Minority populations continue to increase, and people of color now represent a more significant percentage of our overall population. Despite this fact, the portion of minority figures in leadership roles across all areas of our society remains low. Having people of color represented in all aspects of society ensures the progress of societal goals such as equality, safety, and representation of our citizens of color. When people of color are not represented in government, education, public safety, and health, they are left unheard. Their concerns go unanswered and we as a people do not progress. Encouraging people of color to be represented in all aspect of our economy ensures economic growth and social progress.Education and community outreach remain the most potent deterrents to racial bias (Fifield, 2016).
Having equal representation across positions of authority and leadership within our communities can help to ensure that the voices of people of color and minorities are being heard. Better diversity training and implicit bias education coupled with providing more diverse work environments can help ease and improve racial tensions in schools, police departments and within our communities. People of color need to trust that they will be heard and their representatives will be able to address their concerns.
Barriers to Equal Representation
One significant obstacle to the goal of equal representation in our society is poverty rates. Minorities and specifically people of color live below the poverty line at much higher percentages than white Americans. The Poverty rate for people of color is more than two times higher than that of white people (Poverty). Poverty rates for minority communities create barriers to education, resources and job opportunities. Addressing the issue of poverty within minority communities leads to opportunities for growth and progress for people of color. That increase is necessary to reach equal representation in positions of power and leadership.
Lack of community trust
Minority communities have a history of distrust for people in positions of power and authority as a result of decades of discrimination and racial tension. Lack of community trust in political leadership, police departments, and educational leaders causes people of color to avoid becoming part of these institutions (Fifield, 2016). Concerted efforts to build community trust within minority communities can benefit racial progress. Building trust within communities of color leads to community participation. Community trust and cooperation can heal wounds from decades of abuse by political and social institutions and encourage people of color to strive to become representatives of their communities.
Implicit Bias or “Microinequities”
Since the 1990s, researchers at MIT have argued that implicit bias and minor acts of discrimination lead to unequal access to opportunities for people of color and minorities, specifically in the workplace environment (Rowe, 1990). The act of unintentional racial discrimination while perceived as minor has a much more significant consequence for people of color in the workplace. People of color made to feel less confident or excluded results in lower productivity. Employers can work to overcome this obstacle by promoting programs that build relationships, encourage diversity and teach employees to respect differences.
Overcoming Barriers to achieve equality
While easy for white Americans to ignore the concerns of minority groups and people of color, this ignorance hurts all of society. While we strive for equal representation of all communities, leaders now must promote policies which represent all voices. Policy makers in power now can help us overcome barriers to equality by ensuring their systems target everyone regardless of race or social class. Policies that recognize and value people differences will lead to more equitable representation and opportunities for all communities not just white communities. While we work to overcome the various and significant barriers to equal opportunity, our current leaders must lead that change and reach out to communities of color to hear their concerns and be able to represent those interests.
Importance of equal representation
Solving the barriers to equality and ensuring a more diverse representation of people of color and minorities in leadership roles and political positions serves to benefit all of society. Increasing diversity among political representatives, business leaders, and social leaders leads to a more diverse and representative group of voices being heard. The more voices being listened to by our politicians and business leaders, the more equitable and innovative our society can become. As the percentage of people of color within our population continues to grow so should their representation and leadership within our community.