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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

A new power structure will lead to a more productive system

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Solutions for the Underaffiliated welcomed Jennifer Langton and Libby Kyles of the Tzedek Social Justice Fund into the studio for a conversation about what to do about systemic oppression.

The Tzedek Social Justice Fund supports the social justice work of grassroots organizations, collectives and cooperatives, nonprofits, and local leaders whose work is centered on LGBTQ Justice, Racial Justice, and Dismantling Antisemitism

Unlike most funders who give money for equipment or supplies, but not salaries, Tzedek makes trust-based grants to individual community leaders and organizations.

  • Local leaders know what the community needs, what they need to do and how to use the money.

  • Tzedek doesn’t burden grantees with hoops and activities that distract them from delivering on the mission.

  • Examples

    • Grants for activities and programs to support youth after a series of shootings

    • Helps people re-enter society after being incarcerated, including helping them get training

Systemic Consequences

  • Americans like to say every person is entitled to certain liberties and opportunities.

  • Diverse perspectives are good for innovation and productivity.

    • When people of color and those who identify differently from gender norms lack access to the same treatment and opportunities as white people, we are not taking advantage of all the resources we have in society.

    • Research shows that when we work with different people, we are happier. Boston Consulting Group and achieve better results Harvard Business Review

  • Advocates for people of color and members of the LGBT community say that white people oppress them through the written and unwritten rules and behaviors they create related to economic opportunity, housing, lending, employment — virtually all aspects of society — leaving them with fewer opportunities.

    • People of color typically live in poorer neighborhoods, go to lower-performing schools, graduate from high school and attend college at lower rates, earn less, and end up in prison at a higher rate than white Americans.

  • One form of white oppression is to treat people of color and members of the LGBT community more harshly than white people for disruptive behavior that is similar.

    • For example, let’s say two children are throwing a fit in class. A Black child may be called defiant for crying or throwing a tantrum, while a white child may be described as having a bad day, so giving a normal response to a setback or frustrating moment.

    • If it is purely a diversity and equity problem, we may simply need teachers of different races and gender identities and for schools to provide care for the behavioral health issues of people of color and members of the LGBT community.

  • However, trauma created by social forces, like poverty, abuse, and food insecurity — and not just skin color or gender identity — are likely to be behind disruptive behavior among people of color and the LGBT community.

  • The problem is not simply about giving a pass to white kids and punishing kids of color for the same disruptive behavior. It is that the system fosters poverty and environmental trauma which disproportionately affects non-white people.

The Role of Intent

  • White people set up and mostly run the education, healthcare, housing and other systems in the United States, so it seems fair to say that the negative outcomes, including those of people of color and the LGBT community, are the result of how they operate those systems.

    • For example, you wouldn’t say that customers are behind poor customer service.

  • Are only a few (or some) greedy, white business executives and real estate owners doing things to disproportionately impact people of color?

  • Are other wealthy whites giving something back?

  • Is the intent to amass wealth one will not use in a lifetime (nor will their kids) justifiable if there are negative consequences for others of it?

    • Unaffordable rents

    • Low wages

    • Poorer education leading to less opportunity due to less available tax dollars

  • Do we believe these people have an obligation to make life more manageable for people by increasing wages, charging less interest, reducing fees and penalties for not paying on time, and not trying to keep us all paying without really getting anything?

  • There are forces reinforcing the idea among poor white people that black and brown people are trying to get more than they have.

  • It is doubtful that all — or even most — white people intentionally oppress people of color and the LGBT community, but is the oppression still real?

    • Much of white society knows we have privilege, oppression of people of color is real and caused by the current system, and that it is not most people’s intention.

    • But, all people are responsible for whether they act on their knowledge.

    • If they chose not to act, they are knowingly contributing to the problem.

Simple Solutions

  • Learn about people different from you and to respect them.

    • Be mindful to learn about people of color and members of the LGBT community, their struggles, and the role of both intentional and unintentional white bias in them.

    • Read material by people of color and the LGBT community about their struggle with oppression.

  • Observe treatment of people of color and members of the LGBT community in stores, banks, wherever we go and look and listen for obvious and more subtle ways they re treated differently from white people. Are people more courteous with white people? Patient? Helpful?

  • Explore whether and how a more diverse universe of teachers infusing curricula with messages of diversity, equity and inclusion could done without guilt, but with inspiration for hope, innovation and productivity?

  • Ask “How does my inaction to inhumane treatment, bullying, unaffordable housing, high interest rates, lack of transportation, voter suppression, failing public schools, high rates of incarceration, and pushing the poor to live in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, food insecurity, violence and drug and alcohol abuse?”

  • Embrace employer-sponsored diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training to help people understand the inherent bias in how we live and how to change their own recognition and approach to it.

  • Advocate with and for people of color and the LGBTIA community to find solutions for the drivers of oppression across the different systems.

The Thorny Truth

  • Change requires sacrifice among rich, white people and businesses to give people of color and LGBT people the same opportunities as white people

    • Limits on nepotism

    • Lower loan and credit card interest rates for poor people

    • More affordable rents

    • Higher taxes on the rich

    • Investments in urban schools and communities

    • Expansion of Medicaid and state-funded healthcare

  • White people do not have much time left to use the excuse that we don’t see our unintentional oppression. The day is coming when the “they” that is keeping people destined to failure will be “us”.

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