“Economic inequity, political oppression, and historical wealth from slavery and ethnic cleansing are inseparable from the ruin of soil, forests, and water. All arise from structures and daily practices of exploitation and waste, supremacy and violence. Sustainability will sustain nothing without challenging and transforming power and privilege.” – Jonathan McRay
Do you naturally expect certain groups of people to be wealthy, intelligent and successful?
Are there other groups you naturally expect to be poor, uneducated and have less than admirable qualities?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you have just recognized your biases, tendency to stereotype and how quickly you will judge another person. If you answered NO, dare I say you are dangerously unaware of the biases that run all of us.
As we close out our Black History Month series, my final interview is with the founder of The Masters Of Business Network And Mastermind Bro Bedford. Get ready to explore why we judge a book by its cover and why we unknowingly grant access to some groups while others fight the right to get in the door.
In truth, racism has systematically excluded, marginalized, exploited and generated unequal economic outcomes while also being used to justify and normalize those same inequalities.
In the interview with Bro Bedford, we learned four critical mistakes individuals and groups make between race and economics. Mistakes that, when compounded together, drive the disparity.
Mistake #1: We dismiss institutional racism as ingrained into the fabric of society.
Imagine the United States Constitution once stated that a black person is worth 60 percent of a white person. This belief that black people were unintelligent and second-class has affected how society relates to the black community. This historical context around race has led to unfair “privilege” bestowed on some individuals and groups over others and is reflected in wealth, income, and employment disparities.
Mistake #2: Not understanding that the educational system prepares the masses for the job market.
With the lack of focus on economics, wealth creation, business and finances, students are told to study hard, get good grades and get a high-paying, stable job. Stay with the company for 40 years, and in exchange, they’ll pay you a pension with benefits and rewards. In today’s world, college graduates cannot find jobs, and people are now job-hopping, often in search of an income large enough to provide for their family. The economy has had a few crashes, and technology has resulted in robots and machines replacing jobs. Many face no real path to financial freedom as they helplessly watch the gap between the wealthy and the poor continue to grow. Sadly, the masses have been conditioned to allow employers to determine their worth and to be satisfied with the perceived safer exchange of trading time for dollars.
Mistake #3: Not recognizing that internalized racism has placed a lid on perceived potential.
Internalized racism has resulted in certain racial groups unknowingly accepting and acting on the dominant society’s view, stereotypes and biases of their ethnic group. This belief gives rise to thinking and behavior that reinforce a conditioned idea that automatically links the category of “Black” with bad, dangerous, or generally inferior while simultaneously valuing “white” as “good, superior and better. Underlying this is the belief that certain racial groups are superior to others, and only by assimilating into and adopting the beliefs of the dominant culture will you have a chance of success.
Mistake #4: Not acknowledging a mindset of scarcity, privilege, and entitlement.
Within society, there is belief jobs are finite, and resources are limited. In times of uncertainty, this scarcity mentality will heighten the dominant group’s sense of entitlement and the belief that those who do not belong are taking jobs and exhausting limited resources. Sadly, for some, belonging equals white and not belonging equals all non-white. Similarly, this same scarcity mentality as those who find themselves on the outside frustrated. They also fight for access to what they perceive to be a limited amount of resources and jobs. Neither group sees that success lies in our ability to create new opportunities rather than compete for a resource or job whose time has expired.
The key to long-term change and equality is a long and complicated road. Change must occur at all levels—from shaping individual minds to shifting societal norms and creating inclusive and just policies, structures, and institutions. We all must face the conditioning and beliefs that are a product of a continent built on racism, bias, power and privilege. We must move beyond shame, blame and judgement and do our part to move towards solutions that benefit all groups.
As I write, the challenge ahead seems impossible as success will be determined by what those who have privilege are willing to sacrifice. I remind myself that to be discouraged is to give my power away and claim the seat of a victim. So, I choose hope and move forward, challenging myself to find solutions. To have the courage is to see and believe in what is possible. I have come to understand that I will find what I focus on and that what I choose to think has a greater chance of becoming real.