Racial Equity

Race Relations in a Divided Nation

December 13, 2017  • Communications and Society Program

As 2017 comes to a close, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program invites you to join us as we celebrate and reflect over an exciting year marked by thoughtful, constructive discussions on a range of issues. The following “2017 Year In Review” series offers highlights from the various programs as well as insight into 2018 programming. For more information, please visit our homepage and or follow us on Twitter or Facebook

Throughout history, particularly during the time of the Constitution, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Era, the United States experienced periods when racial tensions were at the forefront. As Charlie Firestone, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, mentioned in his opening remarks to the 2017 Aspen Institute Symposium on the State of Race in America, issues surrounding civility, tolerance of others and equality have resurfaced again in our country.  Some would argue that the nation is more divided now than ever before.

The Aspen Institute Symposium on the State of Race in America explores individual, cultural, institutional and structural causes of racial problems, looking towards new and viable solutions. Over the past seven years, with the generous support of Comcast Corporation, this project has provided a neutral space to tackle the difficult issues around race and race relations in America. The 2017 Symposium focused on two important themes –the wealth gap and the future dialogue on race. Symposium attendees were astounded by data indicating that the wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Panelists emphasized a need to level the playing field, as wealth affects a person’s ability to take financial risks, such as home ownership.

The dialogue on the wealth gap continued with a one-on-one conversation with Congressman James Clyburn, Assistant Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Representative Clyburn suggested several ways to combat the racial wealth gap, such as limiting minority student loan debt and by instilling values of hard work, despite the odds, in our nation’s youth.

Before attempting to discuss bridging the gap of racial disparities, there is a need for open discourse. Race and racism will likely be a contentious topic for years to come and public citizens need to find ways to move discourse to civil engagement, which can serve as a positive catalyst for change.

Watch the footage from of this year’s Symposium. No time? See top seven takeaways from social media ambassadors. The 2018 Aspen Institute Symposium on the State of Race in America is tentatively scheduled for June 2018. The event date and location will be available on our website in the coming weeks.