that i don't want to -- to do that you need people at the top. their priorities have to be the priorities of society's most vulnerable. >> you are right, but i also don't want to be nigh eve -- naive. let's just different here. the jobs that come out of those companies and where they are based, it could be drivers. it doesn't have to be all high- level tech jobs or investment banking jobs. the jobs in the local
communities that help african- americans are hispanics, the placement of that plant is critically important. i don't want to get stuck here because this is not exclusive. my work is on those essential needs, but i recognize that a company is going to determine jobs. small business development. where are they putting their procurement? that is important. to the extent that civil-rights or nonprofit organizations, in partnership with government and corporations, can create resources and structures around young people that can help them move forward. that is important. we have demands and difficulties that are so broad and wide, is important to have multiple partners. i do not ignore the role of companies or corporations in terms of problem solving an investment of resources into our community, because it is
important. they are another potential partner. part of this is around community reinvestment, procurement and those jobs. it does have income on low- income latinos, how they do. my parents were in unions, and it gave me a certain amount of mobility and growth in this community, because they had jobs and benefits than they were able to do things and they instill a core value of education and hard work. my point in saying that is, it was important at that point in time for all the structures to help build my future. everything counts. it is not just this and that. everything counts in moving these young people forward. >> we all agree that this is about, in terms of our session this morning, about trying to
help young people, it disproportionately minorities and poor, move up into american society. this is a key moment in terms of that civil rights conversation. everybody is going to have to adapt in some way to try to make that happen. let's open the conversation to the audience. >> we have done a tremendous job of integrating into the communities. what i hear omar saying, the tools and the structures we have today are not addressing the long-term poor.
i want to continue those, but you have to add to it to really address the big problem that is there. right now we do not have the tools and the systems that are doing that. i don't know the answer to it, but to me, that is where you need to focus your energy. >> i am talking about just where jobs are and how money moves in this country. where are the stepping stones? where is the latter to bring each community up, the way we had in earlier generations? we need to analyze why that has broken down. >> how much time we have for questions? 15 minutes. >> good morning, and happy monday. i want to complement the aspen institute for having this timely discussion. i am the executive director of the black leadership forum. we look at policy that impact
black people. i want to address first the structure. this is the first panel, and they usually 10 to set the tone for the day. in that context, i think that the panel in the framework that we are looking at this discussion is a bit skewed. first, if we are suggesting, as you said, juan, it is the black- white construct addressed by most civil rights organizations, is that relevant in the 21st century? the false notion of white supremacy and the idea of race and class has not changed in america since 1619. if we extrapolate up to 1963, jobs and justice were the issues on the sons of the great march in washington.
dr. king said, don't give us a favor. honor your creed. respect your promise to all of us. those issues of jobs and justice in 1963 still permeate communities of color. as lillian said, we do so in the context of a broader discussion. i think the framework of whether or not the discussion of racial issues is still relevant is a bit skewed. >> hold on, let's stop there and deal with that. i don't think anybody on this panel said that we should not discuss racial issues. i think that clearly we are at a different point in 2011 and then we were in 1963, and to suggest we are in the same place, i think that is skewed.
black unemployment is still extraordinarily high, but you also have higher graduation rates and you have a black president. >> in 1963, you could say there is legal segregation and if we dismantle it, that will create a lot of opportunity. the problem is that in today's era, if you are a high school dropout, it does not matter whether you are black or white or asian-american, you have a ceiling that is going to guarantee it will be hard to make a middle-class life as a high-school dropout. that was not true in 1963. that issue is bigger than what faces anyone racial group. better education is an issue for the entire country. to frame it as a racial issue is to miss the opportunities for coalition building, and to focus on the wrong problems. >> year referred to the issues
of civil rights being small potatoes compared to what we have currently. i am offended by that, particularly as an african- american. the national council of negro women and the national congress of black women addressed the issues of girls getting into the pipeline. the 100 black man looks at math and science academy's on saturday morning. the urban league makes a dent in job training. we in the black leadership forum are addressing the least of these. as such, i am a bit offended that you are saying the organizations are looking highbrow at 38,000 feet and not addressing the least of these.
yes, we are. >> i said that the accomplishments of the civil ,ights movement were tremendous but relative to trying to bring millions of people out of poverty, the jobs part of jobs and justice, dismantling legal segregation is a much easier problem. we have figured out how to do that. the second answer to question is, there are these organizations that are doing god's work out there, and we still have a million black men in prison. we still have a 60% dropout rate. these organizations have been working for decades. i am posing to the possibility that maybe we need more. >> i would like to set thank you to all of the panel members. when i came here, i had almost the whole box of kleenex, and
this is all i have left. i have gone through a range of emotions this morning. as a black woman, i am offended, which is a norm for us. i am humiliated. i have just gone through every emotion. you could call me the angry black woman as i sat there. when i saw that there was no representation of black women on this panel, and you are discussing us as if we are at the bottom of the boat. we are the cause of the problem. our families have broken up. let me tell you, i work with black women every day who have children who succeed in spite of the fact that they don't have the resources to do it. they do the very best that they can. we have ethics. we have education. i beg to differ. if you attend one of our events like we have every year, all across this country, you would see young black people succeeding, coming out of the worst situations and succeeding.
they have ethics and education. i have five degrees. i am a country girl. i came off the farm, but i did the best that i could. being beaten up on as we have heard this morning. >> hang on, hold on. what is it about black women -- how are black women being blamed for the out of wedlock birth or the high poverty rate? >> because you brought up all the negatives in our community without showing the positive that black women create in our community. if you took a broken-down car and you did not oil the car, it will break down. if we don't get the resources, as lillian was talking about, to build it at an even faster rate, then surely it is going to break down.
>> what are the structural elements that would compensate for the family breakdown? >> i am chair of the national congress of black women and also chair of the board of the black leadership forum. let me just say that when you talk about the elements, with what we have got, we are the only people who were brought here in chains. we are restructuring our community. without a lot of help, even from some blacks who have made it in our community. >> let me go to the next question. >> i think i was next. i wanted to just say that in some ways i agree with faye.
it is not just the women or even just the men. we have some societal issues that have impacted these families. let's start with the fact that we have a school to prison situation where the three strikes your out, you are already in prison for life. we have the privatization of prisons, and therefore they need more consumers, that is more product, so that means we need to bring in as many prisoners as we can to continue these private prisons. we have the attack on women's reproductive rights, so were we had contraception available, etc., we now do not have family planning at the kind of level -- and continuing on to the fact that we continue to provide corporations with incredible tax loopholes and credits, etc., and
the investment in education is not happening as it was in the past. i happen to be very lucky to have been coming up -- >> what is your point? >> the point is, it is not just the families that have the issues here. it is society that is retrenching -- >> where we do try to improve those structural issues? what would you do? >> you say that we do not have the answers. actually, the answers were there in the 1960's and 1970's before the reagan administration, when we were investing in education and family-planning. corporations were also being told, you pay your fair share like everybody else, and that investment was happening. the answer was there. >> i came from poverty and i
became a lawyer and went to one of the best law schools in the country. it is because of the investments that were made. >> investment by government or corporations? >> government and corporations. we are going backwards, not forwards. >> and you don't see the family unit or individuals as able to compensate. your say more responsibility has to be taken by government and the private sector. >> i believe that is correct. we have resource issues up the wazoo. we need others to come in, and i think we need that investment to happen. >> i agree with the speaker that we have a criminal justice system that is out of control and exacts an enormous cost in communities of color.
spending on welfare programs has gone up nonstop since the 1960 's. safety nets have not proven very effective. that is part of the riddle. it is not enough to say we need more to these programs that have not worked for the last 40 years. for inspiration i look to programs like the harlem children's own or efforts to dismantle the war on drugs, which produces this mass in corp. -- mass incarceration. those programs do not come out of the traditional organizations. we need new ideas and new leadership. >> the inability to find the right language to communicate. what i have heard from the last two speakers is that there are
multiple legs to this tool that we need to get right. there is the family side, but that is not the only one. we are still a race conscious country, and there are structural issues. i heard the last speaker say that the structural peace has put a lot more on the family. it is important if we find the right language to get there. the structural peace, we have to figure out, and we don't know the answer to that one. i agree that there are more investments, but how you do it in a way that is going to be effective ice think it's still an open question.
