UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute released a report Monday examining ongoing beliefs and narratives among varying subgroups in Southern California’s Inland Empire.
Topics of the report included the region’s ideas about community, relationships between racial groups, economic opportunity and inequality and feelings about government, political power and representation.
The report is a part of a larger effort, the Blueprint for Belonging, or B4B, project, which collaborates with a variety of nonprofit organizations.
These organizations are focused on advocating for workers and immigrant rights, along with increasing civic participation in low-income communities of color, according to Joshua Clark, co-author of the report and political participation analyst at the Othering and Belonging Institute.
Conversations with organizations operating in the Inland Empire initiated the researchers’ interest in the region, as they recognized that long-term research was vital to design effective community organizing efforts.
With the information from the report, the B4B project will continue to work with organizations in the region to help transform conceptions and help identify where focus and resources should be allocated.
Immense population growth hit the region beginning in the 1980s, as swaths of people moved to the Inland Empire in search of affordable housing, the report said. As of 2017, two-thirds of residents in the region were people of color.
A survey in the report revealed that COVID-19 had an acute impact on Black and Latinx residents’ housing security; 28% of respondents said they worried about being able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage since the arrival of COVID-19, adding to the 13% who had been worried about this prior to the pandemic.
While such surveys provide some insight into the breadth of ongoing issues in the region, they often do not provide the “full depth of people’s experiences and their thoughts and the ways they’re holding their ideas about the world,” Clark noted.
To gather this type of data, the researchers conducted focus groups and one-on-one interviews with residents. A firm was hired to ensure the representation of people who are usually left out of conventional research efforts, according to Clark.
The first questions that the researchers sought to answer surrounded the concept of community, the collective “we,” said Clark.
Many residents expressed interest in bolstering the sense of community, and some, specifically Black residents, pointed out a lack of community is both a result and cause of economic hardship.
The next set of questions the researchers investigated involved the relationship between racial groups in the Inland Empire, specifically the intergroup dynamics between Black and Latinx populations.
Supposed tensions between Black and Latinx communities were almost entirely based on hearsay, stereotypes and assumptions, the report found, as opposed to actual failed attempts at positive connections.
“Who we hope hears this lesson are organizations who want to be brave about trying to cross these boundaries and bridge interaction,” Clark said.
Other findings challenged conventional assumptions about government and political participation.
A misconception about political behaviors of young people, for example, is that lower rates of participation are the result of apathy about election results, according to Clark.
However, through focus groups, the report found that young people in communities of color recognize elections as incredibly important. The reason they choose not to participate is that they feel like they are not qualified enough to vote.
“This is something that young people in communities of color are told, they can internalize that and it can alienate them,” Clark said. “We can change the narrative about what keeps young people away from polls.”