“A conscious pursuit of equity” — Thoughts on Uncommon Common Ground
This response to the new book Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future is written by Jim Gibson, a Senior Fellow and board member of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (and the PolicyLink board chair).
Uncommon Common Ground is an important book on several levels. It provides intelligent policy analysis regarding the powerful demographic trends and multi-decade data projections that are reconfiguring this nation’s ethnic and cultural character. It ingeniously examines the seminal role of the “black-white paradigm” in shaping the current multi-ethnic dynamic. And particularly impressive to me personally, it shares the personal histories and experiences which have shaped the authors’ paths to their roles, identities, and interactions with the racially sculpted shape of American reality. Finally, they make a persuasive case that we must, as a society, default to a conscious pursuit of equity as a driving framework that can “carve out space for more people to contribute to their communities, metropolitan regions, and the country.”
I was 20 years old when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that it was no longer permitted under the Constitution to treat people differently based on race.
Life dealt me a hand that essentially compelled me to participate in dismantling the Jim Crow structure of the South and its northern variations. I was able to do so through active involvement with my community in the civil rights movement – first, as co-chairman of the student movement in Atlanta and, subsequently, as executive secretary of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP. This was a time when we mounted successful economic boycotts against the city’s major department stores, began the integration of the public schools, and otherwise went about wreaking havoc on the vast, deep, and pervasive manifestations of age-old, systemic racial discrimination.
The point is that I became a community activist in a context that made me believe you can make needed changes if you organize with your neighbors and act with informed, strategic focus and determination.
I also consider myself fortunate that my life permitted – in fact, forced me– to attend to the fundamental question posed by the Brown decision: What does the country have to do differently the day after it has said it’s no longer legal to treat people differently based on race from what it was doing the day before? What administrative, programmatic, and institutional practices have to change? How do you make those changes?
Uncommon Common Ground describes why we must admit we have not yet fully answered those questions and addresses how we can and must proceed from here.