Economic Inequity: The American Dilemma
by Reginald Grant, MS Ed.
Systematic racism is the biggest issue facing the country and the world. It has recently been highlighted by the George Floyd movement. But, African Americans and other people of color have lived with the impact for generations. From stolen and enslaved people, stolen property, stolen intellectual property, and cultural misappropriation. It has taken a world-wide pandemic, a shutdown and a short video of George Floyd’s death to ignite and bring the issues to the forefront. Technology has allowed the issues to unify the mindset of a diverse group of people from around the world. A call for change, a call for improving policing, access to capital, and access to equitable justice.
In 120 days, the world changed. It took the perfect storm to focus the attention on racial inequalities and injustice. I did not say a good storm; people dying from COVID-19, without access to enough food, a lack of access to medical care, and the negative economic impact, are all bad. But the reality is the economic inequity is the underlying foundation for racism. A lack of access to medicine, access to opportunities, access to education, all of this is enforced by systems that discriminate because of race.
The activist have made some very valid points. The protesting is based upon the fundamental rights spelled out in the constitution. But the constitution has not been equally applied to or protected African Americans and other people of color. And, for clarification; the looters and thieves should be punished but not peaceful protesters. African Americans and other people of color must be treated with the same respect as human beings and American citizens as every other member of our society.
The people fighting change are like the dinosaurs, they will become extinct. The spotlight is shining bright, many in positions of power will not survive and that is a good thing. Companies and governments will have an opportunity to address their culture and address the negative impact of systemic, institutionalized racism. The adage “the only thing guaranteed is change” is so appropriate in the new wave of change. Those that do not understand that the world is a diverse and different place are like ostriches’ putting their heads in the sand.
Diversity is America’s superpower; we still have not decided to fully embrace it. Talent, creativity, and intelligence do not know color, but opportunities have been limited for African Americans and other people of color. When are we as a nation going to take the steps to ensure our future, and live up to the words in the constitution and make opportunities available for all? Even the research supports the fact that diversity makes it better for everyone. “Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.” and “Diverse Companies Produce 19% More Revenue” both quotes from Forbes magazine. The numbers don’t lie but change is often hard, and change must happen if America is to grow in the right direction.
I have been an entrepreneur my entire life, I am also an African American man. So, I have seen the greatness and opportunities that America offers but I have also seen and experienced the inequities of America. African Americans and other people of color do not want nor need a hand-out, we just want the opportunity to compete without the additional burden of systemic, institutionalized racism. The barriers to capital, quality education, and jobs impact the entire nation and reduces productivity.
During my seventeen-years as a certificated English teacher, I saw firsthand the inequities in the educational system. I taught students in urban Los Angeles in some of the worst schools in America. I also taught extremely wealthy students and international students and the inequities are real. I have worked on statewide assessments still in use for the State of California and taught courses for Boston College. Educational inequity impacts people for life by limiting access to economic opportunities.
No one deserves to die like George Floyd! And, far too many African Americans and other people of color have been victims of a system stacked against them. Our police must be held accountable not disbanded. Our companies, leaders, politicians, institutions, and the government will be held accountable one way or another. Will you be a part of the solution or a part of the problem?
In my opinion, the most significant thing ever stated by Martin Luther King was “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So, where do we go from here? Technology will continue to be a window into every action and inaction. What are you going to do? The decision is yours and will determine how we move forward from here.
Reginald Grant, MS Ed.
Business Strategist, former NFL player and retired English teacher
More on Reginald at ReginaldGrant.com