The face of America is changing.
And the fate of America hinges on how we react to -- and invest in -- those changes.
By 2042, a majority of Americans will be people of color. Already, California, Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico, and DC have more people of color than whites. And today, nearly half of all children are kids of color.
By definition, if they don't succeed, the nation won't succeed.
There was a time not that long ago when we listened to the voices of tomorrow and invested in our national future. The GI Bill, affirmative action, and strong unions all helped the "Greatest Generation" establish a potent and stable middle class -- and gave their children tangible hope for the future.
But we aren't doing that any more.
Many in the still-majority white population and political establishment don't see themselves reflected in the faces of America's children. They are talking far more about slashing Medicaid and education funding than investing in the dreams and needs of our children. Too many who have achieved success for themselves now want to pull up the ladder behind them.
The results are obvious -- people of color are disproportionately saddled with high poverty rates, failing schools, poor health, and under-invested communities.
But these challenges don't only affect communities of color.
White families that rely on the public education system struggle with these nationwide school budget squeezes. White college students are graduating with six-figure debt. White workers who need public transit to get to their jobs are hurt by the lack of forward-thinking investment. And white entrepreneurs are having to spend money giving new hires the job skills a strong public school system should provide. That's no way to run a country.
So, how should America run?
The answer is equity -- just and fair inclusion.
For a long time, this push for equity came draped in moral language -- "we must invest equitably because it is the right thing to do." But economists and community leaders alike know that equity has become an economic imperative, as well as a moral one.
In the global economy, our remarkable diversity will be our calling card -- and it can be our most competitive asset. In a diverse and interconnected world, America could be the most connected of all. The breadth and depth of our talent could once again be unrivaled -- if we tap into the vast resource that is the next generation.
For America to compete moving forward, we can't continue squandering the skills and potential of millions of young men and women.
As a nation, we can see our future and it is captured in the hopes and dreams of a 5-year-old Latina girl and a 7-year-old black boy. Our success depends on theirs.
Read more about what our changing demographics mean at PolicyLink.org/AmericasTomorrow.
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