Reporter's Notebook: The "Post-Racial Generation" That Wasn't

Uploaded by racialjustice on 09.06.2011

DOM APOLLON: I'm Dom Apollon, research director at the Applied Research
Center. We've noticed that the mainstream media likes to push this concept of 'post-racialism,'
the idea that race doesn't matter anymore. This gets said especially often about millennials,
the newest generation of young adults -- the logic being that, well, they're multiracial
and they voted for Obama, so race must be a, quote, 'non-issue' for them.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Was race a barrier to Barack
Obama's election? The answer to that is no. And then, I think, it becomes, 'are we post-racial?'
DOM APOLLON: This has become the conventional wisdom, that millennials don't believe that
race matters. But there isn't a lot of evidence to really support that notion. So we decided
to conduct the in-depth research ourselves.
We started this project by conducting sixteen focus groups in the Los Angeles area, four
each with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-American/Pacific Islanders, and and white young people.
Over the course of our sixteen focus groups,
three points emerged. First, virtually all millennials believe that race still matters,
at least to some degree. Second, millennials aren't monolithic in their beliefs on race,
or in what areas they believe that race matters most. And third, like most Americans, young
people typically lack the tools to describe or define the racism that exists in our society's
institutions and systems.
After the focus groups, we spoke with a few of the participants on camera. Here's what
they had to say.
PERSON 1: We can't really point to the success of one individual, albeit a really big success,
to say that race no longer matters. I mean, I find that Obama's experience is separate
from that of other African-Americans, let alone people of other minorities.
PERSON 2: There are very huge differences
between schools, and definitely different communities, with different racial groups.
I visited Beverly Hills High School and their basketball gym actually opens up into a pool.
My school growing up, they didn't have books, they had very few desks, and, you know, poor
quality teachers. A lot of people say 'Well, everybody gets an equal share of the pie.'
Well, not everybody starts off at the same point. Not everybody, you know, has the same
opportunity when they're born.
DOM APOLLON: Virtually everybody reveals they believe racism continues to be a significant
problem in at least one of society's key systems. That's especially the case when they're asked
deeper questions about the role that race does and does not play in those sectors.
PERSON 3: Let's say someone gets locked up,
and it's a Latino male. Just because they have a simple tattoo on, like, their left
arm, they're gonna label them as, oh, he's a gang member. Or he lives on 31st Street,
he's from the 31st Street Gang.
PERSON 4: We could be the biggest population, but it's not going to matter. As long as our
youth doesn't get educated, nothing's going to change. It's still going to be the same.
PERSON 5: I've read research studies that have compared white and black candidates for
jobs and shown how, overwhelmingly, blacks were discriminated against. Obviously as a
caucasian female I can only give a limited perspective, but these different institutions
do have racist, uh, unfortunately some racism does exist.
DOM APOLLON: Like nearly all Americans, most
young people lack the tools to talk about systemic and structural racism without defaulting
to interpersonal racism. To better understand this, I spoke with Jamilah King, news editor
JAMILAH KING: Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn't give people the tools to talk
about race in a constructive way, so that's we are here trying to facilitate that conversation.
It's not about 'who's racist,' it's about the systems that need to be changed.
DOM APOLLON: As Jamilah says, Colorlines devotes
its headlines to the systemic racial issues buried in the day's news. Its growing readership
is mostly young people.
JAMILAH KING: People see a story in the New York Times or in the Huffington Post, and
they come to Colorlines to see what we have to say about it. Race still matters. They
see that in everything from their neighborhoods and their neighbors who don't have jobs, they
see it in everything from their schools that are crumbling they see it in everything from
the amazing stories of resilience that are in their communities, and they want to talk
about those.
DOM APOLLON: So when we did the research, we found that according to this new multiracial
generation, race still matters in our society, regardless of the headlines. But don't take
our word for it. Check out our original data and analysis along with more than a hundred
excerpts of people discussing race in their own words. Download the report, 'Don't Call
Them Post-Racial,' at