>> it does not seem to me that the best way to frame the family conversation is to look at marriage and the disintegration of families. when i look at my friends, most of their parents are divorced, regardless of their color. when my mother read jogger, most of her friends' parents were married. more people used to be married 50 years ago than today. marriage has been used by white people, especially rich white people and the nuclear family has been used as an ideal, and economic ideal, and it is really a racist way of looking at things. it is not valuing different kinds of family structures and is not looking at the power that a lot of different family structures have that are more community-based and include more people instead of a father who
is the patriarch or a mother who is just a matriarch that emulates the kind of economic system we have. if we are just talking about class mobility, there is always going to be people at the bottom and they will be disproportionately people of color because they have traditionally had less access to power and resources. it seems like we should change the way we are looking at the debate. >> i don't think there is any question that when you look at declining marriage rates, you see it has consequences in terms of the resources you are speaking about, education rates, graduation rates, and incarceration rates. crack's most of the people i am friends with, their parents are divorced. >> some cable care about relative poverty and some care about absolute poverty. i care about absolute poverty. the fact that there will always
be a bottom 20% is not a concern to me. my concern is if that bottom 20% has access to good luck. i don't think relative party should be our primary concern. do people have access to health care, good schools, said communities? can people be champions of their own destiny? and the larger point, you are raising questions about the centrality of the nuclear family that have been going on since the moynihan report in 1965. i agree that we should be welcoming of all different kinds of family structures. i certainly would support gay marriage laws in every country. i think every city -- 80 state -- every state. the hard fact is that single parent households or five-six
times poorer than dual parent households. this is just the state of affairs. if we want to try and help these poor children and poor families, we cannot just say they are all equally good. there are real cost to being in a single-parent household. >> i am very sorry for whatever was said here that had that impact. >> i am not sorry for anything we have said. we have had a fascinating conversation. >> that is why you are on the news and i am not. the human element is very important to me, not that you are not human. [laughter] >> i am not even a different race, i am a different species. >> there are so many issues we have all been bringing up. you said something i finally
agree with, which is is a very different life. what you were able to cheat in 1953 or 1963 with or without a high-school diploma, you cannot do now. we are not talking about a global economy and how that has affected our ability to move forward in this country. the movement of jobs overseas and what that has done in terms of the economic environment in the united states. how people come and. if we were having an emigration conversation, we would be talking about how visas get granted, and how we present our engineers and scientists and people with specialized skills. that is why they come in with the different income level, because that is what we are bringing in in terms of immigration policy.
all these complexities are impacting the way everyone is doing in this country. you talk structurally, what are we talking about? i went to see the president and we had a conversation. i am talking about the hispanics. it is about some of the programs that used to help other communities integrate in a different way. and it is about integration, not just a long-term safety net, but i am talking about helping people understand how you get into schools, how does the money move in this country? how do you get your child educated? what are the different type of programs, anything you can do to get your child educated. i have a child who is a freshman in college this year. i struggled with just understanding that process. we are not acclimating people
the way we used to. we are not lending them the kinds of support that we used to in terms of newly arrived immigrants in certain communities. i want us to build those ladders. i want us to take responsibility as families and as individuals, more than anything else, for what we are putting out and the world and how we are building successful, productive adults. at the same time, i want to take in the context of what is happening politically and economically in this country that is affecting that entrenched party. my dad used to be able to make it and have his kind of job. some of those jobs are no longer available. >> we are running out of time. one last question. >> your experience in no way speaks for the asian american
community as a whole. unlike the muslim community or that latin-american committee, we do not have a common language or faith that unites us. if you look at filipino, it is 50% unemployment reduced poverty level. i keep hearing your discussions and they all come back to the intersection with class and economics. how do you feel that our communities as a whole can go forward economically or three education without addressing the connection to economic issues that would have to come through labor unions? i know that for labor unions, it
is minority communities that are most benefited from labor unions. when i speak to white people that are trying to become involved in the labor movement, their perspective is, i look at myself as a worker, a middle income earner, a dual income family. how can we talk about these economic issues with our communities of color so they can start to look at themselves as middle class workers or people who have the opportunity to become more economically successful. >> you mean how can you get people away from a racial matrix and start thinking in terms of their social and economic class? >> not to ignore racial identities, but to look at the intersecting issues that obviously convolute the question.
when you look at how african- americans look at themselves as two different kinds, that speaks to their ability to have education and those that do not. how do we create the dialogue where it is no longer just white against black, but college- educated against high school. how do we foster this? >> i think that conversation is coming. there is more and more stratification in the american economy. the question is how to build a structural supports but also in terms of global economics. how do you fit in something like unions in the american tradition that may not exist in other societies? that becomes a point of
conflict. that is why you see declining rates of unionization in this country except in the public sector. >> i find that working with communities of color, it is the idea that latinos or asians are disproportionately represented. there are those who have been able to go forward and get an education and those who have not. >> so the declining significance of race is what is preeminent for you? >> you need to be a will to acknowledge that there are individuals who are able to have education. >> i think it is about coalitions.
you want to go across as well, and that cross-coalition is in some ways defined by socioeconomic -- socio-economic needs. >> before you started to speak, i started talking about the economy, what is happening in terms of jobs. one of the things we need to think about is, what is the minimum standard we want for this country around education, around graduation rates, routes higher education? if we are serious about having people move out of poverty, we have to do two things. we have to create an economy that allows them to have that up for mobility, and the other thing is, we need to become very serious about education. a lot of money has gone into education. we are not being sensitive to what kids really need. we have created a four-tier
system in terms of higher education. we need to just create a bar and say this bar is for everyone, and everyone needs to get here, whatever it takes. i have kids that contact me at georgetown and they say my parents could keep me in for one or two years, but now there is no more loans, so what do i do? you have kids who are doing well, and now they have hit a ceiling. we need to think about it in terms of housing, education, and a couple of other key areas, and then we move away from race and talk about what people need in order to progress. [applause] >> thank you for this
>> more now from the aspen institute. coming up, we will look at race and politics in the u.s. and hear from michael steele and political analyst don of brazil -- donna brazil. this is 90 minutes. >> welcome back. try to come up to the front, if you can, and fill in some of the front seats. again, we have talked about the
issues of race in the family and identity situations. that necessarily brought into play the issue of politics, so this session is politics and the political process. juan williams. >> this is an astounding gathering of stars here on the stage. first, let me just say that don of brazil, you are the chairwoman of the democratic national committee. that is pretty cool. [applause] and we have michael steele, the former chairman of the republican national committee. [applause] and we have with us a member of
the 90th district, south carolina house of representatives. thank you very much for joining us. and jane is with us as well. i wanted to start this conversation by talking about health race and politics mix in this new environment where we have much more racial diversity in the country. i hope that many of you heard some of the conversation that was taking place early your. we have the census report that indicates a much larger hispanic population and immigrant population. the old conversation was largely black and white. now we have a growing population of multiracial people even in this society. the question becomes, is it a time to move away from the old paradigm that has race,
language, ethnicity as a basis for political action, where is that in fact where we are going, that we will become more racial in terms of our political discussion in the future? this began with the chairwoman of the party. >> well, first of all, juan, thank you so much. it's a great honor to be part of this distinguished panel. throughout my lifetime in politics, and i started at the age of 9. i grew up in the segregated deep south. i've witnessed enormous progress made in the political arena whether seen in my lifetime, the election of the first black elected governor of the united states, douglas wilder, the first african-american woman elected to the united states senate. and in my lifetime i also witnessed the campaign back in 1972. i was involved in the jackson campaign in 1984. i was around when ron brown
became the first african-american to lead a major political party back after the 1988 season. and, of course, the election of our first black president. i think if we look at all of these things in totality, we would say, oh, made enormous progress. but in my political opinion, we have come a long way since 1965 when this country enacted the voting rights act. we've seen african-americans more engaged in the political electorate. and clearly after the 2008 historical season, we saw african-americans use their political leverage to help elect our nation's first black president. are we there yet? have we reached that moment where race is not part of our conversation? absolutely not. have we reached a moment where the intersection of race and politics no lger collide? absolutely not. we still have enormous steps to take as a country to move beyond the old racial problems.
and the issu itsel of how race plays a role in our politics. yes, president obama was able to put together a multi-ethnic, multi-diverse lture. >> you don't want any of these republicans to say he put together that multi-national coalition. >> multi-racial, multi-ethni multi -- you know, look at the nationalities involved. we had irish-americans, polish-americans, african-americans, we're all a hyphenated america with one root. some of our roots in another part of the world and our roots here in this country. but the point i'm making is that, you know, can we replicate what we did in 2008? it's going to be tough. that's because of the change in demographics. might give president obama the same political leverage he had in 2008. it will be tough because the republican party understands the change of network of our electorate. and they too will go out there.
