We live in an era of unprecedented economic opportunity unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Today, more jobs are possible, more access to economic success is within reach, and the ability to compete—and win—is actually a real possibility for those who desire it. Moving away from outmoded economies has positioned more Americans to make meaningful contributions to our country and the world, all while reaping the economic benefits of those contributions.
At the same time, our world has become increasingly and uncompromisingly competitive, largely due to the accelerated globalization of the past generation. More and more, each one of us is being called upon to dig deep and muster the whole of our competitive spirit with a will to “show up” and do the best we can.
Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from this new paradigm. Not everyone is prospering. Our nation could be facing a future economic crisis due to the declines in traditional manufacturing, employment, and overall economic growth. In addition, our soon-to-be working population—children and youth—is shrinking while our aging population is exploding—and exiting the workforce as they retire. So, despite the fact that this era can open doors for more people than ever before and lead them to unprecedented economic success, it also has the potential to absolutely cripple and render helpless the economic prospects for America.
Why? Two reasons: 1) the major shifts occurring within our population and 2) the invisibility of this era to those who are principally served by HBCUs who are unaware.
Based on census data, it is becoming abundantly clear that minority groups are growing at a faster rate than the White population. In fact, Brookings Institution demographer William Frey points out in “March of the Non-White Babies” that by 2042, “There will be no racial majority in the U.S. ‘Minorities’ … will outnumber the White population.” Even today, we are seeing a large percentage of the population that is non-White. Specifically, 2015 U.S. Census data indicates that 13.3 percent and 17.6 percent of the total population in the U.S. is Black and Hispanic, respectively. Because of this major demographic change, the economic torch is being passed from the White majority—who traditionally held economic positions of power—to a young, multicultural population. This shift does not stem from a sense of enlightenment or altruism from today’s business leaders and moguls.
Rather, it is the rapidly changing face of our nation that can thrust new demographic groups into positions of power—but only if these groups are ready and willing to capitalize on these unprecedented opportunities.
Taking advantage of these favorable circumstances must not be viewed as an option, but an imperative. If today’s diverse youth fail to seize the reins of economic leadership in the future, we won’t have enough contributors in this new economy. Frey concurs: “Because tomorrow’s increasingly minority-driven youth and labor force population will be vital to maintaining a robust economy and to supporting a much more rapidly growing senior population, it is important to pay attention to the needs and opportunities available to the highly diverse post-millennial generation—not just in selected parts of the country, but everywhere.”
“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources currently controlled.”
— Professor Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School