As we turn into a multicultural society, more and more states in the South are experiencing significant demographic shifts and having to engage (or reengage) in a conversation about issues related to race and ethnicity.
North Carolina is a microcosm of what is happening at the national level, as it mirrors trends both in terms of racial shifts as well as generational gaps. It also offers a valuable lesson on multiracial coalitions coming together to have a necessary dialogue about diversity and its challenges and opportunities.
In 2010, Wake County in North Carolina found itself in a painful and bitter struggle to defend its school system's diversity program. That year, the school board ended the diversity policy that had been in place since 2000.
The program had received national acclaim as students' performance soared, particularly for African-American and Latino students. But in 2009, a newly elected bloc of school-board members advocated for "neighborhood schools," which would concentrate low-income students in low-income schools.
Civil-rights leaders, including the NAACP, came together with business, parents, and teachers in nonpartisan alliances to fight for the diversity policy and public education. The capstone event was a march in Raleigh, which included people of all ethnicities and ages as well as advocates for public education and economic development.