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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

Racial Justice Makes the Whole Pie Better

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

The roots and problems of white power

Most people in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities cannot pick themselves up from their bootstraps.

They comprise 40 percent of the United States population, but a vast majority are trapped by white-created, oppressive systems. Whether intentional today or not, these systems’ origins carved the BIPOC community from access to the means to be successful.

Today, on average, the BIPOC community lacks the same access to college, home ownership, or funds to start a company as whites enjoy. It is mostly powerless and dependent on that same white power structure to not only help it, but to live.

It’s not working, and The United States is paying for it in financial and social costs related to social programs, crime, and healthcare to name a few.

If it was a business, investors would wonder why The United States’ leaders stand for the lost productivity and wasted resources, not to mention that it is not living up to the grand proclamations made in our nation’s founding documents.

Four forces working against the BIPOC community

  1. Segregation is about wealth as much as skin color, so it isolated BIPOC into low-income communities.

  • Through policy, gentrification, and not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) organizing (by both liberals and conservatives) segregation cut off non-white people from wealth and health.

  • It ensures public education will fail

    • Public schools are funded with local taxes, so schools in poor districts can’t pay for college-prep programs and courses and quality teachers

    • That means that college, the path to a successful career and social network to help support it, is off the table

    • The irony? The content we cover in our schools and field trips focuses on white men, without mentioning how they set the table for those poor kids.

  • The only food retailers that operate in these poor neighborhoods are convenient stores and fast food restaurants, which means getting nutritious food is nearly impossible.

  • Businesses located factories that spew pollution and hazardous waste in or near communities of color, with adverse effects on the population’s health.

2. Private sector financial policies cut off access to attaining wealth.

  • Redlining, the practice of shading maps of neighborhoods in red based on racial and ethnic composition and income to show that they were risky for lending, was the start.

  • Predatory financial services like payday lenders and check cashing services disproportionately target communities of color with excessive fees and interest rates.

3. Voter suppression by law and gerrymandering by policy limits access to power among the BIPOC community.

4. Limited support network

  • White Americans can often rely on friends and family.

  • Even white adults without high incomes often get advantages, like better primary education and college for their kids or homes via “loans,” gifts, and/or inheritance from parents and grandparents.

  • Members of the BIPOC community usually lack rich relatives or peers who can help them.

  • Their networks consist of the few who go to college and the even fewer who attain entertainment or sports celebrity status

  • They rely on the government and non-profits for help — organizations that lack sufficient resources to really help in the first place.

Just watching what we have known for decades gets worse

  • Poor or failing public schools, measured in test scores, rates of promotion to the next grade, and readiness for work or college compared to whites.

  • Shorter life expectancy and lower quality of life. Poor people tend to eat unhealthy food because it is all they can afford. Over time, many develop get chronic conditions, like Type 2 diabetes, that lead to healthcare needs they can’t afford, so they put off getting care until they have to go to the emergency department or stay in the hospital.

  • People are surrounded by some combination of violent crime, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol use

  • The trauma, instability, and hopelessness results in anxiety, depression and most of mental and behavioral disorders.

  • Programs that provide food, housing, transportation and other support services don’t have lasting impact and leave the systemic problems firmly in place.

  • The only opportunities are lottery tickets and success in sports or entertainment.

  • Aggressive and violent policing in response, leading to distrust of the police that has deteriorated into hate

  • Incarceration rates are disproportionately high

  • Generations of mostly men return from jail to impoverished, hopeless communities, can’t get jobs, and so integrate back into the trauma-filled environment with no means to be productive

  • More substance abuse, domestic violence, and crime

  • More aggressive police behavior

  • Government and non-profit resources and efforts continue to fail to help.

  • What’s left are health-free zones characterized by violence, mental and physical sickness, hopelessness, and doubt and distrust about America and its government.

Admitting you have a problem and it’s you is the first step to recovery; Then prepare to start over

Accepting our role in white oppression makes us feel bad, so we often deny it.

  • Many white people are not prejudiced, but don’t think of how systems work together to oppress people because we don’t experience oppression.

  • Segregation ensures we don’t see it.

  • Bad behavior by white people, especially kids, is dismissed with empathy, while BIPOC people are labeled as disruptive and bad and more likely to be harshly punished.

  • Whites (liberals and conservatives) consistently vote not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) against BIPOC integration in their neighborhoods and schools and pull their kids from public schools and put them in private ones, often using their parents’ or grandparents’ money to do it.

Many white Americans are blaming the wrong people for their problems.

  • Our politicians threaten that the poorest, least powerful part of the population is taking our slice of American Pie.

  • Wealth and opportunity have concentrated among rich, white people.

  • More and more white people do not earn enough to afford a house, healthcare, necessities, and save money.

We respond, not prevent

  • In healthcare, getting preventative physical and dental check-ups can help limit the spread of conditions like diabetes or tooth decay.

  • That saves money on medication, surgery and other care later, like emergency department visits or stays at the hospital

  • If we know that prevention works, why are we trying to fix education, poverty, crime, abuse, and trauma well after they cause significant financial and social costs?

  • Why are we spending money on expensive government programs, non-profit grants, a larger healthcare system, and prisons that breed distrust because they don’t fix the underlying problem?

It’s way past skin-color now

  • Today, prejudice seems to have moved beyond skin color and is based on the physical illness, crime, trauma-induced behavior, and physical and mental health issues associated with the BIPOC community

  • These behaviors are rooted in poor nutrition, abuse, fear of crime, stress, and instability — normalized chaos.

Let’s be better humans

We have good intentions. It’s just not enough.

  • Accept that white power is holding back America by limiting the opportunity of, and failing to support, 40 percent of its population

  • Admit that you are likely aiding and abetting oppression by simply not knowing or thinking about how you use white power.

  • Learn about the experiences of BIPOC communities: segregation, low wages, limited access to mortgages and loans, lack of transportation, and challenges to the right to vote.

  • Demand truthful education that teaches how and why certain people became oppressed:

    • The forced removal of Indigenous People from the land to camps in the name of God

    • The enslavement of Black people and continued marginalization of them via low pay and segregation from which they can’t escape and the reasons for that.

    • Limiting the rights of women to access power through voting and over their bodies

  • You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed. Learn from mistakes to build a more productive and healthy society that advocates against oppression, ignorance and intolerance.

Focus on prevention through transformation

  • Advocate for and fund early-age, trauma-informed care programs and staff in schools to support BIPOC families.

  • Raise the living standards of BIPOC communities by investing in them to ensure basic needs are met like:

    • Healthy food and water, sufficient rest, clothing and shelter

    • Protection from violence and theft

    • Emotional stability and well-being

    • Health security starting with access to healthy food

    • Financial security via a living wage and better education and job training

Business can lead

  • Implement Diversity Equality Inclusion programs.

  • Diverse perspectives drive innovation, not white men in small rooms with data.

  • Adjust recruiting and hiring practices to ensure diversity on the hiring team and to be more aware of diversity during the resume review process.

The media can make the conversation about solutions

  • Find media that talk about the issues by sharing experiences and potential solutions from both white and BIPOC communities, listening with a mind that is willing to change.

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