Former NPR host Michele Norris moderated a discussion about race, inequality and the future of democracy at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival. Is opportunity and social mobility still possible in America?
In conversations about race, inequality and acceptance, the word "colorblindness" often gets thrown around. It's the notion that everyone can interact, cooperate and succeed in America in the same way, regardless of race.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proposed the term as a virtue that Americans should strive toward. But today, many argue the term is no longer appropriate to describe society's goals and in some cases, that mindset can lead to more oppression.
"In fact, being colorblind in some ways concretizes those systems and structures and policies that were built on race," said Ford Foundation President Darren Walker in a panel discussion at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.
We need to be able to have conversations and make distinctions about race because there are still so many disparities that still exist today, he said.
"I like to use the phrase 'privilege is invisible to those who possess it,'" said Jeff Raikes of the Raikes Foundation.
There's a common narrative in America in which white men in powerful positions say they got to where they are because of hard work. To admit that they may have been given an advantage because of the color of their skin is almost unheard of.
"As Americans, we want to believe that you can get to that mobility escalator and get as far as you want. But that no one rides it faster than anyone else," Walker said.
It's important that these same men speak out about these issues because they are coming from inside the system and sound a lot more credible than those knocking at the door, asking to be let in, Walker said.
The discussion was moderated by former NPR host and Minnesota native Michele Norris. Norris is now executive director of "The Bridge," an Aspen Institute program on race and cultural identity. Darren Walker is black, and Jeff Raikes is white.
To listen to their discussion, click the audio player above.