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Community 2020 Forum on
Making Diversity Work in Our Nation's Cities



Secretary Andrew Cuomo
Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School
Hugh Price, National Urban League
Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO
Karen Narasaki, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
Office of Community Planning and Development
451 7th Street, Southwest, Room 10130
Washington, DC 20410-4000

Secretary Andrew Cuomo

It's my pleasure to welcome you to the Housing and Urban Development for the second in our Community 2020 seminar series. This is a series that was started by Vice President Al Gore, who had the idea of taking the real issues that face cities across the country, looking at them one at a time, and doing an in-depth analysis with some of the best minds in the country.

Our first seminar was on economic development. The Vice President was here to kick that one off. How do you create jobs in central cities? How do you give people access to capital? How do you keep the American Dream a reality in those cities that are facing so many real challenges? The economy is going great guns; there are twelve and a half million new jobs, and the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years. But we still have real structural problems in cities. How do we start to address them? That was the first topic of discussion.

Tonight's topic, in my opinion, probably addresses the most serious problem that we face as a nation, that we face as cities, that we face as Americans. That is the question of race. The President has said in words that are far more eloquent than any words that I can muster, "When we talk about race, we talk about an issue that money cannot buy and power cannot compel, an issue that technology cannot create and Congress cannot legislate. It is an issue that can only come from the human spirit, from the depths of our soul and the poetry of our debate. It is the challenge of creating one America."

Those are the President's words. The One America initiative is very much a priority of the President of the United States. This topic will be addressed well by the experts who are with us this evening because they really are the best minds in the nation on the topic.

But I think one of the reasons it's such a powerful topic is it's a topic that anyone here could speak to, because it is a topic that we have all lived with. We've all had experiences. It's not an academic topic. It's not just an intellectual topic. It's an experiential topic. We all have the dreams and we all have the pains of the topic.

My grandparents happen to be Italian Americans and I remember them telling stories of what it was like to be called at that time a dago and a guinea because they were Italian Americans, and the degradation that they felt, branded by birth as loud and brash and dirty because they were Italian Americans. My father felt it. He graduated at the top of his class in law school; but couldn't get a job at any of the top law firms. The Dean of the law school said, maybe you should change your name -- too many vowels.

And I learned it from listening to the stories. I learned it as a child seeing my grandmother's face when she would tell the story, watching the pain in her face as the words came out, and seeing the pain in my father's face when he would tell the story about not getting the job in the top firms. I learned it literally as a child in the home before I got to any school, before I read any book. That's how we teach race and immigration in this country -- not from a textbook, but, when children are three and four and five and six, through the attitudes that they live with and the stories from their grandparents. In my case it was as Italian Americans. But you could be Irish. You could be Polish. You could be German. The accents were different but the tales were all the same.

For us our diversity is our greatest strength but at the same time it's our greatest potential weakness. The tension that race poses is a tension that has been with this nation from birth. We celebrate the ideas of the Declaration of Independence. Yet it's all because a man who owned more than 100 slaves.

We crossed the frontier in the name of independence, but we pushed Native Americans off their land. We asked Asian Americans to fight for freedom in World War II but then we impounded their families in internment camps when they went off to war. The Statue of Liberty welcomes you with a torch in her hand while the other hand stamped "wop" on your papers at Ellis Island. One hand holds the torch while the other pulls the lever on ballot to outlaw immigration.

This year we watched Tiger Woods reach new heights. He won the crown jewel of golf tournaments, but there are still golf courses in this country where blacks aren't allowed to play.

The problems have always been worse in cities. Why? Because cities were the stepping off point, the gateway, for all these new immigrants who came to the country. That's where they were concentrated and that's where we first addressed these issues. That's literally where they got off the boat. Cities were going to be the great melting pot. That at least was the initial image of this nation. But cities taught us that we didn't really want to melt one into the other. We didn't really want to assimilate one into the other. We wanted co-existence but not assimilation, where we each kept our own dignity and our own pride and our own beauty and our own independent space. We all came together not as a melting pot but as a mosaic.

In this time of transition where everything seems to change -- the economy is changing. space exploration is changing, we're reaching Mars -- the issue and challenges of race remain the same.

Yesterday we had the pleasure and honor here at the Department of Housing of having the housing minister of South Africa meet us at the Housing and Urban Development. We spent the morning talking about a country where 80 percent of the people who live in poverty in the cities are not white; where black babies are twice as likely to die as white babies; where black children are five times as likely to get shot as white children; where poor black teenagers are ten times more likely to drop out of school than wealthy white teens and 80 percent remain unemployed.

We spent the morning talking about the country. South Africa; right? No. That's the United States. That's the United States. We're talking to South Africa that is now working its way out of apartheid and facing these issues. The more they articulate their issues, the more you see our issues.

