More than a dozen speakers discussed race and racism from several angles, including economics and inter-minority relations, at the second North Puget Sound Conference on Race, which was held Saturday at Everett Community College. About 100 people attended the event.
Soya Jung, a senior partner in ChangeLab, a Seattle research organization focused on racial equality, said there's little uniformity among minorities in terms of their views on the issue.
"This is a time of great confusion, with divergent views of what justice means," she said.
For instance, discrimination against minorities is complicated by uneasy relations between some of those groups.
"There's actually a large theme around interracial tensions, particularly between Asians and African-Americans," Jung said.
Some Asian-Americans interviewed by Jung's group said their negative view of African-Americans was fueled by actual encounters, while others had no such direct experience, meaning they were forming their opinions based on prejudice or some other information, she said.
And the depiction of Asian-Americans as the most successful, "model minority" diverts attention from discrimination toward that group and fuels negative views of other minorities, she said.
Bill Reed, an African-American business instructor at Everett Community College, said poverty and racial issues are closely tied to the educational system.
The United States has declined in educational performance compared to other countries, according to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"Whatever we can say generally about our education system is that minorities are doing worse," particularly blacks and Hispanics, Reed said.
Poverty is a big reason, he said.
"There's no way you can expect a kid who doesn't get enough to eat and who lives in a rough neighborhood to go to school and do as well as a kid who has everything he needs in life," Reed said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a direct correlation between education level, income and the unemployment rate -- the higher the education level, the higher the income and the lower the likelihood of unemployment.
"There's a drastic difference between having an education and not having an education," Reed said.
He said minorities can help themselves by learning money management skills. Many African-Americans, he said, have a cultural bias toward the stock market - "we think it's a Ponzi scheme."
The conference was organized by Snohomish County's Communities of Color Coalition. The group was first organized in 2005 following a series of race-related incidents, including the burning of a cross on the front lawn of a black pastor in Arlington, said Kinuko Noborikawa, chairwoman for the group.
Soon after forming, some Communities of Color Coalition members attended a Seattle event on race.
"We liked what we were seeing there but we also noticed there weren't many Snohomish County people down there," she said.
"We wanted to bring that up here to make it more available to people who weren't as willing to leave and drive to Seattle to do things."
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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