race is a very divisive topic. i've seen it played. i've seen the race card being played. but here's my concern about black politics today. i'm worried about the proliferation of what i call the so-cald marity, minority districts that on one hand has given african-americans, hispani hispanics, and others, a significant number of increases in the united states congress. but at what cost? at what price? are they able to then take those districts and then leverage them for economic gains, political gains in the legislature? are we able to elect another, you know, deval patrick in the political arena? we have a lot of steps to take before we finally can proclaim that we are post-racial. but we've made significant progress. i think we're at that mountain top moment. we know what the future looks like, but getting to that next
phase of our political development will require significant leadershipn behalf of racial and ethnic minorities in this country at a time when our numbers are increasing. we need to make sure that our voices and our messages are increasing. and as you all know, i will address this issue. because when you look at the e emergence of these two big minorities in this country, we have to take a real deep breath and say, okay. so latino women, black women, we vote, we vote an extraordinary number. but are we voting for each other? ourselves? are we going t use our political out to put men in office when we might look at ourselves and say, you know what? why you? because there's no one better. why now? because tomorrow isn't soon enough. >> let me ask you, when you look at the racial breakdown, it's very apparent now in terms of who's a member of the republican party? being overwhelmingly white and
senior, and who's supporting the decratic party? and it's overwhelmingly younger numbers. if you look in terms of president obama's election, 90% black, more than 60% hispanics, all in one box. president obama's box. it would suggest that there is now more racial polarization fitting along the lines of political polarization. >> it didn't start with president obama. i keep telling people, bill clinton had troubles, jimmy carter. that's because when you're elected democrat, the republican is upset. when you elect the republican, the democrat is upset. let's get over the fact that polarization start in 2009. no, we've had it for that long time. you just can't look at it in terms of race. you've got to look at it in terms of education and in terms of class. i call it wd-40.
you know, highly educated democrats. president obama was able to get 41% to 43% of the white vote. will he be able to get that in 2012? i don't know. al gore won with 37%. let's not have that conversation. >> wait a second. what you're saying is in terms of democrats, only 37% white? >> we can win -- the demoatic party can win with 37% of the white vote. i'm not saying we need to go out there -- >> on the republican side, it's overwhelmingly white, on the democratic side, it's a minority. >> because of the population increase. increases among latino and blacks in is country over the last decade. and since the 2008 election. and because more minorities participate in presidential years. yes, you can win with 37% of the white vote. i'm not saying that's the strategy. it sounds odd being a chair, but since i'm not getting paid, why
t say i speak for donna. after l, i have been donna mo of my life. >> you certainly speak. i'll tell you that. >> but i know the numbers. and the numbers quite frankly, would suggest that the president could win with a coalition he had in 2008, but he needs to make sure there's a voter registration campaign, a voter education cpaign. >> but you're saying that he can get a percentage of the white vote and that the polarization i'm talking about, on overwhelmingly white republican part and a party that the democratic party is based in the minority community is just a reality. and you want a certain slice, if you're a democrat and you're trying to reach out and increasingly get some slice of the minority community if you're a republican. >> look, if i was running any campaign, again at my age, i would first of all say we have to make sure the base is solidified. and you build upon the base you had in 2008. all white independents.
but i would mainly focus a great deal of my time on white suburban independent women and white upper class educated men. sorry. sorry if i offended anydy who is a blue joe six pack plumber, electrician. i'm justaying that's the reality of where the votes might be. >> okay. but that's racially paused -- michael, what's your take as a republican on the idea if the republic republican rty looks to be the white party and the democratic party looks to be the multi-racial party? >> it's very true. i think that's been part in parcel the stumbling block for republicans since about 1956. 1960. in that the party executed certain strategies to play national politics. not realizing or at least appreciating thaa lot of the
action is taking place on the ground in small communities that are growing where you have diverse interests, diverse ideas, and certainly diversity of race and ethnicity. during my chairmanship, i made it a point to actually go out and try to engage and converse, largely because i recognize exactly what the chairwoman recognizes. the demographics in this country are changing so rapidly in such a degree that if we don't get our act together, in five years, we won't matter. it'll be totally irrevant. >> you're saying the republican party as a white party -- >> as a party. i don't care what color it is at this point. as a party will not matter unless it's prepared to go out and engage people in the communities where you find them, on the issues that are important to them, in a language that they understand and appreciate. and unless you begin that effort
seriously, none of this, you knoutreach, which is nothing more than a photo op for a bunch of white folks to stand around saying, i know somebody who doesn't look or sound like me. a lot of folks of the party didn't like to hear me saythat. but that is the reality that any chairman has to deal with when they look at the growth in hispanics, growth in women, the growth of blacks, the growth of cross section in this country. and, folks, it's not in new york city or harlem or washington, d.c. and southeast. the it's a little community in north dakota. it's in south carolina where the hispanic population is taking off like you wouldn't believe. it is in neighborhoods and communities where you wouldn't typically think that you're going to see this kind of growth. so the party has enormous opportunity, in my view, to really create a competitive strategy to effectively go after
your vote, your vote, your vote in competition with my friends in the democratic party. that will allow the ultimate empowerment of the individual. because at the end of the day, if you're not empowered as a citizen of this country to exercise your constitutional obligation to vote and participate in this democracy, rather this republic, then we're not doing our job. every election cycle, what do you hear the press talk about? now a lot of it's noise and spin. but they're out there trying to suppress the vote. we've got to battle against this perception that we don't want peopleo participate, that we don't people to vote, we don't want people to engage. again, if we allow that to persist, we become les relevant as a pearpt. and that's something that, you kno know, at least in my two ars,
you know, we tried to get this done. this lady should he more than three weeks, by the way, but that's a whole other conversation. >> let me ask you, michael, do you think we'll continue to have voting along racial lines in the united states? >> i hope not. >> no, but what do you think? >> i think for the foreseeable future, yeah. unless and until someone is able to go out there and on the republican side of the aisle and real capture the imagination again. the last time a significant majority of african-americans voted republican for president was 1956 was dwight eisenhower. that's that heck of a long time to be out in the wilderness politically with a group of americans whose interests you should have at heart because you are inextricably linked to that interest historically. to sort of take an idea that,
well, they won't vote for us, so why bother? or, you know, their lock step in the democratic corner to me is shortsighted. my hope is that as we get ready for this 2012 presidential cycle, as our men and women decide to enter the race of president that they enter it fully. and that means that when we host an event at morgan state university or any other hbcu for the presidential candidate for the republican party to participate that all of them show up. and all of them participate in that conversation with my community. now, i say that not as a republican, but as a black man who happens to be republican, who believes the party offers a different set o choices. for my community to choose, you know, for themselves. and that's -- that ge into a whole empowerment question and a
whole bunch of other issues i'm sure we're goi to touch on. >> jane june is the political science professor at the university of southern california. and i wanted to ask you when you hear this question, which, you know, we are talking to two political professional heres. and they assume we're going to continue to have racial voting in this country and almost broken down by the parties. how do the new elements being introduced into the political structure fit in terms of people who are immigrant, or people moving around inside the united states, different concentrations of minority populations? how does that fit into this political structure that we have today? >> well, it's a very good question, juan. let me begin by outlining three different and very specific ways in which immigration to the united states changes politics. and the first one is, of course, immigration changes our concept of race.