This is not to say we haven't made progress over the past 30 years. We have. There were great giants who led us: Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy and President Johnson -- all of whom made tremendous progress. We lost two giants in just these past two weeks: Justice Brennan and the first secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the first African American in a President's cabinet, Secretary Weaver.

But with all the progress over the past 30 years, we still have the Rodney King situation. We still have the Mark Furmans of the world. We still have Ebonics. We still had church burnings last year. We still have the Proposition 187s and the code words with the English-only laws. That all still exists.

And of all the issues we face today -- I don't care if it's housing, economic development, jobs, education -- race, in my opinion, undergirds all of them. We might not talk about it. We might not address it. We might talk around it. But it's there.

And if you look at the challenge for today, you're now talking about the challenge of a multi-racial society. The challenge has increased ten-fold. It's no longer about blacks and whites and Italians and Poles. Korean, Dominican, Iranian, Mexican, Latin, 75 different languages spoken in the Los Angeles school district. In Wayne County, Michigan, 145 different racial and ethnic groups.

How do they all live together? How do they all co-exist? That's the question. That's the challenge. That's what the experts are going to start to lead us in dialogue on. What do we do? Do we put up walls? Do we stop it? Do we prohibit it? Do we pass new immigration laws and say that's it? I'm pulling up the bridge. No more in the United States. The President's vision is much different. He says, look, the way we're going to make it is the way we have made it: We're going to make it as One America.

For two reasons. First, because it's smart and, second, because it's right. It's smart because if we're going to win in global economy, is we're going to compete; then we have to do it together. We have to use all our strengths to compete and win this global race. There's no doubt about that. That is the smart track for us to take.

But beyond the dialogue, a progressive policy is needed that does what it has to do to make this country work for everyone, everywhere. Economic development to get those jobs and turn the cities. Educational opportunity for everyone, a program that goes with that, that works to that. Today with the balanced budget, we've actually made great strides in that regard because it's smart.

The second reason is because it's right. Because it's what promise in this country was all about in the first place. What made this place work from the very beginning was: Come here, work like heck. You're going to do the best you can with your God given talents. If you can work and you want to work and you play by the rules, you can make it in this country. Whether you're black, whether you're white; it doesn't matter. That's what this country was all about. And for us to reach our full potential, that's what the country must be about.

You can talk about all these great signs of success. The Dow Jones hit yet another high today. But that's not enough. It's not enough to judge yourself solely by economic transactions. Judge yourself by human relations. That's what it's all about. That's what this topic brings home.

You'll know that you're a success when you are a success for everyone. You'll know you're a success when you can talk about community and cohesiveness and mean it. And you'll know you're a success when you look out and you're colorblind and you don't see black and white and yellow. You see all Americans. That's when we're a success. This topic today is about when we'll be a success, when we finally meet the challenge that we haven't yet met since the birth of this nation.

The President's leadership is the first step. The second step is all of us talking about it honestly, candidly, expressing our feelings, building bridges among us.

I want to thank all the panelists who are here tonight who really went out of their way to lead this discussion for us. I'm going to introduce all of them now. We'll hear from the four speakers and then we'll go to questions and dialogue from the audience.

Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard University Law School, one of America's foremost thinkers on the subject of race and law. He was a Rhodes scholar, Yale Law School graduate who, as a young attorney, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His latest book "Crime, Race and the Law" has been hailed as one of the best books written on the topic of race in America.

Linda Chavez-Thompson is the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. She is the highest ranking woman in the labor movement. A second generation American, she rose up through the ranks one step at a time, first, as a union secretary, then a business manager, then executive director for a local union, then as vice president of AFSCME to become the first person of color ever elected to an executive office of the AFL-CIO. Last month President Clinton appointed her as one of just seven members of his Advisory Board on Race.

Hugh Price is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League. Also, a graduate of Yale Law School, Mr. Price was the first Executive Director of the Black Coalition of New Haven that was dedicated to restoring economic vitality and inter-group cooperation. A former partner in Cogen and Holt associates from 1978 to 1982. Mr. Price was a member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times in which capacity I've had an opportunity to speak to him a number of times, not always successfully. In 1995 he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the National Skills Standards Board.

Karen Naraski is the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, a nonprofit organization. Ms. Naraski also serves as chairperson of the Compliance Enforcement Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and is the chairperson of National Network Against Anti-Asian Violence. She is also a graduate of Yale University. Ms. Naraski serves on five boards, including the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Randall Kennedy
Harvard University Law School

What are we Americans seeking to achieve at that an important juncture at which housing and urban development policy intersects with race relations? And what will it take to achieve the goals to which we aspire? These are the questions to which my remarks will briefly be addressed.

