February 8, 2012; Chicago Sun-Times | According to one of the nation’s most powerful women in the nonprofit sector, race is still an issue.
Dr. Gail Christopher, a decision maker on grants and national vice president at W.K Kellogg Foundation—one of the world’s 10 most influential foundations, with over $7 billion in assets—sits as one of the few African Americans in a powerful role in America’s largest foundations.
Christopher says, “It is not the blatant racism that hurts our children—though it’s there. Rather, it’s the stereotypes… Our economic divides are expanding every day, and the subtext of the political debates are all racial.”
In a keynote address at the annual fundraiser of the North Lawndale Employment Network in Chicago, Christopher declared that, “This country has embodied a fallacy, a belief in racial hierarchy for longer than it has been a country. The majority of children being born today are children of color, most of those children growing up in impoverished conditions. If we’re going to actualize the promise of democracy, we have to stand up for our children.”
Christopher’s statement is bolstered by 2010 U.S. Census data confirming what earlier surveys have hinted at: 49.8 percent of infants under age one are members of a racial-ethnic minority—an increasing trend from 42.4 percent in 2000. These ethnic minorities include individuals of African American, Latino and Asian descent as well as a widening number of people who report to be two or more races.
William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that this demographic shift is significant and points to the requisite for progressive political and civic leaders to link racial and generational divides. Frey writes that these divisions embolden discussions of issues such as immigration and enduring budget mêlées over revenue and government spending agendas.
Christopher’s point is intensified by the relationship between poverty and race in the U.S. With 16.7 percent of African Americans unemployed in 2011 compared to eight percent for whites, the undertones of racial discrimination loom. –Saras Chung