even blacks in the united states are not just african-americans in the sense the native-born african-american. we now include a smaller number of gring african immigrants to the united states. it's much more complicated. the same is true withespect to growth in the multi-racial in the population. and as a result, immigration itself complicates the notion of race. let's not forget that, of course, when we think about migration, we also have to think about the use of these categories, the use of political -- racial categories as political mechanisms. for example, during the japanese internment, japanese were located by using census data. when we think of categories of race and their change over time anhow it is we think about their youth, we needo think about them in potical terms. so the fact that immigration is
changing, the racial landscape of the united states, i think the first and most important question with respect to what kind of categories do we think about when we analyze. i notice no one has noted on this panel. with respe to the second basic political change. and the sense of a very basic political change is a function of migration, not just with respect to the very significant growth of latinos, asian americans are growing as fast. but the significance of this migration internally -- internal migration as well as from outside of the united states is on the political geography of the united states. so you've all seen census reports which indicate that what locations of the united states are growing the fastest in terms of population. and with population comes political power. it's the american west and the south. with african-americans significantly reversing the great migration back from north -- the north and midwestern states, the northeast
and the midwest, back down to the south. the preponderance of african-americans in southern states will significantly chge. the republican ability to stronghold the american as is currently read. that may not be the case. i think you're probably going to talk about that. with respect to the south. the other important aspect of the second significance is the growth of the american west. in the state of california, which is where i'm from, there are twice as many asian americans in california as there are africa americans. there are more asian american voters in the state of california than there are african-american voters. i think it's important to consider the growth of all populations as well as the physical location. in less than 20 years, 50% of voters will be in western and southern states. and currently, the five largest states in the united states, which are also disproportionately in the south and west hold 40% of the state,
of the seats in the united states house of representatives. powerseing concentrated geographically. the last thing i wanted to talk about -- >> before you hit that point, let me follow up on that. so in those states where power is being concentrated right now, they are heavily republican states? >> well, actually, those two states include -- three of the four, three of the five ar florida, texas, and california. california's a democratic state. >> right. but florida, texas -- wh were the other -- >> illinois and new york are the other two. but illinois and new york are losing population. >> okay. >> so when i think about, well, look at this, we have more immigrants and more minorities coming into those states, especially the south and west. les stay in that rubric. >> rit. >> i still see that the white population dominates politically. >> it does for now. for example, in california, only 42% of the population of the
state of california in terms of all of its residents are white, but 64% of the voting population is white. >> repeat that. >> well, 42% of the state's population is white in california, but 64% of the voting population is white. half of california's population today is either latino or asian-american, african-american, orome other race. within 20 years, those folks who are disproportionately young will be voters. >> right. but in terms of who holds power and wealth and political influence in the state, am i wrong to think it's still white? >> well, it still is, yeah. that's true for the rest of the united states, isn't it? as it is also true for -- in these states. but it won't necessarily be the case going forward. >> white and male. >> and to the last point, with respect to the significance of immiation for party competition. if you think about what's going on now in terms of the question
of comprehensive immigration reform or any kind of immigration reform. the political parties. both of them, the republicans and democrats take on this issue is among the most significant issues for latino and asian-american voters. and to the extent, it's not the case that asian-americans and latinos are as democratic as most people think they are. they're not necessarily democratic. they happen to be democratic now and democratic in particular in states like california as a function of regressive policies such as proposition 187 and others. having said that, it's not the case that one migrates from asia or latin-america and springs forth a democrat. that's not true. the political parties can compete for voters and they might want to compete. and the republican party's not doing a good job of competing for minority voters at this point. having said that, it's clear that if you look back to the last great wave of migration in the early 20th century, that
last great wave of migration set the stage for the great society and for all of the neweal policies thafollowed from it as a function of the consolidation of immigrants from eastern europe, jews, italians, irish, and as well as from europe. it's up to the parties to take the immigration in particular that will attract significantly more latino and asian-american voters. >> i think everybody in the audience is saying, what you're not telling us is overwhelmingly republicans have not been supportive of imkbrags reform. democrats say they have been although they haven't acted on it. right now given the realities, we can expect immigrants to line up with the democrats? >> currently they are lining up with the democrats. that doesn't mean they're going to in the future. ju consider 100 years ago when you had italian migrants leaving ships, coming into the united
states. if you go to long island, you become a republican. because the party structur and mobilizations were republican. if you stayed in the city, you became a democrat. so it's not the case that either of these -- that any of these quote unquote ethnities or national origin groups are one or the other. they respond as they should strategically to what it is parties can and will do for them. >> all right. bacari sellers, a member of the state legislature in south carolina, thank you for joining us. we're honored to have you with us. i wanted you to pick up on what jane june was talking about in terms of the south. your governor is an indian-american. i think people are stunned that, one, your governor was able to breakthrough what was a very white, political power structure in the state and do so as a republican. maybe that was necessary because republicans dominate the state. but secondly, how does that impact not only the black/white
political divide in the state, but how does it play into increased migrations into even south carolina? >> well, that's a good question. and thank you for having me. i got elected when i was 21 years old in south carolina. >> you're 22 now? >> 26 now. >> i like to say i've been in politi my entire adult life. but south carolina's interesting and we did not only elect nikki haley, but tim scott. it's an anomaly. sarah palin dominated the political discussion, she came down and endorsed both candidates and theywon. i think that is just a flash in the pan. the it's not reflective of where we are as a state. president obama has done something quite interesting, though. by having very high or robust african-american turnout as well as hispanic turnout. 's put the south back in play for democrats. he won north carolina. he won virginia, florida, and the surrounding states. we have somewhat of a new south,
the north carolina where we invest in higher education and things like that and the old south, the mississippi, alabama, georgia, we're just trying to catch up with the rest of the union. but race plays a very racist politics in south carolina. i'll give you an example. we have a very unique african-american voter in south carolina. when i ran for office, a lot of my constituency is older. but for these older african-american voters, the civil rights movement does not begin and end with an excerpt from i have a dream speech. in fact, it's memories, very real memories of gun smoke and jailhouse force. so it's hard to say that we've come this far. kennedy, king, and the massacre in south carolina. and these are very real mories for a lot of african-american voters in south carolina. the interesting thing, though, is that we always talk about -- i always like to say we have made progress in this country, but nevertheless, still have a ways to go. when i have a rough day at the
south carolina statehouse and we're dealing with abortion or anything, voter i.d., which is -- we'll get on that later, but it's a republican -- i don't know what they're doing with that. but anyway, i go outside, i go outside, ask and i take a breath under the auspices of the confederate flag. it's there. and in south carolina, georgia, alabama this week we're celebring -- we're celebrating the civil war or the war of northern aggression. depending on where you are. [ laughter ] and the intesting part of about that is that we can remember what happened 150 years ago. but we have trouble remembering what happened 50 and 60 years ago. so it creates an interesting dynamic. and, you know, as -- i was born in 1984. so i didn't go through jim crow. and you're not but 26. [ laughter ] >> she's growing -- >> but i was born in 1984, so a lot of inhi businesses that plagued my father, his generation are no longer there for me. but every day i go to work, i
carry that chip on my shoulder much more than he does, because you have to remember that. you have to remember from whi you have come, and those struggles. and that's why things like voter i.d. and, you know, taking away there fundamental right of people to vote bothers me so much. and it's those type of policies that are disturbing to african-americans. i mean, in south carolina right now, making our way through, we have arizona-style immigration. now, we're not -- we haven't been near the border in a very, very long time. i don't necessarily know what we're doing. but it's that type of -- it's that type of persecution or policy, and let's not ca it persecution. that's probly too incendiary. but it's those type of policies that are making it very race-based, but driving these minorities and african-americans to the democratic party. >> okay. let me interrupt you. >> sure. >> so if i am looking at this just from a donna brazil, michael steele point of view, and i say this is about power, and i want to retain power,
because power allows me to make money, put my people in, have inflnce, drive the issues. i he say, well, i will use whatever i can in order to maintain that power. now, if it's a matter of dissuading my rival supporters from turning out, you better believe i'm going to do it. >> oh, i understand the game. >> okay. so that's what i'm asking you. would bakari sellers play differently if he was on the other side of the party? >> i have never had power. that's amazing. i don't know what i would do with it. but i think that my ethos morally, i would stay away and refrain from infringing on people's fundamental rights to vote, per se. because for me, i understand that people died for that right. i understand my father was shot in a massacre. i understand that julian bond and all of these people, this snit, core. i understand the framework. r me it's much more than mal con, martin and rosa. it's a grass roots efft to get us where we are today.
and i'm resistant and infringing on the rights of the people who fought so hard. >> but the other point of view would be you alsohould be supportive of efforts to eliminate voter fraud. >> if there is voter fraud. in south carolina we haven't had any instances of voter fraud, where in an $830 million defici this is unique about this, i didn't know this until the other day. but an older lady had to literally spend over $100 in getting her birth certificate, her marriage decree, divorce decree, just to go get her identification card. she didn't have an identification card. and in south carolina, when you have 178,000 citizens, that are eligible to vote, and when we pass this one bill, it takes away that right to vote? that's a problem for me. >> so there isn't -- the government will not issue you an i.d. card? >> it will be free. however, there is a cost in actually getting your documents together, your birth certificates, divorce decrees,
marriage license, there are incidental costs. we know what it is. it's a reaction to what happened in 2008. and i like to go to the well of the house, the south carolina house and i like to product my good friends and say it's amazing you are all afraid of barack obama in south carolina. we strut -- we walk around. we're the center of our universe, and we're afraid of barack obama. and that's what it's a reaction to. the reason that barack did so well in north carolina is not only because you have investment in higher education like charlotte, the research triangle, but because you had early voting. you know, there were -- there re things in place, there were political strategies in place that were conducive to voter turnout and high african-american turnout. and what the republican party is doing nationally now in georgia, indiana, south carolina, ohio, is they're attempting to stymie that through things like voter i.d. and other things. >> one quick question, cong back to something ms. brazil raised. she was talking about the concentration of power that you have black congressional districts, where the black
members tend to get re-elected at a very high rate. but then the consequence is, you have a high percentage of white republican districts that also have high re-election rates. donna brazil said and what are we voting for? what are we getting out of this current structure that is prevalent in the south? >> that's an interesting question. because, you know, on one hand, i think out it and i say, my god, what -- in south carolina, we didn't have james clyburn, what would we do? we would be lost if we did not have james clyburn. on the other hand, i truly believe that the type of politician that i desire, that i want, especially african-american politian, can and should be able to win the 35% district. i just think they should have that ability in a 35% district go out and reach across lines. >> 35% -- >> african-american district. >> so -- the majority white, but 35%. >> yeah, i mean, i think at is a very winnable district that's very playable. but in south carolina, it's a very interesting dynamic. i mean, it's in your face.
