Can we change racial inequity in this country?

‘Do I believe we can change racial inequity?’ This question was posed during a Race Power, Privilege Workshop: Tools and Strategies for Advancing Racial Equity training I attended last week. Everyone who attended worked in an organization or city/county department that provides services to the community in some form or fashion. Now, I personally don’t believe “We the people” can but I’ll explain why.

I consider myself an optimist/realist. I am one who believes in justice and fairness. I believe that if someone is hardworking, reliable, dependable, has a strong work ethic, has ample qualifications, and follows through to ensure that the task is completed, then that person should be hired and appropriately compensated. Whatever that person’s race, gender, ethnicity or sexual preference may be. But I understand the way the world works and the reality is the way I think is not the way the majority of folks who are in positions of hiring think.

If someone goes to a bank and applies for a loan and has adequate credit, verifiable income, steady work history, and can produce any other documents the bank requires, then that person should be approved and given a loan with a reasonable interest rate. If someone comes into contact with the police or finds themselves in front of a judge, that persons race, gender, ethnicity or sexual preference should not be a determining factor in the treatment they receive. But…. we all know that what should be and what is happens to play out very different in the world that we live in.

Structurally this country is flawed. The foundation is morally bankrupt. We see it in the infrastructure in every state and city government. For example, a local government decides to cut funding for public transit to address a budget shortfall. Who do you think this is going to effect the most? Let’s talk about decent affordable housing, quality healthcare, good schools, the areas banks choose to open and who they are going to lend to, where corporations choose to open up grocery stores: these are all critical needs of a community but the problem is race and class play a huge factor when these decisions are being made. And the sad reality is that communities of color are the ones most impacted. How can a community be expected to prosper when there are fewer banks, little access to credit for homes and businesses, and longer, more expensive commutes to get to jobs?

And who makes these decisions? Folks who think like me? NO! Sadly the folks who are in positions to make these decisions, the ones who sit on boards, who enact laws, who draft policies, these folks are just not concerned with the needs of folks of color. And the sooner that we all acknowledge this the better! Because then we can begin the real work of making change. Will this ever happen? Hmm… probably not on the level that it needs to be done. And I say this because racial inequity is truly ingrained in the fabric of this country. And it would have to be attacked on multiple levels starting at the federal level and I don’t see that happening. But what we can do is begin looking at each community based organization, each state/city/county department and finding the areas where there is structural racial inequities and start doing what needs to be done: from the top down.

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