"We Americans" constitute a large, sprawling, fractious, competitive population in which people are animated by a wide variety of goals, some of which are in sharp conflict. I emphasize the matter of conflict because in settings such as this, there is often a desire to stress conciliation and commonalties, frequently to the point of obscuring disagreement. In my remarks, I seek to clarify the boundaries of conflict in order, hopefully, to aid in the process of productively transforming them.

Three camps predominate in terms of defining competing visions of race relations in the United States.

One camp marches under the banner of racial integration. Some members of this camp now prefer the term diversity. A difficulty with the term integration -- and the same is true for diversity -- is that it is so often used and so infrequently defined that it embraces a variety of distinct even antagonistic conceptions of racial regimes to which various Americans aspire.

One conception of integration is individualistic. It posits a racial order in which people live together amicably, according to nonracial individual preferences that create communities that have no racial character. Justice Brennan articulated this vision when he wrote in one of his most famous Supreme Court opinions (Green v. County School Board), that he aimed to create a system of public education in which a school would no longer be known as a "white" school or a "black" school, but as just "school".

To create that system, he was willing to engage in race-specific busing, race-specific redrawing of attendance zones and other measures that would virtually ensure interracial student bodies in schools that were formerly homogenous. The pertinent analogue would be government intervention such that a neighborhood would no longer be known as "white", "black", "Latino" or "Asian" but as just a neighborhood.

A different conception of integration is group oriented. It posits a racial order in which boundaries between racial groups are recognized, respected and, indeed, supported. It sees nothing wrong with people of similar racial background preferring to live in concentrations out of a sense of racial kinship, so long as that feeling of in-group solidarity does not degenerate into hostility toward others, and so long as the overall socio-political system offers access to all racial groups to the financial, political and cultural resources that make possible the creation of thriving communities. Whereas the former type of integration unequivocally applauds the racial transformation of baseball by having individual black players join the white major leagues, integrationists of the latter persuasion would have preferred the color barrier to have been broken by having the all- black teams of the Negro leagues join white professional baseball.

A related conflict that is often papered over by the term integration has to do with different notions of how much inter-mixture a racial integration requires. Large numbers of whites and blacks say they would be happy to live in "integrated" neighborhoods. To many blacks, however, integration means the presence of a percentage of African Americans that is much larger than what many whites mean by acceptable integration.

Despite these and other important conflicts, those who march under the integration banner share two important aims and beliefs. They desire reform in order to change the current situation and they insist that governmental intervention is required to undo the patterns of separate and unequal housing that are widespread throughout urban America.

A second camp marches under the banner of "anti-discrimination". People in this camp object to racial discrimination in the private as well as public housing markets. They want to remove racial preferences or exclusions as a barrier to the housing choices of any person. They desire a future in which a person is able to rent or purchase any dwelling that person is able to afford. They view racial discrimination as tainting the process by which housing ought to be allocated.

These views are largely consistent with those held by people in the integrationist camp. The difference is that people in the integrationist camp prefer to the point of insistence a given racial outcome. They have in their mind's eye some implicit baseline of appropriate racial mixture which they are seeking to reach. People in the anti-discrimination camp, by contrast, are relatively, if not wholly, indifferent to outcomes. What concerns them is the process. They seek a housing process that is free of purposeful racial discrimination. If they are convinced that the process is free of such discrimination, they are willing to accept any residential pattern that emerges even if those patterns give rise to high rates of racial concentration.

The overwhelming majority of the people on this stage, and I suspect in this audience, situate themselves somewhere within the first two camps. People drawn to an event such as this are likely to be rather committed reformists who are dissatisfied with the status quo and inclined to favor reform, perhaps even far reaching reform.

Facing the devotees of these first two camps, however, is a third camp. This third camp marches under the banner of "freedom to choose". People in this camp, like those in the first two, embrace the proposition that the government should be prohibited from discriminating against racial minorities. In contrast, however, to integrationists or practitioners of the anti-discrimination principle, people in the freedom to choose camp envision a future in which in the private sector the racial character of housing transactions is left unregulated. By their words or their conduct, people in the third camp indicate that they would prefer to exempt racial discrimination and private housing transactions from governmental regulations.

In formal terms the third camp has been soundly defeated. Federal and state legislation largely prohibits racial discrimination in housing markets. In 1968 Congress prohibited discrimination in many housing markets, and followed up with amendments in 1988 that substantially strengthened that legislation. Furthermore, there are few high level academics or activists or policymakers in or outside government who openly espouse the third camp's position.

On another level, though, this camp continues to exercise a quiet but potent influence. Day by day, realtors, lenders, zoning board officials, sellers of homes and their neighborhoods engage in acts of racial discrimination that implicitly embrace the proposition that racial discrimination is acceptable even if illegal.

