High Cost of Ignoring Minority Students
Browner America: Sandra E. Timmons hopes that population trends will spur us to invest in kids of color.
I think, if nothing else, this should be news that begins to shift our focus to what the long-term cost is of not educating our children so that they are as productive as possible and contributing to society in the most meaningful ways. People are already looking at the economic cost of the achievement gap in America's schools ... So, if anything, the data needs to shift our focus to longer-term thinking about how we can have the kind of future society we want.
TR: The idea that America will be a "majority minority" nation gets a lot of attention. Is there anything you wish people would focus on instead of, or in addition to, the numbers?
SET: Every time I hear about these large cuts where hundreds of teachers are being laid off, I wonder, "What are people thinking?" If we're not investing in young people, why would we think that would not result in more problems down the line [regarding] people who aren't finishing school, aren't going on to college, aren't maximizing who they should be?
I believe when we stop focusing on how these issues disproportionately affect black and Latino kids, we do it at our own peril. The fact that it happens in one corner of our society -- a corner that's becoming larger -- should be a sign that these issues affect all of us. We're all in this together.
TR: As more Americans have nonwhite ancestry, will the definition of whiteness itself be affected?
SET: I think our concept of whiteness has already been affected. I think that race as a construct isn't working as well. Clearly those lines are being blurred and crossed. We [A Better Chance] don't use [the word] "minority" because it's been a misnomer for quite some time. We think that "youth of color" is much more inclusive.
TR: Do you see the demographic trends continuing, and if they do, will it affect the work you do?
SET: I see them continuing. I think that's where the country has been headed, and I certainly think it will impact our work. We have worked to create opportunities for young people of color.
As we talk about what these trends mean and the need for quality education, I hope we can create more opportunities for more young people as a result of this. I hope people recognize and see the need for investing in organizations like mine and others that are working to bridge a gap and help more young people achieve their full potential.
Next: Marcia Alesan Dawkins.
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.