Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
African American World
Find what you need on PBS and NPR
Timeline Reference Room Kids Classroom Community Resources
arts & culture
race & society
Race & Society: Debate
DebateBrain TeaserSound Off!Free Stuff

Black America Today Debate: Race in the 21st Century
Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Hugh B. Price, National Urban League Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise Robert L. Woodson, Sr. National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color-line." Do you agree with this statement? If so, what are the chances for resolving this problem in the 21st century?

Hugh Price's Response: I don't expect the problem of the color line to be resolved in the 21st century. However, I am confident that as the country becomes increasingly diverse, our society will become more comfortable with diversity and more adept at managing the problem. The labor market will become more and more open as employers become increasingly reliant on people of color. But there will continue to be stresses, for instance, in the criminal justice system. I worry as well about whether society is prepared to provide a first-class education for all children regardless of color or economic circumstances.

Robert Woodson's Rebuttal: I thoroughly agree with Hugh that there is reason to worry whether society is prepared to provide a first-class education for all children regardless of color and economic circumstances. My approach, however, probably differs from his. I believe this concern makes the case for school choice, or vouchers, for low-income families, giving parents options otherthan failing inner city public schools.

Robert Woodson's Response: While racial discrimination continues to be a problem in America's 21st century, it is not the most crucial problem facing the black community. In fact, in 2000, a poll taken by the Center for Political and Economic Studies showed that blacks ranked race eighth on a list of their major concerns--well after such things as education, crime and violence, prescription drugs and health care. Those who would keep us focused solely on race divert attention and keep us from finding solutions to the problems plaguing our inner cities and devastating our young people.

At the present time, an 18-year old black male who steps off a bus at any of our urban centers has a lower chance of survival than one who stepped off a landing barge at Normandy during World War II. Our biggest problems are in black-on-black crime and violence, not black and white relations.

Hugh Price's Rebuttal: Interestingly enough, a survey conducted by the National Urban League in conjunction with the 2001 edition of our State of Black America report found that respondents ranked economic opportunities and problems as the most important concerns they personally expect to face in the years ahead. These include economic development, discrimination on the job, strength of the job market and so forth.

Substantial numbers of respondents did indicate as well that they feel African Americans aren't treated equally or fairly by law enforcement agencies. So there are strong fears that racism still resides in the criminal justice system.


Debate Topics Menu
Affirmative Action
Diversity in Schools
Economic Future
Faith Based Initiatives
Knowing Each Other
Leadership Models
Media Stereotypes
Political Power
Race in the 21st Century
Slavery Reparations

feedback privacy policy credits site map pledge printer friendly format email article to a friend