The broad scope and powerful effect of illegal racial discrimination in housing markets is well documented by an array of careful housing market audits. In one well-known study researchers found that in some major metropolitan markets, black and Hispanic renters and home buyers suffered illegal race discrimination in roughly half of the times that they responded to newspaper advertisements for available housing units.

Any realistic discussion of prospects for 2020 must grapple with these realities. Neither racial integration nor racial anti-discrimination will make much headway in the future without persuading large numbers of people to cease racially discriminatory conduct and to pressure their friends and associates to see such conduct as well.

I am not saying that illegal racial discrimination is the only impediment to racial minorities in housing markets. Their relative financial weakness is significant, too. I am simply saying that racial discrimination and toleration of racial discrimination is an important barrier. And if one cannot obtain public support to lower it, then one cannot hope to win solid backing for other more controversial interventions including those that would undermine economic impediments that reflect the accumulated consequences of racial oppression in the past.

Nor am I suggesting that our current anti-discrimination laws are wholly ineffective in dealing with the problem of elicit racial discrimination. I support these laws and urge our political leaders to spent more resources to ensure their vigorous enforcement. The problem of illicit racial discrimination, however, will never be satisfactorily dealt with by lawsuits because litigation is too expensive, uncertain and difficult to serve effectively as anything other than a supplementary weapon. The primary field of battle is the battle ground for public opinion and it is on this subject that I devote the remainder of my time.

Specifically, I would like to make two recommendations regarding the way that policymakers, activists and regular citizens should seek to change the minds, hearts and conduct of people in the third camp.

The first has to do with developing and articulating a realistic understanding of what motivates racial discrimination. Some racial discrimination stems from malevolent reflects of bigotry. Much of it, however, stems from tactical self-protective choices that people make, choices conditioned by people viewing coloredness especially blackness as a proxy for an increase risk of criminality, disorder, joblessness and other negative traits. In saying that a considerable amount of racial discrimination stems from rational calculation, I do not excuse it. Invidious racial discrimination is illegal socially harmful conduct that ought to be discouraged. It is a mistake to, however, demonize racial discriminators in such a way that we mis-perceive their motives and identities.

The ranks of the racial discriminator and those who sympathize with them and those who will act politically to protect the interests that many racial discriminators also seek to protect are made up not only of malevolent bigots but also by people that you and I know and respect and even like. These ranks are filled by some of our friends and neighbors. To reach these friends and neighbors we must address the calculations that prompt them to engage in racial discrimination.

In some cases this will entail patiently showing them that their association of blackness with negative traits is inaccurate, the result, perhaps of erroneously crediting tainted sources of information such as news and entertainment media that marginalize the responsible hard working respectable black and normalize the trouble making, menacing and irresponsible Negro. The public is constantly reminded of social pathology in communities populated by substantial numbers of people of color. It would be very useful for people in positions of authority to present to the public vivid and credible portrayals of attractive communities that are home to substantial numbers of people of color.

In other cases, candidly addressing the calculations of potential discriminators might mean acknowledging that their calculations are accurate, that there exists an association between blackness and a negative trait, an association, for instance, between blackness and social disabilities that often shatter black Americans such as decreased responsiveness from officials like police and trash collection bureaucrats. In such a case, one should recognize the desire of the discriminator to protect herself and her family and friends from the social fallout that so often afflicts racial minorities. One should also investigate the possibility of arguing with the potential discriminator that it will be in her own self-interest to do something other than engage in racial discrimination that will only perpetuate a racially divided society and which burdens whites as well as blacks.

One should investigate developing arguments to the effect that for whites as well as blacks maintaining current arrangements backed by the followers of the third camp is more dangerous and costly than racially egalitarian alternatives. Overwhelmingly critics of the status quo focus on the devastating burdens it places on racial minorities as if appeals to altruism or guilt will move influential whites to embrace policies that they perceive as detrimental to themselves. This is a recipe for inaction if not reaction.

In order to move more influential whites toward embracing needed reforms, more attention will have to be paid to showing that such reforms will benefit them as well as racial minorities.

Hugh Price
National Urban League

It's a pleasure to be with you this afternoon and I'm particularly glad that we were able to mesh a trip to Washington for this event with the start of our annual conference later this week on Sunday evening. I will just put in a very brief commercial plug because the theme really does apply to our conversation here. The theme of our annual conference this year is economic power, the next civil rights frontier. We will be up at the convention center and everyone is welcome. We have a dynamite program. The Secretary is playing a major, major role.

I would like to begin by saluting Secretary Cuomo who is really passionate about cities. I have a vivid recollection of the conversation we had in my office a couple of years ago in which he came up and we just sat down and free associated about the fact that we somehow together, all of us, had to figure out how to raise the profile and the priorities of cities in the public discourse.

A great deal has happened in that regard. Then Assistant Secretary Cuomo has ascended to the top position in this department and he is pulling off the conversation that we had. As a matter of fact, I often think of him as a one man forklift truck who is literally lifting the agenda for cities high on the priority list of this country.

