Voice: Sal Carpio

Sal Carpio is a Denver’s community leader who served 12 years on City Council and was executive director of the Denver Housing Authority.

“I would think instead of trying to impede progress for these children that we’d embrace something like using the Dream Act. You would try to facilitate more people in this country having access to the benefits of education instead of trying to restrict it.”

Why the gaps have worsened is a very difficult question. I think maybe two things. The populations have grown quite a bit since 1960. The percentage of people that are in poverty may have remained the same, but the numbers would be greater because the populations have grown so fast. The other things are all those factors – poverty, graduation rates, racism – have really become institutionalized. I think that has contributed a lot to it. It’s hard to attack when it’s part of the system. Then for those minority group members who are working to alleviate this, some of them are holding political office or have become successful themselves, they were able to get through the system. It’s like a funnel upside down. Or even right side up, a few trickle out. The funnel just has gotten bigger. It still trickles, but there’s just more people in there that can’t get out.

The biggest single factor is all the effects of poverty. You can get an entry level job. You can be working – a lot of people are – and still be at a poverty level. As poor young Hispanics interact with more active Hispanics, more active people, generally, their level also rises. They’re able to overcome their problems better. But as long as they’re locked into a poverty situation, it just repeats itself.

Institutional racism allows people to continue to practice it without feeling bad about it, because they don’t believe they’re being racist. I’ll give you a good example. Look at this immigrant issue now. Those youngsters are mostly illegal aliens. They’re mostly Hispanics. They are going to be successful in life if they have the same opportunities for education that the people they went to school with have. But they’re not being offered scholarships even if they are high achievers. They obviously want to go to college and feel they are capable of succeeding in college but they’re being denied access because their parents are not American citizens.

Some Democrats but primarily Republicans can honestly say, “I’m not a racist. I’m not talking race. I’m talking about illegal people.” They don’t feel bad about it. It isn’t like saying, “You’re a Mexican. You can’t go to school.” The result is the same and maybe even worse because that’s what the law says. You’re not supposed to have these benefits if you’re illegal.

The birth rate now is over 50 percent minority in the United States, which tells you this country will be largely minority in the not-too-distant future. Everybody sees that. I would think instead of trying to impede progress for these children that we’d embrace something like using the Dream Act. You would try to facilitate more people in this country having access to the benefits of education instead of trying to restrict it.

I don’t think there’s any simple solution. I think it’s going to take a change of attitudes. It probably will take generations. But I do think education holds the key. I don’t know who they are – more enlightened people, less political people. Everything’s broken down. Even the Denver School Board is so fractured because everybody thinks that their solution is the perfect one, and we still have all these major problems.

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