While people across the southern United States value equity and diversity, white people and people of color have drastically different perceptions on the existence and impact of institutionalized discrimination in today’s society.
That’s according to a recent study by the E Pluribus Unum Fund, an organization founded by Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans.
The group is dedicated to bringing “people together across the American South around the issues of race, equity, economic opportunity, and violence, proving the American motto that "out of many, one.’”
The fund surveyed 1,800 white, black, and Hispanic people across 13 southern states; over 800 people participated in interviews, focus groups, and community round tables.
“We asked purposefully broad questions,” said Program Director Roxanne Lorio. “What's working? What's not? Why? What solutions can bring people together and where can we find common ground?”
The results were categorized into three overall themes: the enduring legacy of racism, barriers to opportunity, and building a shared future.
Landrieu said that while “it’s pretty clear that there is still a massive challenge in this country for all of us to find common ground,” his organization is focused on finding solutions.
“Changing the narrative that perpetuate systemic and interpersonal racism, we believe is going to help shift people's attitudes and behaviors,” he said. “If described appropriately, and in full context, human beings have shown a great capacity to change and to get better.”
Those solutions include nurturing leaders who buy into the fund's vision of a more inclusive South and backing policies that “reverse the enduring harms of America’s Jim Crow era past for those who continue to experience them today.”
The organization hopes to start working on policy change by the beginning of next year and are already writing the curriculum for the leadership accelerator they plan to launch in March 2020.
“E Pluribus Unum is going to try to work through, in a very thoughtful way and a purposeful way, in trying to bring this out together across race and class,” Ladrieu said. “But at the end of the day, you got to choose to want it to work.”
Visit their interactive website to read the results of the study and listen to some of the conversations they had across the South.