i mean, we talk about race. we always talked about race. and in the foreseeable future, we will -- i think the discussion should be about the haves and have nots. because some of my older colleagues, they kind of let me get away with it, because of my father. but i always say that the division that we have now is not black and white anymore. it's the haves versus the have nots. and that's the discussion i like to have. however, when the confederate flag is still flying in front of your statehouse, years after that war is over, it's hard to avoid those discussions about race. >> all right. >> it really is. >> well, let's come back then to -- it sounds like everybody on this panel agrees that we still have strong racial politics in america. it sounds like everybody agrees that despite the infusion of immigrants into the political picture, the immigrants for the most part are lining up as people of color with the democrats. although you say they're open and they could be possibly going in the other direction if there
was more outreac from the republican party. so what all of you are saying is, racial politics will continue, despite the presence of barack obama. and that there is no evidence that we are approaching a point where we could move beyond the racial polarization. so i want to ask you about the political polarization, dna brazil. in an era when democrats and republicans find it very hard to do business, because they are so po polari polarized, does that exacerbate racial tensions in the larger society? >> you know, this whol conversation right now about race reminds me of sometimes when i go on tv and we have these supeicial conversations where it's such a distraction, because we really don't want to get into what i call the real intracies of race in this country. that's a deeper conversation. i mean, the racial inequality,
the achievement gaps. we might have come through centuries of slavery and over a century of legal segregation, but we have not, as i keep telling everyone, we have not gone further than that. we are still struggling with some of the impedestrianlets, the structural and institutional bearers that always kept this country behind. so we're still on the surface dealing with race, but not beyond the surface. because beyond the surface, really gets us into what we never dealt with after and then legal segregation. which is, okay, the politics of, you know, reparations. now, i don't want everybody to n out of the room, because race often has an exit door. but we're still making, as i keep telling my nieces and nephews. i say i'm going to tell what you grandma taught me. she was born in the 1800s. she said an education, donna, that's all you need.
if you get that education, you are free and no longer deal with the barriers. and the reason why i make this speech now, if you look at the unemployment numbers, over the last 13 months that we have seen unemployment steadily go down -- hasn't gone down enough, but we see unemployment among blacks steadily go up, last month, 3.3%, 0.3%, 15.3 to 15.6. and the reason is, once again, dealing with these impediments. when you still have problems with inequality, low education achieveme achievement, we will continue to deal with race. let me try to bring it up to speed. i'm going to make some pointers. you want to know the shortest line of american politics if you're a minority? republican. get in line. hell, you can get elected statewide. you know why? because when you're a black republican or hispanic or asian-pacific or you name it, you're not perceived as holding on to the status quo.
those programs have benefited those people. i mean, majority of white americans believe that every program out here, every gornment program benefit those people. and that they're taking our money, and our taxes, for those people. they have no concept that they're one joing the same programs, often at a much higher rate than we are. and two, no, we're not taking the money. the money is going somewhere, but it's not coming to us, trust me. never even made a stop. that's my view. not the view of the democratic party. let's not confuse the two. and so black republicans often have this short line. so, yeah, maybe mr. scott will see another re-election, because he's not perceived as holding on for government services for those people. he's seen as, my man. he's not even black. just by having that label. same as suzanna martinez, the newly elected latina into
mexico. so that line is shorter, because the public perceives the democratic party as holding on, you know, for government programs for those people who are taking our money. that's the reason why we have had had such a very deep trouble, deep and abiding trouble of getting the white vote. >> you said public. but what you meant was wte. >> yeah. >> okay. so you think whites hold on to this perception -- >> majority of whites. not all whites. >> that's what i'm saying. we're talking in generized terms. >> we're talking about -- look. the middle class in this country is squeezed. blue collar workers, black, white, brown, and i don't want to offend anybody by using the colors and not the actual ethnic, you know, background. but blue collar workers are feeling squeezed. and so when they feel squeezed, they want to blame it on somebody. andultimately, that blame goes to those people. all the urban myths out there. when i saw this recent thing about we've got to have
scholarships for white people. i said, didn't we have that for 300 years? but we've got to have it now. why? because this fear. this fear. so, look, let's -- the conversation on race is often a distraction. it's the most -- what i tell people, it's the most disgusting conversation ever. i mean, we spend so much time and resources tryi to defend the indefensible, when the truth is that we never had a real conversaon, we never talked about reconciliation. all we did was, we put together a few programs that we -- you know, we're moving forward, and then we make a -- we made a lot of progress. i'm not going to downplay the progress. but i think about my native south and i notice you didn't include louisiana as part of the old south. we're old. we got by with bobby jindal, god bless us. but we are all stuck in that. and let me make my last point and then i'm going to shut up. the reason why i worry about those so-called marity,
minority districts and god know i was around in '88 when i saw how they were carved and it was a perfect way, many of these black legislators were just trying to get some political empowerment, a little bit, because the democrats were still lding on to the little power and the fee filiars and all that. the democratic parties had to be moved too. i mean, i was there when we had to move the democratic party, and i'still going to move the democratic party even in three weeks. you notice a black woman gets three weeks, but i'm not complaining, because debby wasserman schultz, she's going to keep it for two years. we cover these lile districts and then we're stuck there. i want more than just a few handful of districts. if we really leveraged our political power, we wouldn't have 44 members of the black caucus, we would have 76. we would have -- almost 70 members of the latino and asi asian-american-pacific caucus. we would have more people. but when you're stuck in tse districts, or these places, how
do you leverage a policy so you can become a statewide official? the reason why north carolina could be turned blue is because we had damn blue ralph campbell. we h african-americans run statewide and win. me is true as virginia. we've already laid the ground work. so you've got to look at how you lay the ground work. and that's the problem with black politics in this country. if we don't lay the ground work, if we don't go out there and run statewide and begin to expand our messaging, expand our reach, expand our districts, expand our borders, then we are stuck right where they want us. and we don't have enough moderate democrats or republicans to give us the political edge to become statewide officials, and ultimately president of the united stes. >> you are just terrific, but you said so much. >> because i know i'm on a panel. >> no, believe me, you're much loved here. but i want to try to shape the conversation, and i wanted to just pick up on one thing you said, but there's so much and we're going to try to unravel it, unwrap it as we go along. but michael steele i wanted to come to what donna brazil was
saying about that -- what she called the public, i said, you know, we're talking about white america, and she said no, i'm talking about blue collar, working-class americans, sees the democratic party as a giving to those people, i think you said. and i think the -- my translation and more direct way would be to say, you see the democratic party as wealthier party, right? that they are the party of the entitlements, and they're giving things away. >> the party of government spending, period. that's it. >> is that fair, michael? >> yeah. that about sums it up. >> and that's -- and that's -- and -- but now in racial terms, so whites see that -- >> but that speaks to the dynamic that we see -- this getting played that was just played out this past weekend. on our national budget. you know, republicans, you know, were perceptionally fighting over a social issue. democrats were per accept
actually fighting over a program, whatever the program happens to be. you know, whether social security, whatever. so the reality of it is, that's what america has begun to turn away from. because america's looking at this - to donna's point, they're getting the joke. they know that the largest beneficiary of affirmative action programs inhis country are not the doa brazil's of the world. but it's white women. all right? because th landscape has been redefined. the definition of what that is has been redefined by those who have the power. and you talk about the short line. let me talk to you about what happens once you get in the line. all right? >> i need some water, hold on. this is deep. >> let me talk to you about what happens, once you make that move. i mean, the last thing -- you know, when i became chairman of the party, i was very direct about it. i said, the idea of a michael steele as chairman of the party
slammed into the reality of having a michael steele as chairman of the party. because m black experience growing up in eighth street northwest and pentworth, d.c., chocolate city, marian berry was my mayor, all right? that environment brings a different political perspective, irrespective of the whole republican platform, litmus test, all that crazy stuff. my expeence was that honed in the black community. so as we tlk about empoweng all of these wonderful minorities on this stage and this audience to go out and be a part of aolitical system, recognize that the system is not ready to empower you. the system isnot ready to embrace your diversity. because you're going to bring a mind-set to the table that they won't appreciate. they won't accept. quite frankly, they won't want. >> what is that? >> well, it's just -- it's the way you speak.