I'd also say that HUD and the Urban League movement are long time partners in the building of communities. Our 114 affiliates are deeply involved in the work of community development, job training and placement, youth services and the like. We are part of that critical infrastructure that makes communities work. And we hope to take that relationship between HUD and the Urban League moves to a new plateau.

I'm delighted to see Judy Winston here. As you know, she is the new Executive Director of the President's Commission on Race Relations. Judy, first, congratulations and, second, we know that the Commission is in very good hands with you there. I would also say briefly that this is sort of a family affair. Judy's husband and my mother worked together in Moreland Room at Howard University many, many years ago. If you haven't been up to the Moreland Room, it's one of the great collections of African American history and literature.

The theme of this dialogue -- Community 2020, making diversity work in cities -- is critically important. We are all engaged in putting out fires and dealing with contemporary problems and having an opportunity to pause in a venue like this for some visioning is very therapeutic.

Cities and race. We will begin to deal with the festering issues of race relations in this country if we can figure out how to make the places where people of different races live and work a whole lot better. So I want to approach this question from that angle.

It's interesting that just barely a decade ago cities were being written off as lost causes. You will remember that the demographers said that anyone who could would flee cities to the suburbs, to the exurbs and to gated communities.

A funny thing has happened on the way to the future. I'm not Pollyannish about it, but I definitely see signs of progress. The vital signs of cities are stronger than they've been in a couple of decades. In my job I have traveled to some 95 Urban League affiliates and I have taken a wind chill survey which I trust as much as any scholarly analysis of many, many cities. You see new energy downtown. Cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Jacksonville -- and you could go on and on. Housing prices in cities are actually beginning to creep up. I read in the Wall Street Journal that housing prices in Detroit actually rose 6 percent last year. Urban neighborhoods are showing new signs of life.

Just last Friday night I picked up my daughter at JFK airport. The expressway was all clogged up. So I decided to take a street route through your old home borough, Mr. Secretary, to Queens. And I went along Linden Boulevard for what seemed like forever. I thought it was going to take 15 or 20 minutes and it took an hour because there's so much energy along Linden Boulevard and throughout Queens. The place is alive. It's clean and it's kicking.

We see crime rates are declining. Tourism is up. Part of the reason for these phenomenona is the fact that there has been an all out assault on one of the real problems in our cities, that of crime. The reductions have been a welcome development. But there has been a price which Professor Kennedy has addressed in his work and which our country really needs to think about, and that is the rampant abuse of civil liberties of ordinary citizens who've done nothing wrong. There's a new crime that many folks in the black community talk about. It's called "driving while black". It's a real problem. The American Civil Liberties Union has done studies which show that the rate of police detention of people among African Americans and Latinos and others is vastly different and it must be addressed.

In the early 1980s when I was an editorial writer for the New York Times -- and I should also say, Mr. Secretary, it pains me to admit this, but I think you were still in graduate school -- my colleague on the editorial board, Roger Starr, coined a notoriously pessimistic phrase called planned shrinkage. He argued that New York City and other cities must begin to prepare in an orderly fashion for downsizing. He projected that some day New York City might have a population of merely five million or less.

Interestingly enough with the recovery that's happened in cities, we haven't heard that phrase "planned shrinkage" in an awfully long time because it no longer applies. The interesting questions I'd like to think a lot about this afternoon are what accounts for this resurgence, how durable it is, and what are its implications of a race relations.

One of the major factors driving this resurgence, and it's certainly true in New York City, is immigration. New immigrants to our city are an enormous asset. They bring energy. They bring deep-seated belief in the system and an eagerness to be part of it. Immigration bashing is not only myopic, it is dumb and we must stop it.

Secondly, we've seen the national economic growth begin to reduce unemployment all across the country. It's reached the shores of cities and begun to swallow up thousands of people who had been previously unemployed.

Thirdly, consumer goods companies are discovering that people of color really do have purchasing power, too. The CEO of Sears & Roebuck, Arthur Martinez, told me that one of the dumber things that Sears did some twenty years ago was to pull back from and away from urban areas because they didn't quite know how to deal with the new consumer. But one of the things that he is doing now in his tenure as the head of that great company is to open up stores all over, and they have discovered that some of the urban stores are among the most productive because consumers of color buy their goods.

Fourthly, cities are recovering because we have a new generation of tough-minded, pragmatic, apolitical, non-ideological mayors who come in all complexions: Mike White in Cleveland, Rudy Giuliani in New York City and many others. They are problem solvers, deal makers and believers in their cities. They 're passionate about those places. They focus on fundamentals such as reducing crime and boosting tourism.

