Our Future as a Multiracial Society
Sarah van Gelder: In the year 2042, people of color will be in the majority in the United States. They already are in many of our cities and farming areas. Yet America still imagines itself—on television, in advertising, and in political rhetoric—as racially white and culturally European. What would it mean to change our self-image and recognize that we’re made up of a mixture of races, nationalities, and cultures?
Carl Anthony: I believe that the biggest change would be the changing of our imagined community. The Eurocentric view of the world rests on a story that goes back probably five centuries. The fact is, everyone has ancestors that go back 200,000 years. The opportunity is to actually develop a shared story that includes everybody and also includes the Earth.
Carlos Jimenez: We’d have an opportunity to break free from chasing a false expectation about who we’re supposed to be. A lot of people go through self-denial in order to conform to the image of white European society. We start looking down on our own cultures, traditions, and practices.
Biko Baker: The other day I noticed on Twitter that many women of color are using Barbie as their status name. It struck me as horrible because white women can’t live up to the Barbie standard and African American women definitely can’t. I see self-hate on a daily basis in the communities where I work.
But, as Malcolm X highlighted, people of color aren’t the minority—the world population is brown. If we can truly represent what’s going on in this world and not let the Westernized image get in the way, I think we will see a growing self-confidence. But I don’t think this is going to come easily.
Robert Jensen: The changes in demographics may make us a more multicultural society. But politically, we are still Eurocentric. It will not be easy to dislodge the white power structure, in part because society can absorb and co-opt people even when they are not racially white.
Adrienne Maree Brown: Obama’s election brought a black man into office, but does he bring black culture with him? How do we carry culture forward along with biological race—which is not even a scientific reality? How do we learn the lessons from our history of displacement, slavery, and colonization, and discover each other and all the cultural history that we carry?
With the ecological situation we’re in, it’s ancestral knowledge that we especially need to connect with. Then we can access the secrets for taking care of the planet that we’re on.
Grace Lee Boggs: We need to understand the diversity emerging in this society not only in terms of race. For example, people with physical disabilities are giving us insight into a culture of the heart and of the spirit that can help us evolve.
Carl: I think a pivotal point in our story is the period of European expansion and colonization, which touched every single person on the planet and brought about the changes that we’re struggling with today. All our social movements since that time have been a response—the anti-colonialism movement, the struggle against slavery, the labor movement, women’s movement, the ecological movement.
I don’t necessarily agree that this is going to be difficult to topple. With the emergence of India and China, as well as other developing countries, we will be shocked at how swiftly things change in the next century. Nobody thought that the Soviet Union would disappear, but it did.
I think we need a new story and we need it to be an inclusive story that has all of these dimensions in it: race, class, gender, generations, as well as our relationship with the natural world.
Sarah: Do you see signs of this new culture and this new story emerging?
US Social Forum, the number one thing I see is the emergence of wholeness. Folks recognize that health care cannot be separated from the environment or the economy. And direct-action strategy can’t stand alone—it has to be part of a holistic strategy that includes negotiation, relationship building, and what happens after there is some success. This wholeness is coming from leaders who are getting more comfortable showing up in their whole identity.Adrienne: In my work with national organizations like the Ruckus Society, the Allied Media Conference, and now the
Carlos: I agree about restoring wholeness. At the last World Social Forum, the indigenous Aymara people from the Andes brought the concept of buen vivir, which is about living life in harmony and equilibrium among men, women, different communities, and above all between humans and the natural world.
I was blown away. And when I talked with folks from different countries, with different economic, political, and social realities, we discovered that we have a shared agreement of where we want to go. We will take different roads, but ultimately, we have a shared idea about harmony and equality.
Carl: Wholeness also means taking responsibility for directing and leading society. As long as we just protest against somebody else governing, we run up against limitations. In Afghanistan, for example, it’s no longer sufficient to be anti-war.
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