This proposal represents a goal I have had for years. I would welcome comments, including comments on how to fund such a Center.
PROPOSAL FOR A NEW U.S. CENTER ON RACISM AND ANTIRACISM
RATIONALE FOR THE CENTER: This proposed Center on Racism and Antiracism would be the first of its kind anywhere in the United States. The Center will be designed to generate discussion, debate, and education on issues of U.S. and global racism and antiracism; specifically, it will encompass a variety of creative educational, research, and applied training programs. Those involved would be college students, faculty, and administrators, those coming to conferences and institutes held by the Center, and the public and policymakers across the nation and, hopefully, the world. This Center would fit well with the central mission of a college or university as a liberal arts center. This mission, as I see it, includes not only the preparation of students to live in and contribute innovatively and substantially to the emerging diverse and multiracial society, but also, more generally, the development of a society that is ever more liberal, democratic, and just.
Such a Center on Racism and Antiracism is badly needed, especially given the continuing high level of racist thought and practice in the United States and the coming demographic changes of the next century. The United States is becoming ever more complex and diverse in its population. European Americans are a decreasing fifth of the world's population and a decreasing proportion of U.S. population. Whites are now a minority in four of the five largest U.S. cities--New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago--and in larger areas such as New Mexico, Hawaii, and southern Florida, Texas, and California. If current migration and birth rates continue, about the year 2002 whites will become a minority of California's population; about 2010, a minority of Texas' population; between 2015 and 2040, a minority of the population in Arizona, New York, Nevada, Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, and some other states; and about 2055, a minority of the U.S. population.
These demographic changes have major social, political, and economic implications. By about the year 2040 the public educational system will be predominantly composed of students of color--with significant implications for staffing, structure, and curriculum. By the 2050s a majority of the U.S. labor force will no longer be white, and the population and labor force will be older. The retired population will have a majority of whites, while the working population will have a majority of workers of color. This will likely create major social and political tensions and open conflict. White politicians opposed to such policies as legal immigration and affirmative action will not likely be elected when a majority of the relevant constituencies becomes citizens of color. As constituencies change, juries and justice systems, educational systems, and government policies will be under great pressure to change.
Nonetheless, today most white Americans, and many other Americans, are totally unprepared for these changes. In research studies most whites still admit to holding racist images of and attitudes toward African Americans and other people of color. And numerous studies show large-scale discrimination by whites in housing, education, employment, and public accommodations. We already see a balkanizing of the nation, with many whites moving into guarded-gated communities and/or out of California cities and other coastal cities into the whiter areas of the Rocky Mountain and Midwestern states. Many whites are moving their children into private schools; others are joining armed militias with extreme racist ideologies.
Remarkably, there is little public or political discourse on these issues, and remarkably little research on these matters at U.S. colleges and universities. (This is also true for issues of global racism.) This Center will be designed to stimulate and contribute to the kind of national discussion, debate, and action necessary to the avoidance of open racial and ethnic conflict in the United States--and to building a real multiracial, multiethnic democracy.
The Center is conceptualized
now as a ten-year program, with ongoing funding from a college or university,
as well as funding from outside foundations. The Center will focus on researching
and opening up new discussions of (1) how, why, and where racism continues
to operate at the individual, institutional, cultural, and societal levels,
in the United States and globally; (2) how, why, and where antiracist strategies
and programs have emerged and been successful, or failed, both in the past
and the present; and (3) how we Americans might build a true multiracial,
multiethnic democracy in the United States.
POSSIBLE CENTER PROGRAMS: (1) The Center will develop and fund several programs to involve numerous undergraduate students in doing research on racism and antiracism; these will include semester-long seminars and field research projects (and summer projects) with faculty and visiting postdoctoral scholars, internships with groups in various cities working on racism and antiracism issues, summer seminars on racism and antiracism for college seniors from across the nation, and new courses to attract large numbers of undergraduates to study and discuss their multiracial futures (including distance learning courses that would link students from colleges and require appropriate technologies); (2) The Center will develop major Internet websites to make available to a large audience the original research and applied-program papers and books developed by Center personnel and affiliates, as well as to list other key papers and books (and related websites) of interest to any who wish to learn about these issues; (3) The Center will sponsor conferences (on and off campus) on specific racism and antiracism issues (including applied and basic research); some conferences will enable major scholars to interact with novice researchers from around the nation and from overseas; other conferences will deal with unlearning racism and teaching antiracist strategies to groups such as educators, business executives, and activists; and specific national conferences to present undergraduate research on racism issues; (4) The Center will house and fund three postdoctoral scholars each year (two-year stipends), with these scholars chosen nationally from new PhDs (in the social sciences and humanities) wishing to do advanced work in the Center's primary areas.
CENTER STAFF: The Center should have a director and an associate director who are high-caliber researchers and/or teachers working in the basic and applied research areas that the Center will accent. The Center should have a staff large enough to handle these bold and innovative programs. This would mean at least an administrative assistant, a foundations/program officer, two senior secretaries, and a half dozen student assistants.
TENTATIVE BUDGET (ANNUAL): for Director, Associate director, Administrative Assistant, Program officer, Secretaries, Three postdoctoral positions, Part-time student assistants, benefits for staff, Annual conferences, Office and website expenses, Travel for staff, postdoctoral visitors, and students--$1 million.
LOCATION: The location should be on or near college campus, so as to insure full integration of Center into college and student life.