Race and Equity in the South
A more just, inclusive, and equitable South is possible if we confront racism head-on.
E Pluribus Unum is an organization founded by Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and incubated by Emerson Collective in 2018.
E Pluribus Unum is Latin for “out of many, one.”
5 Questions With Scott
Questions and answers
How does EPU’s mission connect to EC’s work in pursuit of a more just and equal America?
Well, they're actually intertwined. As we strive for a more just and equal America, EPU believes that truly achieving it requires two critical components: First, it is imperative that we honestly address racial and economic equity; and second, this must be done as a united nation, together. Race and class have been and continue to be the two great dividing lines in our nation’s history stopping us from achieving a more just and equal America. EPU works to join Americans in going through these issues, to confirm for people that we actually are better together—and so is America.
Why is “E pluribus unum” the name of the organization?
Well, a Latin phrase doesn’t always roll off the tongue, but this one is critical to who we are. “E pluribus unum” is Latin for “out of many, one,” and is our nation’s motto. The phrase is also why America will achieve the aspiration, built into our founding fabric, of becoming “a more perfect union.” There are certain things that we can only achieve when we do them together, united as a collective. Throughout our history, including right now, our society has been purposefully divided by race and class, and these divisions have been designed to distract us from working toward equal justice and opportunity for all. This phrase is a constant reminder that our work is to fulfill the promise of a unified and just America for all by knitting back together what has been purposely divided by injustice.
Why has EPU decided to focus its work in the South?
EPU is a national organization working to heal our nation through truth and action regarding our history of racial injustice. It’s important to start in the South for a very specific reason. Slavery was this nation's original sin and racism continues to be our Achilles’ heel, and the institution of slavery really took root in the South. The Confederacy, White supremacist groups, and Jim Crow laws were aggressively manifested in the South. But so was the Civil Rights movement. So the South is a laboratory for our democracy, and we consider starting our work here an important responsibility—to lead work where the most difficult things actually began. However, let me be clear: racism—both interpersonal and systemic racism—is a problem across the country.
What are EPU’s areas of work, and how do they support the mission?
We began our work talking to more than a thousand individuals across the South, and we found that we have a lot in common, but we allow race and class to pull us apart. We are “Divided by Design”—hence the name of our first report. Institutions and systems were intentionally designed to disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. So EPU does three things to redesign a more just country: 1) tell stories that reveal the truth of where we’ve been, and what’s possible when we go forward together; 2) promote policy work showing how data and research can support better legislation to advance equity; and 3) train leaders from the grassroots up to center equity in their communities, states, and our nation as a whole.
What keeps you encouraged and grounded while doing this complex, heavy work?
When we founded EPU, our National Advisory Council member, the late John Lewis, urged us to look at the long arc of America’s history. Every time society makes positive steps forward, we follow with a negative drag. However, as Dr. King reminded us, the long arc of the moral universe bends towards justice—if you actually bend it, every day. That’s hard, slow work. So when we get discouraged as a team we find great hope, strangely enough, in catastrophic events. In those horrific moments, every single time we see true humanity—compassion and goodness—within each of us. We abolish divisions, lend a hand together, and lift up each other. If we could do that every day as a nation, then we would all be better for it.
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