it's the way you deal on issues. the way you engage. now, i'm a very strong, pro life republican. conservative. but my experience as an adopted individual opens up my mind to have a different perspective on issues like abortion, because i recognize that that individual has a hell of a lot of choices to make. so it's not -- you just can't put someone in a box and say this is what you need to believe because you're republican or conservative or liberal or you're this or that. because that's not what america is. everyone in this room -- i bet you if we put out the right kind of test would find that basically, you're all over the place, because there are some things you're conservative about, there's something you may be liberal or moderate. what's relevant is how you engage in the political process to empower yourself to get tho ideas and those feelings and those emotions a part of the political dialogue. how come we had a national debate on the health care of
this great nation, and not one member of congress and certainly was not incorporated effectively into the legislation, anything to do about health care disparities in minority communities? how come we haven't had a conversation about, you know, we have all these farm subsidies, but no one wants to pay the black farmers what the court id they are due? where's the political empowerment here? the democrats, when they had the white house, the house and the senate, did nothing on it. republicans, the same thing. so where do you begin to leverage what you got? >> well, i'm not understanding something, michael. you have now more power represented. i mean, the idea was, you were chairman of the republican party. >> yeah. >> so the kid that grew up in a black political environment, heavily democrat-dominated, your style, your education, did allow
you to succeed. >> yes. but that -- but how you define that success and how that success is executed is all a part of the political landscape. you know, when you -- when you're -- if you're not a part of the club, if you're not a part of the group, you didn't grow up in that particular family, political family, it's tough for you to -- the line may be short, but, you know, the line i'm in, everybody else is associated and affiliated and connecte en you ce out -- you come into the system fro the outside, which is where our politics largely is today -- our politics is not inside backroom board rooms. it's ouide. look at the tea party movement want. look at the movement we saw in sconsin, and ohio and indiana and elsewhere around the country with unions. that's a political empowerment that wasn't, you know,
forecasted or developed in a boardroom. that comes from the experience and the desires of free people who decide on this issue we bandy together. because i can tell you, straight up, there is -- there are black tea partiers, there are democrat tea partiers, but people in the establishment of both parties want to paint a picture of those americans who have a different point of view. same on the uni issue. u know? people want to int a picture about what folks are saying on collective bargaining. not dealing with the substance of the issue. not dealing th the realities of tho blue collar workers who are trying to make their ends meet like every other brother and sister. >> i'm getting a little confused, though, michael. so what we have, then, donna says, listen, the -- we don't talk about it, necessarily, honestly. the racial dialogue about politics. but the fact is, we have most minorities in one party, most whites in another. the whites think that the other party is really about giving
federal money to the minorities. the older whites in the other party feel ggrieved, and think, oh, this government is just too big, and taxing me too much. and we don't say anything about race in this mix. and you're saying, but even in the short line, even in the republan party, they will have token black faces, but they're really not connected. >> when -- let me -- >> wait, let me finish this thought. so then what you've got is, you're saying that the republican party is not only white, but that you've got to be connected, elite white to have power in that republican party. >> i don't know if it's elite and all of that. of but you've got to be connected. you've got to be connected some kind of way. but that's part of the political process. and the question is, who is grooming this young brother here who is in the state legislature? who is grooming him? what is that network whin his party that recognizes his potential and his opportunity to
be a statewide elected official? >> wait a second. tell us who your father is. >> cleveland sellers. president of college, now the only pern incarcerated for the incidents of the orange grove massacre in 1968. >> but he is politically connected. >> yeah, he had little bit to do in '84 and '88. >> he was with us. >> especially amongst african-americans, i tend to kind of say what i feel. my mom and dad have instilled that in me. in african-americans, older african-americans, have somewhat given me a past, i guess because of where i come from. but kind of on what michael and donna both said, the interesting thing is that i guess the people perceive my progression just t be in the sixth district of congress, you're going to run for congress and you're going to be the next jim clyburn. that's it. i mean, that is -- that is how we groom our african-american blic officials. i mean, that is where you'll go. that ain't what i wt to do. >> that's the stop sign. that's why i say, we've got --
>> that is the ceiling. because in south carolina, what no one will tell you is this simpleact. you cannot run statewide from the black district. you cannot run statewide effectively from the black district. >> thank you. >> so i don't want to go over there. >> because -- >> because it's the perception. it's the perception that you are concerned about. it a box. you're only concerned about african-americans in south calina. you are a representative of african-americans in south carolina, not giving congressman clyburn right now the credit for doing so much more for all of south carolina. >> everybody. >> it's that perception and that vote and that 4.2 million voting block that that is your focus and those are your concerns. >> okay, but donna, just to finish up on this quickly, because i want to just pick up on the pace here. so people who are now elected officials, hispanic black, they say, we broke barriers and finally made it here. now i have my district. and what you and bakari sellers
are talking about is breaking apart this structure with no promise that i will be able to have office. >> i'm saying that we can still win in those districts. that may not be 52% black. i think we can still win. as many members of the congressional black caucus and the hispanic and asian-american caucus, and districts that are 35%, a handful of those members right now exist. barbree lee comes to mind, because i was out in california this weekend. so i'm just saying, we've got to make sure that structurally we're not putting this box where as in ten years from now, we're still talking about 44 members of the congressional caucus. one thing i have to mention. let me put this government thing in context. bi clinton was seen as a moderate. why? he attacked welfare. balanced the budget. cu spending. when you do those things, you go back into this fit, this government fit. i mean, this perception that you are, what?
you're getting those people off of welfare. ey've got to work, personal responsibility. and all i'm saying is that that perception that somehow or another, that whether it's the democratic party or republican, but in this case the democratic party somehow or another, we're the party of government spending so we can benefit those people. we're not. we're the party of the middle class, the party of growth, the party of opportunity. we're the party that wants to make sure that everybody has a shared sacrifice so we can all share in prosperity, as well as the burden of society. but i'm telling you, this is how it's perceived. and we've got to break that perception. one thing that will help us break this perception is the nature of the changing demographics in this country. i think, jane, you are absolutely right. it's going to change the dynamics of american politics. and this whole politics of racial identity will become transformational at times. we've got to keep moving in that direction. it will be a slow move. we're going loo at the last 40 years and say, damn that went by fast, because right now it's
going to be slower. but that requires -- and i want to say something about michael. >> >> can you hang on for just a second? >> that brother won. >> he did win. >> he won everything that he was given to win. but heasn't in the political class that wanted a winner. he served his purpose. i'm sorry, michael. i've saved mine for three weeks. >> hey. >> three weeks with a gavel. ♪ passit on >> and we are the most useful -- if black women didn't show up to vote for e democratic party, we wouldn't have a democratic party. but that's another panel. but he served his purpose. and now the political class, the dynasty, want that seat, because now we need a party chairman who will now serve the next purpose. now, that's politics. michael and i are both on the same. we have benefit been in the arena. it's politics. and you know what? he's going to live to see another day, just like i will too. >> they're going to have to deal with the brother.
>> all right. so here we come now from your -- you say the next 40 years is going to come quickly and you'll see the breakdown and you can see the bakari sellers from a minority strict. if that changes, you see the south changing. then you see the west changing. >> yes. >> then you suddenlyee there is the possibility of more competition for the minority vote. is that what you foresee as well? >> well, i mean, it depends. it depends on the kinds of issue positions. minority voters are just like all voters. you know, we're not any different. and as much as we vote on things that matter to us -- >> well, there's one big difference that you cited. lower levels of participation. >> there are lower levels of participation now, because many of the people -- i mean, who are in the immigrant communities, of course, are going to be naturalized cizens. so they're going to participate at a lower rate, as naturalized
citizens always have. 80% of adult asian americans in the united states are foreign-born. takes a while to learn the american system, become a citizen and get naturalize and had then register to vote. and the same is true for latinos. even though more latinos in the united states are u.s. born. they're not disproportionately immigrant. they do take longer to naturalize and vote as a function of the fact that the immigrant population is much larger within these two communities. but immigrant voters are -- or minority voters, we vote on the basis of issues, just like everybody else. we're as rational of voters as white people are. and until and when and until parties can speak to minority voters, can speak to the issues and their concerns, whether they're about jobs or education or immigration, that is -- that's the time that immigrant voters will come out and minority voters will come out. and that to the extent that parties are responsive or not
responsive, that will foretell e future of party politics of the united states. >> and if i could -- >> let me just say, we're going to open up the microphones. if you have a question after michael speaks. >> i want to make a couple real quick points to reinforce what was just said. the monday after i became chairman of the republican national committee, i went to new york, to harlem. and held a round table. and the question i got from party members was, why are you going to harlem? and my response was,ecause that's where the votes are. and that -- and that is such a powerful point that you've made in terms of wanting to engage, wanting to engage those voters to go after those votes and to make the case. as i say all the time, the party is -- you know, we've got this history, particularly with the black community. but i think a history that we can develop with hispanics and asian and other counities in this country, that are tied to
principles and values that we hold dear. and that we should be able to explain and express and hopefully will gravitate people towards the party. when you don't do that, when you start building that wall, is when y start losing thatote. and then you start resort to go other kind of political tricks and craziness to try to grab a vote that you're not going to get. and this is true for both parties. this isn't a republican thing or a democrat thing. i mean, there is as much voter craziness on the democrat side as there is on the republican side. the reality is, these parties right now are struggling with americans. they don't knowow to be relevant to you as citize without talking in hyperbole and getting you mad at her, and you mad at her, and him. that anger politics is old. it's played out. now whether you're talking about the budget, health care, immigration, you're talking
about war in iraq, afghanistan or any place else in this country, you have got to talk to people and help them understand why you're doing what you're doing. and i don't think both parties are really prepared to take that on yet. and that's --. so they're still pying racial polarization as part of the larger polarization is what you're saying. and i think that that's what you would agree with, as well. and bakari and -- and even inside the minority community, theization polezation helps to excite your base and get turnout. >> i can't really hear people going out and saying, man, you better vote because it's a black/white issue. no, our problems are somewhat generational. and partly because we're still dealing with racial stereotypes, the negative connotations associated with race in the country, as, you know, this young man just said, his father has memories. jim clyburn has memories. i have memories. you have memories. my nieces and nephews, they don't really have any memory of
any of this. and so when we tell them, you have to say, this is why it's relevant. they're not interested. i have to tell you a little dirty secret, since i've been involved in politics a long me. george bush was getting 20, 25% of the black vote, as of august of 2000. i'm telling you, it was tough to get the black vote back inside that democratic column. i mean, we were struggling in ohio, we were struggling with arkansas of all places because it was clinton turf. because bush was making direct appeals to minority voters of all rsuasions. >> andlack churches. >> and black churches. and he wasn't afraid to go and talk to black folks before 6:00 at night. we used to have a curtain call where they would talk to black folks after 6:00. why they would want to talk to them after that, why? >> don't tell all our secrets. >> i'm not victoria. i've got a lot them.
