Small bites. Because we can do hard things.
Let’s get started.
But this is America, the land of opportunity! If you work hard then you’ll get ahead.
Well, that sounds simple enough. Let’s look at opportunity in America.
Put in your time and move up the ladder, they said. Well, maybe. Maybe not.
Let’s look at something as basic as first job opportunities.
You’re in school and looking to make a little extra cash, maybe get some work experience – what do you do? If you’re black you’ll be fighting bias to get hired at a restaurant or in retail, something entry level. If you’re white you’ll find yourself with an automatic edge in interviews and hiring preferences. Maybe your parents call in a favor so you skip the interview altogether, working for an old family friend. Or maybe your family has financial resources that allow you to take an unpaid internship.
Claiming everyone – black, white, whatever – has the same starting point for employment opportunities shows a profound lack of understanding about today’s reality.
Here’s where the “slavery is ancient history, why can’t you let it go?” chickens really come home to roost.
While black people were held in slavery – not putting away even a meager savings each month, not owning their own bodies or businesses, not purchasing land to pass down to their descendants – white people were doing all of that. Building nest eggs and accumulating whatever kind of wealth their family valued. That has a cascading effect and it matters. Yes, even today.
Wealth consists of any form of savings, including the value of your houses and cars, minus debt. It allows you to change jobs, start your own business, or get your degree. Yet because “blacks are more likely to be underpaid, less likely to have adequate savings, and less likely to have sufficient financial resources to respond to an emergency” they have a higher rate of economic insecurity.¹ Systemic problems limit their ability to build wealth, and limited wealth inhibits improvements geared to increase economic security. What a cycle.
See “wealth” above.
There are so many ways the housing deck is stacked against people of color in America. Redlining that devalues majority black neighborhoods. Unfair lending practices that make it harder for people of color to buy a home. Coded language that continues segregation to this very day.
Also, see “wealth” above.
There’s a fundamental flaw in the level playing field belief system. We don’t have one. The level playing field, that is – the belief that America is the land of opportunity for all is alive and well. But I can think of more than a few situations where things are anything but equitable.
1. Angela Hanks, Danyelle Solomon, and Christian E. Weller. “System Inequality: How America’s Structural Racism Helped Create the Black-White Wealth Gap.” Center for American Progress. February 21, 2018, 9:03 am. Available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2018/02/21/447051/systematic-inequality/