“The most powerful people in the United States pass our laws, run Hollywood’s studios and head the most prestigious universities. They own pro sports teams and determine who goes to jail and who goes to war,” The New York Times said in an article published Sept. 9 about the representation of people of color in powerful American positions.
The diversity of people in power is essential. Every country with as much diversity as the U.S. needs to have people with power and influence who are also diverse. It’s essential that the individuals making important decisions are empathetic to the people those decisions affect and don’t favor the groups they identify with over the groups they don’t.
Not only that, but the minorities of a population need to be able to look up to the powerful individuals and see representation of their own demographic. If they couldn’t do this, they’d feel like they don’t matter as much as the majority, and don’t have as much of a chance to be successful.
If every demographic had the same opportunities, it’s likely we wouldn’t need rules like this. If 50% of a population was white and the other 50% black, one would expect to see powerful positions held by individuals of those races proportional to those percentages.
This has been one of the most difficult problems in U.S. history. In the past, every demographic hasn’t had the same opportunities, which is something the country has worked hard to change. But when can it be said the problem of diversity in power is solved? When can it be said that enough has been done so every demographic has a fair chance of acquiring power and influence? How much diversity is enough?
The most realistic and fair answer to these questions is that the diversity of people in power should be proportional to the demographics of the population. If 30% of a country’s population is white, and 30% of that country’s government is controlled by white people, the country should be considered to have proper and fair diversity within its people in power. If a country’s population is 80% white, and 10% of that country’s government is controlled by white people, the country should be considered to have improper and unfair diversity within its people in power.
The New York Times found that out of 900 “officials and executives in prominent positions,” 20% identify as people of color. This includes the U.S. Senate, House, Supreme Court and many more of the most important positions in the country.
So, how much of the U.S. population is people of color? Well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 23.7%. This percentage is incredibly close to the 20% of people of color in power as reported by The New York Times, so shouldn't this be cause for celebration? Shouldn't this be proof of how far our country has come from its historical systemic and institutionalized racism? Furthermore, isn’t it proof that diversity is proportionally represented within U.S. positions of power?
The New York Times doesn't think so. Their report on diversity of power in the U.S. is one of harsh criticism. So, what exactly is their argument?
The New York Times doesn’t appear to disagree with the idea that these positions should be proportional to the demographics of the population, but they disagree on what the demographic is. They say that white people don’t make up 76.3% of the population as the U.S. Census Bureau data shows, but that white people only make up about 60% of the population. They point to another statistic by the Census Bureau that only includes white people with no other race than white historically in their bloodline, therefore providing an intentionally misleading statistic of the percentage of people of color in the U.S. as 40%.
The New York Times is manipulating its readers and trying to incite hateful emotions within the public. It’s worth noting that their own board of directors is only made up of about 17% people of color, which would be a huge problem for them if they believed their own argument.
Evan Holden is a sophomore political science major. Contact Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org.