the truth is the republicans knew how to make th appeal, anthey knew exactly -- it was an economic appeal. >> it was an economic appeal. >> and the same is true of the democratic party. we can't make a racial appeal. we've got to an economic appeal. >> what is james byrd -- when they tried to diminish bush's vote, that was one of the tactics used. >> that was run by a third party. we had nothing to do with it. hands clean. come on. the statue of limitations has run -- >> you're saying democrats don't play racial politics. >> i'm not saying we don't play. i tell you, we had a 6:00 strategy. of course we played. everyone has played the race card. we're not purists here. this country, we don't have any purist when is it comes -- maybe native americans. but we're not purists when it comes to race. the race card has been played up and down the deck. >> that's what i say. >> what i'm saying ishat over time, racial identity will not -- will not be a factor, because the racial identity is
already blurring. it's blurring in many states. >> it is. >> and so we have to be very careful not to make a district racial appeal. whether it has to be based on economics and -- and aspirational goals of all people, and you have to be very careful. we're -- we're not talking past tense yet, but i'm just telling you, it's been a struggle. >> that's where we're going. i appreciate that. mr. flores? >> thank you for the opportunity. i'm gary flowers, executive leader of the black forum. i pose this question in the spirit of the late dr. ronald walters, preeminent political scientist. and on the adage that to do the same thing over and overnd expect different results is at least insanity. the winner take all two-party system in which we now live, i believe is inherently undemocratic. i pose the first question, do you believe we should have a multiparty proportional
representation system to express more views of the electorate, since we have a wider racial ethnic electorate? >> wait, hold on. that's fascinating. so you think they should have like a black party, a latino party? >> not at all. much like the republic of south africa. you have representation. everyone who is running as a patient has to gain 5% get on to the ballot. once you are on the ba lot, you receive 13% of the electorate. then you receive 13% of the seats in parliament. as opposed to winner take all. look at the last midterm elections. >> are you think in terms of race? >> 50 some percent of the mid terms, but 100% of the chairmanship. >> are you thinking in terms of changing the american structure to be based on racial location? >> no. no. multiparty that you can reflect more of the electorate, which we now have more varying views. so, one, eviscerate the
two-party system, first question. second question, should we have -- and donna knows this vividly. the first stolen election in recent times, in 2000, we were in florida, we go to the supreme court, and we say to the court, look, they cheated. scalia right in front of the majority says no, you don't have an individual right to vote. whoever is in charge of florida is in charge of the national election. for these purposes. so should we have an individual right to vote enshrined in the constitution and federally -- organized. >> let me stick with the first one, and ask the panel, whoever wants to respond to this idea of breaking apart the two-party system. >> i -- i never really thought about that. but i will tell you, i think what can kind of get us to -- i think what you ant. theolitical debate today currently is absent ideas. period. >> this is no an idea. >> yeah. this -- i mean, the political debate -- i haven't seen. i mean, i grew up -- my favorite president in the world is bill
clint clinton, just because i grew up with him when i was 6, you know, or 8. so that's pretty much all i know. but it's absent ideas. and i think that we've actually dumbed down american politi, almost to a fault. but i think if parties -- i'm a d.o.c. fellow, so i have to give that out as a preface. but i believe ifhe parties went back and actually began to think about different policy initiative to go after these different voters, my biggest disappointment with my president is that i have not heard a robust educational platform from the white house. at all. i haven't. but i think that if we have the ideas, i think if the republican party actually -- instead of preying on wedge issues, actually comes up with some te of economic package or economic policy initiative, the democratic party starts talking about education again, i think once we start having that free-flow of information, i think that that will win. i'm not -- i'm not in favor of necessarily debunking a two-party system that we have. i love competition.
not quite the free market. but i love competiti. i think that it -- i mean, i think that we have to raise the level of expectation here. >> all right. but let's move on. because, i mean, practically speaking, i don't think we're going to do away with the democrats and republicans any time soon. >> let me just say something. by the way, you came of age with a very good president. we have this -- what call this nstant gridlock. and no matter what happens in 2012, it will be another change election. we're going to continue to have gridlock. so i understand the point that you're making about proportional representation and whether or not we should more to a more fair system. that put more voices on the table so you can probably build coalitions and maybe, you know, allow moderates to come back into the flow. here's another little dirty secret in american politics. the majority of voters are not republican, not democratic, they're independent. in order to win next year, you cannot just appeal to the choir, you've got to go to the conggation, and they're independent. but will these independents be
allowed to vote in presidential primaries? that's where the sticky part -- because many of our primaries are closed to independents. they don't get an opportunity to vote but once. now, next year, i will have three votes. i will vote here in the district of columbia. i will vote as a super delegate. but i won't have on the batman suit or anything. and then, of course, i'll vote in the general election. but the independent voter in the district of columbia will only be able to vote once. so that's the dirty secret. so we've got to find ways to enlarge the electorate, but also empower more of the electorate to that do not wish to align with the political parties. it's a deeper conversation. and here's the other probl. we've got to talk about finances. because we're now in an age where if you don't have $3 billion in the bank and maybe $4 billion in your bank account, why an may be the best candidate and the best looking one, too. but unless he has deep pockets -- >> i'm chief of politic 365.com.
