The University Record, January 25, 1993

Chisholm: all must take advantage of diversity

By Mary Jo Frank

Americans of all races must learn to work together—to take advantage of our country’s natural diversity—if the United States is to remain a world leader, Shirley Chisholm told School of Business Administration students last Monday.

Speaking to a standing-room only crowd in Hale Auditorium, the former New York congresswoman said that within the next seven to eight years the U.S. population will be evenly divided between Caucasians and non-Caucasians.

“Our country can’t be a leader of the world if we’re not able to provide the requisites for all those who want to be workers,” Chisholm said. “If we don’t have workers, our country won’t be able to compete with Germany and Japan.”

Chisholm praised Business School curriculum innovations and creativity that have made it the most diverse major business school in the country.

Citing America’s immigration history, from the founding of the colonies by the English, Irish and Scots to the latest wave of immigrants coming from Central America, Chisholm said all have come seeking a haven of opportunity and with a belief in their ability to succeed.

“One would think this basic commonality would result in a cohesive nation,” she said.

However, because of the high visibility of certain groups, immigration didn’t offer them the opportunity to develop to their potential.

“Historical circumstances impeded the equitable growth and development of people of color,” explained Chisholm, who cited changes in immigration laws aimed at limiting the number of Chinese in the 1920s, the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s and slavery dating back to the inception of the United States.

“The Europeans arrived on the ground floor. All others arrived in the sub-basement,” Chisholm said.

Population shifts, with the number of women and people of color soon expected to outnumber white men in the workforce, require that Americans develop a multicultural awareness, an appreciation for the “glorious patchwork quilt of our population,” she added.

America has been rightly called the land of opportunity because it has been relatively free of class structures such as exist in England, Chisholm added.

People of color and Caucasian immigrants alike have struggled in America. However, some “already had ready-made passports into American society. That passport was white skin,” Chisholm said.

“Thank God change is inevitable. A college education is designed to throw open the great window of opportunity in America,” said Chisholm, who in 1972 became the first Black woman to seek the Democratic Party nomination for president.

During the question and answer session Chisholm chastised students who socialize only within their own racial or ethnic group and do not use the university experience to get to know people of other races.