Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has spent the last year or so since he’s been out of office working on a way to address the issues of racism and class and break down those barriers among the people in this country.
On Friday, Landrieu’s work took a more physical form as he launched the non-profit E Pluribus Unum to help “find common ground and to seek new solutions” to address the country’s past and present.
As E Pluribus Unum was launched, so was the organization’s first project, a study dubbed “Divided by Design.” The EPU team traveled across 28 communities in 13 Southern states over the last year, to speak to real people about what challenges we face as a people, what divides us, and what brings us together.
“If we do not reckon soon with our country’s past, we face a future of even greater fissures and failures. The future belongs to open, inviting and inclusive communities. The fact is that America’s racial profile is changing, and we are becoming more racially diverse than at any point in our history,” Landrieu said in the introduction of the study. “This is especially true in the South. Given our past, I believe that we, as Southerners, have a special obligation to do more.”
To cap it all off, an 1,800-person survey that was conducted across the 13 Southern states visited, provided further insight into the group’s research.
Some of the results of the group’s research were probably far from surprising, but they did offer 15 key insights so that the conversation can be continued.
The first insight offered is how little understanding white people may have of the scale of racism in this country – and that includes our history and the present-day situations that show the vicious underbelly of systemic racism – something that people of color don’t have the luxury of pushing aside.
The study also found our political leaders and the media do hold power, and with that power can reinforce stereotypes or make certain racist behavior seem permissible.
That is something that ESSENCE Communications Inc President Michelle Ebanks, who sits on EPU’s activist-studded National Advisory Council highlighted in her statement about the organization.
“The media plays a significant role in defining the images that influence how we see the world. Sharing multi-faceted storytelling through the lens of creatives of color, ESSENCE empowers diverse communities to own our own narrative,” Ebanks said in a press release. “I am proud to join the E Pluribus Unum effort to lift up all voices so they may be heard. We all deserve dignity and respect, and it starts with how we are represented to each other.”
There is also just the fact that, according to the study, we simply aren’t having honest and fact-based conversations about the challenges racism and classism have.
But Landrieu is just getting started. The study notes that E Pluribus Unum intends to launch a series of programs and initiatives in 2020 in order to “cultivate courageous leaders who are committed to realizing an inclusive vision for a new South,” as well as work toward policies to put an end, and reverse the damages down by the country’s Jim Crow past, and shift the narrative away from the discourse that perpetuates racism.
“Regardless of our differences, we must all come to the table of democracy as equals. We must act as one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some,” Landrieu noted in the study. “Through this work, we will ultimately prove our American motto, ‘E pluribus unum’ — ‘out of many, one’ — and we are better for it.”