Minorstreaming: Resolving Problems of the Color Line in the 21st Century

By Smith, Virginia Whatley | Black Issues in Higher Education, June 15, 1995 | Go to article overview
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Minorstreaming: Resolving Problems of the Color Line in the 21st Century


Smith, Virginia Whatley, Black Issues in Higher Education


Minorstreaming: Resolving Problems of the Color Line in the 21st Century.

The world is changing along color lines. Demographic experts say recent population shifts indicate that by the year 2030 whites will be a minority in the United States. Concomitant with this alteration of racial dominion is the matter of spatial density. Columnist Sonya Ross reports that "urban areas will hold half of all people by the year 2000," and that by 2020, "3.6 billion people will inhabit urban areas while 3 billion will remain in rural areas."

The urban domain is not unfamiliar to Blacks, who have become heirs to its color-line problems of "ghettoization," congestion and poor education resulting from the 1954 Supreme Court decree mandating desegregation of public schools, from which whites fled to the suburbs. Birmingham is an urban city historically grounded in color-line problems, inclusive of incidents today. The city will continue to be affected by racial and spatial transformations in the future if one considers the demographic predictions.

W.E.B. Du Bois said in "The Souls of Black Folks" in 1903 that, "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." His words bode color-line problems of today which educators, politicians, business leaders and the general public also foresee as a major social illness pricking the American consciousness as we approach the 21st century.

Taking Their Turn

Educators, politicians and other affected groups need to consider implementing "minorstreaming" to resolve these problems of the color line. Minorstreaming is the principle by which whites take their turn at learning the values and customs of minority culture. In the case of Birmingham, with its predominantly Black population, minorstreaming would involve whites learning about the culture of Africa and the people of its diaspora.

Cultural wars on university campuses over the course content which should embody the Western canon have now incited discussions on race. Black educators are lobbying for curricula inclusive of the history of people of African descent. The evidence is clear that it is not impossible for whites to minorstream.

Since slavery and emancipation, African Americans have been indoctrinated to "mainstream" folkways. They were impelled to acquire the language, skills and customs of the major culture that set the standards for citizenship.

If Blacks learned to mainstream, even if only for survival purposes, whites can learn to minorstream by acquiring knowledge about the values and customs of Africanist people. In fact, whites have minorstreamed since Africans arrived in the Americans.

Minorstreaming in Action

Jazz is a resultant synthesis of African and Euro-American musical forms. In art, Pablo Picasso looked upon West African art and proceeded to imitate its forms in his cubist paintings and sculptures. Singers and groups such as the Beatles and Elvis Presley, moreover, became practitioners of the rhythm and blues of Black-American culture. And today tycoons of the cosmetic and clothing industries compete for billions of dollars each year by catering to the ethnic tastes of African-American consumers.

Along these economic lines, whites have also mined a fortune marketing African-American culture in other areas. In the film and television industries, for instance, one has only to turn on a television or study a film or theater guide to grasp the culture's popularity.

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