Next I think that one of the things that proves the prognosticators absolutely wrong was that people would enjoy the splendid solitude of the suburbs and cyberspace. They have been proven dead wrong. Just as wrong as the prediction a while ago that the VCR would mean the death now of movie theaters. Human beings are social species and if you provide human beings with a safe place to congregate and work and play, they will come whether you visit the Chicago waterfront or Bryant Park right in back of the New York City Public Library.

Last year my wife and I went to an outdoor concert in Bryant Park. We went to see Casa Blanca for about the tenth time, as did 15,000 other people that night. They wanted to be close. They wanted to rub shoulders. Places like SummerStage that bring in multi-ethnic acts from all over the world draw thousands and thousands of people. These kinds of events provide opportunities for close encounters, for celebration of diversity. They're critically important. I have often thought if I were ever a mayor, I'd have a budget for such events because they bring people together to share space and share celebration.

Finally, cities have discovered that quality of life industries are really big business. Quality of life industries attract everyone from tourists and day trippers to the TGIF crowd. By quality of life industries, I mean stadiums that have been built in downtown in Baltimore and Cleveland, aquariums, museums, et cetera. These are industries that celebrate our diversity. Whether it's sports, whether it's dance, whether it's theater, they expose people not to sameness, but to the greatness of our diversity. Just think about the content of the experience that is drawing people together

But for all of these hopeful things that have happened in cities, we still have enormous challenges. The first challenge is to make certain that everyone participants in the recovery. There are pockets of poverty in cities that are so deep that they rival the great depression. The real question is whether, for example, the business leaders who are engineering the recovery of Cleveland have said to the teenagers in the Hough community that the Cleveland economy really wants them. Have the business leaders in Cleveland built wide and strong bridges from the inner city to the mainstream that can hold more than a handful of youngsters and then enable youngsters to cross over from poverty to opportunity, or have they reverted to hiring as usual?

You can't rely on a process like this on an EEOC with its backlog of 80,000 cases. We have got to be committed to making certain that all people participate in the economic revitalization of cities.

Secondly, and this ties to the theme of our conference, a key question is whether minorities, people of color, who comprise such a large proportion of the population in every city in this country are participating in the recovery, not just as employees but as entrepreneurs and owners of a piece of the action. With what is essentially the end of set asides as a mechanism for sharing economic opportunity, the question is whether new vehicles can be created -- whether as a matter of conscience or imperative -- that will make it possible for minorities to participate in the recovery of cities.

Also, are the big chains, the franchise companies, the hotels, that are driving the recovery sharing the opportunity and the bounty that is being created? There is an enormous talent pool of minority entrepreneurs in this country. We've just had the good fortune in the National Urban League to work with both Black Enterprise and with Fortune magazine, which have both done profiles of those entrepreneurs and their talents. They are bursting at the seams to break into the main stream economy. The question is whether they will have that chance.

Next, we've got to make certain that all the attributes of a truly decent and compassionate society are in place. The budget deal that was just announced today is an important step because it will extend health coverage to those who have not been covered in the past. But there is much more work we must do to make certain that we have a decent and inclusive society.

There must be universal access to quality preschool education so that all young people get to the starting gate on time. There must be schools that are child-centered, learning-oriented, technologically-current and accountable. We need an infrastructure of after school programs and summer programs that give young people constructive places to be and caring adults to be with while their parents in this new economy are off working.

And, finally, we must make certain that the organizations that comprise the infrastructure of our communities are vibrant and strong. I speak of the Urban Leagues and also the Boys and Girls Clubs and all of those other organizations that do the hard, nitty-gritty work of making communities work. We're involved in community building. Organizations like ours are involved in resolving tensions in communities. They are involved, for example, in helping to keep Park Slope and Crown Heights from blowing up after the second verdict [which] there.

So the bottom line for me is that we see hopeful signs in cities. The forces that are driving their recovery are durable, I believe, but there are many of the fundamentals of sustainable and inclusive and decent societies are not yet in place.

When you think of the great countries of the world, virtually the next word that comes to mind is the principal city in that country. Think of it. When you think of the United Kingdom, the first word is London. When you think of France, the first word is Paris. And when you think of Japan, the first word is Tokyo. If we will only finished the job of making our cities truly compassionate and inclusive for everyone who lives there, then perhaps some day, again, the first word out of our mouths when you think of the United States will be the great cities of this country.

Linda Chavez-Thompson

I am very delighted to be here and it's an honor for me to be invited, especially because the honor is an invitation that came from someone that I admire tremendously and that's Secretary Andrew Cuomo. When I see the Secretary -- and by the way he's a pretty terrific public servant, a gutsy person who speaks out and thinks on his feet and handles the tough questions -- I sometimes used to wonder where he learn how to do it all and to do it so well. I wondered if it might have something to do with a positive family influence.

