Thursday, August 13, 2009

SRC Continues Tradition of Cutting-Edge Research with New Study of Black-Brown Coalitions

Click here to review the report!

The Southern Regional Council’s predecessor, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, emerged during the historic “Red Summer” of 1919 – a high water mark of racial division in the United States. For the ensuing ninety years, we have sought to shed light on barriers to the establishment of a just society in the South, and to illuminate a path toward the eradication of those barriers.

The Commission’s publications – including Charles S. Johnson’s Collapse of Cotton Tenancy and Ira Reid’s Sharecroppers All – were instrumental in shaping rural policy for the Roosevelt Administration. The Council’s Ashmore Project resulted in the publication of The Negro in the Schools, which documented the harmful effects of segregation and was cited in the Supreme Court briefing in Brown v. Board of Education. For years, the Council worked to inform the nation's labor policy through its annual reports on The Climate for Workers in the U.S. The Council’s 1998 report, Seeking an America as Good as its Promise, challenged conventional wisdom about white attitudes towards affirmative action remedies. Our 2008 report on Trends in Voting Policy revealed barriers which continue to impede full electoral participation in the South

For most of its history, the Council’s work addressed the paradigm of a South which was made up of two principal communities – one black and one white. In the waning days of the 20th Century, however, the Council began broadening its work to address the impact immigration was beginning to have in our region. The very definition of “minority” in the South had begun to shift, as Latinos and members of other communities of color began to settle in the region, and the Council was one of the first traditional race relations “think tanks” to address this new reality.

In 1999 the Council launched Partnerships for Racial Unity, a first tentative effort to envision bridges of cooperation and multi-racial understanding. We partnered with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) to co-sponsor a series of “Atlanta Parent Workshops” to increase the involvement of Latino parents in the public schools. We collaborated with the University of Memphis Center for Research on Women and the Highlander Center for Research and Education in a community-based research project entitled Race and Nation: Building New Communities for the South. This collaboration resulted in a report entitled The New Latino South, which exposed the challenges which new immigrants face in finding their way in a social landscape defined in many locations by the contentious divide between black and white. We held a series of meetings across the State of Georgia to promote cross-racial progressive coalitions and identify common interests and collaborative opportunities. Notably, our meetings in Dalton and Valdosta, Georgia surfaced important common concerns about the treatment of workers, access to quality health care, and lack of political representation. In one of our statewide gatherings, Latino participants expressed the belief that much could be learned from the experience and struggle of black southerners.

Our experience tells us that African Americans and Latinos in the South often face similar challenges as they seek to achieve their full social and economic potential. Instead of joining forces to achieve goals which they have in common, however, they often see themselves as competing in a “zero-sum-game” for limited social, economic and political opportunities. Standing against this trend are examples in which African-American and Latino communities have come together to work collaboratively around issues of common concern.

With assistance from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Council has embarked on an effort to explore the prospects for collaboration between African American and Latino communities. This effort has been led by Project Director Joel Alvarado and Principal Researcher, Charles Jaret, and much of their work has been informed by focus group participants from four very diverse southern communities. We are deeply grateful to all of the participants for their roles in making this report possible. We believe that this effort has produced insights which will be useful in identifying those conditions which best lend themselves to successful collaborations.

Click here to view the report!

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