each of you brought up interesting topics related to the generational, economic, immigration connectivity and educational dynamics of politics. but how do we engage that tipping point, considering there are so many different factors? at what point do those issues actually supersede the race-based dynamics that go on? >> what were the issues that you were talking about? >> generational, economic, immigration, connectivity and the educational issues. >> okay. so let me just -- let me ask you, jane. when you hear about this economic issue, immigration issue, at what point does it supersede republican and democrat, you're saying? >> yeah, and even the race-based politics. you know, when do you start playing to specific constituents? like, we understand you're interested and concerned about the economy. we're going to make that, you know, the focal point of whatever -- >> you mean, republican or democrat. >> right. from both angles. >> that plays to what you're saying about a dearth of ideas, right? >> well, october 25th of 2010,
"people" magaze wrote an expose' on schools in the country. courtney cox arquette was on the front. they profiled one of my schools, demarco primary school. and what happened was, when we sent the "people" magazine reporters out there, they went in the kitchen. it was the day after school was over. and the roof collapsed. the whole roof collapsed. and it didn't make a lot of noise in south carolina. in fact, nobody knows about it in south carolina, unless i tell them. because that's not atypical. that's schools everywhere. but what we have to do is, we have to start addressing those issues at the root. we have to start going in these communities, where those schools are falling apart and be they black constituents or white constituents, they all go to this school. and they deserve better and they want better. so what i do is, i go to a house that has a doconfederate flag flying on the front of it . it happens all the time. and i knock on the door, and i say that your kids do not deserve to go to a school in a
building that the ceteria is falling apart. now, it doesn't matter if i'm black, brown, green, yellow. i havepoken to someone at their core about a major issue that affects them directly, and all i want to do is sit down with you and hash out ideas about how we change that. we can't raise a tax mill gin in my district. i can't bring in an industry until i improve my schools. i'm in a catch-22. so until we start having those debates -- and we have to find issues that go to people's core. and i think that that -- that example is something that i try to do in south carolina. >> she is saying she is looking for issues that would get us past the racial polarization? >> well, i think he gave a perfect example of how, you know, on a local level, you start going in and speaking to people. but when do you see that local approach actually, you know, occur on a national scale? >> well, just a quick 30 seconds. that was the last eight, nine months of my chairmanship, was defining our strategy for the
fall election. not through the eyes of the republican rty, but through the eyes of the citizens. it was part of the reasons i got on a b for seven, eight weeks, went to all 48 states. neighborhoods. you know, big and small. was to take the message directly to that community. some communities i would go and i could rail all day longabout health care. other communities i would go into, and i knew the issue was education. so we would talk about education. i would talk about the fact that the administration had cut opportunity scholarship for minorities here in the district of columa, my hometown from my high school. so you find that connection point, which was just restored, by the way, by the republican. >> and iwas wrong, morally wrong, politically -- >> in the house. but to -- to cut it. >> no. i -- >> okay, okay, okay, you two. >> this is my money, my tax dollars. >> all right. >> to cut money for kids to go to school. >> okay, okay, okay. >> barack and i could afford to
send our kids to. >> but the point you're making is -- >> to go in, and to speak to those needs, as we found them. and to address broad issues, or more narrowly tailored issues, and that's how you begin to connect with voters. >> jane wants to pipe up. >> well, not being related to any political party, i don't think we can look to the parties. at all. for -- for -- or to existing political leadership in this -- in the sense of party-based leadership. to answer your question. right? because the parties don't want to eliminate themselves. who would? if you were -- if you're the n, you don't want to give it up. the parties are still the man in american politics. and likewise, they will use, as strategic actors, the best resources available to them, to continue to divide. and this is why we don't have moderate candidates. so if you are concerned, as citizens and voters to think about how to change politics, you probably are not going to do it by the party system that we have today. individuals, ordinary
individuals, have to come together to do that themselves. and i think there's just one last thing i want to note, and that is, donna's point about independents. independents are larger as a group than either democrats or republicans. so there are more people who call themselves independent than either cal themselves republicans or democrats. not combined, but alone. and in addition to that, about 10% of american's population calls itself a race either that is other or multiracial. that is almost as mny african-americans as we have in the united states. that's more than the asian-americans we have in the united states. i think americans would like to get beyond, you know, the system that we have. but we are in something of a strangle hold with respect to the way the parties have provided not only possibilities for us in terms of candidates, but also the range of issues that we're willing -- that they are willing to engage us on. >> and that results then also then in when you have the overlay of race and politics, that it adds to the
polarization. >> and might continue to exacerbate that. after all, we are all multiracial. my mother would say that i'm not. but we're all -- you know -- she would say you're 100% korean. but we know that. we share many things together. if we took the genetic test that henry louis gates gave himself and this interesting documentary, we would see a whole lot of similarity in us rather than racial difference. >> next question. >> first, thank you for sharing your insights with us. my question today is directed more so to dr. john. but i would like to get all of the panelists' feedback. first, i wanted to point out that the census data that we have all been looking at as shown that we are moving towards an increasingly diverse population, which includes a heavily foreign-born population, as dr. join pointed out earlier. many of those are u.s., naturalized citizens, and then
we also have u.s.-born citizens. however, we also have an increasingly vocal and politically mobilized and documented population living and working within the united states. in part -- in response to that high visibility, we have heard people calling for changes in how we define and even conceptualize citizenship. so i'm curious to know whether you all think that we do need to move towards a new definition of citizenship so that we can have greater political inclusion, and if so, what those definitions might look like. >> well, you know, no nation in the world has a policy of letting anyone in. i mean, not to my knowledge. all countries with borders specify what needs to be done in order to be a part of it. so no welcome to the united states has ever been unconditional. it's always been a conditional welcome, whether -- or for that matter, a forced entry into this
country. and so the question of what citizenship is defined, to the -- i would say that in the ideal sense, i'm a professor, so we think about these things from the ivory tower. to the extent that we think about citizenship, we should think about it in one that is very distinctive from the way the united states is done. so the united states' history of citizenship has been disproportionately and consistently racially based. we have always in the united states had a conditional citizenship on the basis of racial characteristics. and might i remind you that 100 years ago, and it was, in fact, just 100 years ago that the d l dilling ham commission of the united states congress created what is called the dillingham commission reports, where we set up 41 volume set, available through the stanford libraries, one particular volume has the ordering of the races, who better and who is not, who was left out, at the bottom? obviously, african-americans, because african-americans have such a profound history of
discrimination in the united states. but in addition to native american indians, chinese, jews were down there. so were the irish. so wereitalians. and over time, those groups have managed to become part of what we think of as the default category of citizenship. but within the context of the united states, if we were to be able to abstract out and say what is it we would want in a citizen, one would hope that what we would want would not be connecd to a racial or an ethnic label. and that is a label that is put upon americans by the government. right? because the census is the one that develops government. early -- or race. early in the 20th century, indians were actually called hindus, according to the census. jews were called hebrews, according to the census. mexicans were once enumerated separately. so i think with respect to your question -- i'm just giving this, rry, abstract response to it. but to the extent that we can think about citizenship as
qualities -- desirable qualities for membership in a political community, i think what we would hope is they would not be race-based. that would be a sharp diversion from what the united states has done throughout its entire history. >> you know what, that was a nderful answer. but i lost focus, and i think that your question was suggesting that we do more to include people who are now here without documentation, illegal immigrants, as citizens with voting rights? was that your point? >> well, clearly, in order to participate in the electoral process, that requires citizenship. so voting is -- within that question. but i think also, this whole discussion of birth right citizenship has come up a lot. and both -- there are those who want to restrict birth right citizenship, partially in response to the growing power that immigrant communities as a whole he had. but there are also those that want to scale back birth right citizenship, because they see that as too rrow. so o side says it's too broad,
the otr too narrow. >> we have allowed people to vote who are noncitizens. it exists today. in local elections, minnesota, parts of minnesota -- i believe washington, d.c., tacoma park, allows it. and in the united states, we have often allowed noncitizens to vote. that would be one way of thinking about how to bring people into politics before citizenship. >> i find that hard to believe. >> it's true. there's a great book by a guy by the name of ron hyduk. there is a history of noncitizen voting the united states. >> that's amazing. next question. >> hi. my name is any coal turner lee with the joint center for political and economic studies. so i have a question. so we have been talking about race as a social construct. it's there. but we'v got to look beyond and i think donna's point about race not being a factor is true. you know, we're going to see that. but i got the big but, though. the issue that we still have is the tea party, though it is small, has managed to package a message around race.
there are undertones in their language around taking back our country. that are very racially driven. i think some of the things we saw, for example, with the government shutdown and the attack on women's health is also showing a retreat back to how we are different, and i think going forward with the 2012 election, we're going to see more of that. and so i just would like to put out there, you know, not to break the bubble of us being in this world where everybody can get along, we're multicultural. race and racism still exists. >> stay there for a second. because this is an interesting conversation. michael, here you hear someone saying that, you know, the race cards getting played aggressively. by the tea party. >> what's the evidence of that? i don't -- i don't see instances where you're looking at a whole swath of people who are -- who are raising political issues in a racial context.
there are -- you know, you talk -- you say, you know, they're saying take back america. how is that different when my friends on the left were saying that as a consequence of the war in afghanistan, leading up to the '06 and the '08 elections who were saying we need to take our country back from george bush? >> well -- >> so is there a difference? is there a difference when someone on the left says we want to take our country back versus someone on the right saying it? >> well -- >> or is it -- i heard some people say yes. but my point is, you know, you're going to get a disagreement from me on that, simply because if that's the standard, then you're going to have to show more to me or i think to a whole lot of people, other than just your saying it. >> hang on -- >> that's been part of the dynamic. >> what if she said, michael, but when -- an older, white population says we want our country back, that that implitly then has racial overtones, and especially when
they're pointing fingers aggressively at the first african-american president? >> well, look, i mean, that may be the case with an older white population. i don't know what's in that their mind when they say that. if they're from some part of the country where that's, you know, a pervasive attitude with respect to barack obama, yeah, then you can probably puthat context. but if -- iuess my point is, what i like to see us do, really tagging what donna was saying, we're not going to make that aspirational leap, unless we begito seriously look at where those instances are, and call them what they are as opposed to painting with a very, very broad brush on both sides, which is what we have been doing in our politics since about 2000. the politics of this country fundamentally changed in the 2000 election cycle. we became red states, blue states. we became conservative, liberal. we became -- everyone had to fall into a camp. and let's get to what we're talking about independent
voters. i mean, the independent voter is sitting there going, where do i fit into this? so i would just like us to be more careful, because, you know, i just spoke at columbia university last week, and someone raised this exact same point. and this young african-american student stood up and says, wait a minute, i'm a member of the tea party. are you saying i'm racist? >> and i just want to clarify that. i think you're right. i'm a sociologist, so we watched this for political trends. the issue is, anecdotally, there were rallies in west virginia where there were no african-americans or latinos or asi asian-americans talking about taking back our countr and eugene robinson speaks nicely in "the post" around how we have to be careful about that rhetoric. and i think the rhetoric