Well, he owes it all to a fine grandmother. She came to this country from Italy as a young bride. She worked hard in the family grocery story in Queens and raised her kids and after about 40 years she decided the time had come to apply to be a citizen. At her hearing, the judge asked her how many stars there were in the American flag. She paused. And told him she didn't know. But then she had a question for the judge. How many hands of bananas are on a stalk? When the judge admitted he didn't know, she said proudly, well, I do. He was so impressed that he granted her citizenship on the spot. (Laughter and Applause.) To me that's admirable. You see, we grandmothers recognize quality in our own ranks.

I want to pay personal tribute to a personal hero of mine, the first HUD Secretary and the first person of color to serve in the Cabinet, Robert Weaver, who passed away two weeks ago. Everything we do here carries on his work. And I also want to pay tribute to another great HUD Secretary, Henry Cisneros, a very dear and close personal friend for many years and one of the finest government officials that I have ever met.

I know some of you in this room may already know who I am and what I am all about. But for those of you that I haven't had the opportunity to meet, let me tell you a little bit about my own background. I grew up as a Hispanic woman in Texas, the daughter of cotton share croppers. And those were the days when Hispanics were supposed to take the back seat to Anglos and Hispanic women were supposed to take a back seat to Hispanic men.

We were supposed to be quiet and obedient. But do you know what? My mother raised me in a very unusual way. She didn't tell me, Linda, you "can't" do this. And you "can't" do that. I guess you can tell I'm from Texas when I say "can't," but I figured that I would do it no matter what. And that's what keeps me going every day. I owe a lot to my mother but I owe a lot to the American labor movement. I've been lucky enough to break through a few barriers along the way, and I do have to give credit to the American labor movement for that.

All of that is who I am, a woman of color, a Latino, a labor activist from the south and even worse right-to-work State of Texas. And all of that shapes my message here today.

Let me start out by making a point that Secretary Cuomo makes and has made several times. When we talk about the search for remedy in our cities, it is a search by cities and suburbs together since more Americans now live in suburbs than cities. But we know that there is no single quick and easy remedy.

If we are going to build communities that are truly equal, communities where everyone has a fair chance; there are several things that we need to do and we need to do them together as a policy. Creating jobs in a robust, growing economy, enforcing our fair housing and other civil rights laws, strengthening affirmative action, offering more and better funded education and training, putting in place a trade policy that preserves the good jobs that we already have.

There is really no time to spare. We will lose a generation of inner city young people to drugs and violence and prison if we don't act. We know that the most reliable ladders to a better life is a decent, well paying job, but several rungs on the ladder are now missing.

Look at New York. It used to have more manufacturing jobs than any other city in human history, over a million manufacturing jobs in 1951. Brooklyn alone made soap pads, pencils, pianos, chewing gum and baseball cards to go with the chewing gum. It even made plastic leis and sent them to Hawaii where the Hawaiians would sell them to tourists.

Today almost two-thirds of all of those manufacturing jobs have disappeared. What's left are dead-end jobs that leave you stranded in poverty with no way out. One example is the fast food workers in Harlem. When they work full time, they make less than $9,000 per year and that, by no stretch of the imagination, is a living wage. Is it as hard to get a McDonald's job there as in the suburbs? No. It's harder in Harlem. Fourteen apply for every minimum wage fast food job there. So an African American in Harlem needs more skills and more experience for that job than a white American for the very same job in Long Island.

There is no community in America -- not New York, not anywhere -- that can afford this unfairness and this inequality. There is no community that can afford to channel millions of people into one big dead-end. Who can turn this around by 2020? Who can bring about a solution?

It is industry. Industry investing in workers, offering them training, hiring those who are considered hard to employ. It is the community. Supporting union organizing for higher wages and taking part in living wage campaigns at the local level working through religious groups and nonprofit organizations and projects such as subsidized housing for the elderly and the handicapped. It is government. Renewing a commitment to our cities, giving adequate funding to education, increasing mass transit, enforcing the law, targeting assistance to inner cities, enforcing the law, targeting assistance, guaranteeing welfare reform that will not undermine the urban wage case.

Another player that is absolutely vital, and this is one of America's best kept secrets, is a stronger, more effective labor movement. The truth is that the great mission of the unions is to make life better for working families, to make America more equal.

No institution in America does it better. In the past, the labor movement gave the plumber, the truck driver and the assembly line worker the chance to move next door to the accountant, the lawyer and the manager. They all went to the same churches. They all shopped at the same stores and their kids all went to the same schools. That's one of the best things that could happen in our communities. It helped bring this nation together. It helped this nation move ahead.

Today, in every city and town across the country there is no institution that does more than the labor movement to offer a chance in life to minorities, to immigrants, to women. We believe in equality, in solidarity. It's that simple. And that's what makes us run.

Look at the statistics and you see something very interesting: The union wage premium. This tells us how much more the average union member is earning over the average non-union member. Among white workers, the union wage premium is 24 percent but for African American workers, it is 30 percent. And for Latino workers, it is 38 percent.

For millions of workers who build our houses, who clean our offices, who sew our clothes and care for us when we're sick, that translates into a lot more groceries and utility bills, a better home and a better neighborhood, a brighter and more secure future. That's what unions do. That is what we do best. That is exactly why I can promise you that a diverse healthy vibrant city in 2020, a city that gives every working woman and man the chance to do well and support their family, is going to be a union city.

We're making that happen now more than ever. We are offering more workers of every color the chance to join a union. We are organizing African Americans and Mexican Americans immigrants working in construction in Las Vegas, Haitian nursing home workers home in Miami, Chinese American woman in the garment industry of New York City and hotel employees of every color in San Francisco.

At the same time we're helping working people get the training they need to get and keep good jobs. For example, all over the country our construction trade unions are running apprenticeship demonstration programs and working hand in hand with HUD through the Step Up program. We're training public housing residents in renovating the places where they live and moving them into good jobs with good wages after they finish. What a great opportunity not only to learn new skills for future employment, but to upgrade the place where you and your family live.

Why are we doing this and what is our goal? What do we want in our metropolitan areas? The Secretary put it so well when he told the Senate Committee, "Our goal must be to create a future unlike any that has come before, a future opened to all in which no person is left behind and in which no community is forgotten."

He is exactly right. One of my favorite singers was Woody Guthrie. A half century ago he used to sing, "this land is made for you and me". His song is still true about our cities. Our cities weren't made to be a pit of quicksand where our sisters and brothers sink down and down. Our cities weren't made to be a terrible desert for some of us and a beautiful oasis for a few.

Our cities were made for you and for me to live with dignity and security and equality and hope. Our cities were made for every young person in America including my two little grandchildren to have a future of freedom and safety and respect wherever they work, however they look, and however they live, and by whatever they dream.

Karen Narasaki
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

I'd greet you in an Asian language but that would probably take another half an hour because we have many different dialects. I will give you a break. I really appreciate the opportunity to add an additional layer of complexity to this discussion.

The changing demographics in the United States have increased the urgency for enhancing the historic white-black paradigm of race. And all too often Asian Pacific Americans have been excluded from the discussion and excluded from the table and I very much thank the Secretary for reaching out to ensure that this discussion tonight will be inclusive.

I wanted to share with you some of the growth that the Asian Pacific American community has experience because I think it will give you an idea that the parameters of the challenges we face. We are the fastest growing minority group in the United States today. We've doubled in size in each of the last two decades, and we will probably double again. We are slightly less than 4 percent of the national population.

We are concentrated geographically. For example, over 40 percent of the Asian Pacific community calls California home. Ten percent of my community live in L.A. alone. This concentration is also true within states where the communities are usually clustered around urban cores with metropolitan areas, for example, Chicago where there is 7 percent, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco where the Asian community has reached 20 percent and my home town of Seattle which is already 7 percent.

For many cities, having a sizable population of Asian Pacific Americans is a relatively new phenomenon. For example, even in Washington, D.C., the Asian community is 5 percent but in many areas in northern Virginia and southern Maryland, it's around 15 percent. Minneapolis-St. Paul where many refugees were settled, it's 3 percent and one in five children in the Minneapolis school district today is Hmong, a huge change from just even just ten years ago.

The population is very diverse, representing over two dozen nationalities with different languages, different religions (many of them non-Christian) and different cultures. Two-thirds of the community is foreign born and many have limited English proficiency. Those challenges make it very difficulty to include the community in the discussions of race in cities but it's absolutely imperative to do so.

Immigration laws have largely doomed the demographic characteristics of our community. As a result, we're bifurcated economically. On the one end are Japanese Americans who have been in the U.S. for many generations and South Asians who have tended to immigrate as professionals. And on the other end are Southeast Asians who primarily came as refugees and are among the most impoverished ethnic groups in this country. For example, in the Hmong community here, the poverty rate is well over 50 percent, the highest of any ethnic community in the United States. And even within the Chinese and Korean American communities there is a relatively high rate of poverty despite the overall aggregate income numbers.

While the communities have professionals and entrepreneurs, we also have high percentage of marginalized workers working in the hotel industry, garment industry and others. And because so little data is reported and the data that's available tends to show only aggregate numbers, the needs of the most vulnerable are often overlooked. There have been so few studies about Asian Pacific Americans and housing issues that I can only tell you the little we know.

The patterns are driven by our economic class structure as well as historic housing discrimination.

(NOTE: File became corrupted at this point and the rest of the transcript is unavailable.)

Content Archived: April 15, 2011

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