Given the demographic shifts predicted for America, the multiple generational and persistent economic and health disparities can undermine our competitiveness as a city, state, and country.
These generational wealth and health gaps that detrimentally impact people of color are much more related to a persistent and historical issue for American: structural and institutional racism. This “invisible” issue takes its toll on the spirit and lives of adults and it impacts the future of all of our children – regardless of race – and thus impacts our collective futures – again, regardless of race.
At Associated Black Charities, we are clear that the outcomes associated with these challenges require more than the traditional but unsuccessful solutions of services; “transactional investments” that have all too often been society’s primary problem-solving response.
But they do not solve the problem of low income children from families of color whose long term outcomes are linked to the stress and trauma experienced by their parents and their parents lives. They do not solve the issue of so many closed societal doors for formerly incarcerated parents who are at higher risk for recidivism if they cannot obtain a job, nor for those with limited education, nor for those living with mental illness, nor with those from neighborhoods with resource deprivation or lack of overall access or opportunity. No matter what the “transactional investments” are, they will not solve the whole of these challenges.
For whites, who as a group continue to be bolstered by the “invisible” benefits of structural racism and privilege, the change in racial demographics and America’s sprint to being a member of an increasingly global community also brings challenges that demand change from the responses of the past.
We as a country can no longer afford to ignore, avoid, invalidate, or denigrate the historical or continuing impact of this issue. We cannot afford to ignore the data and blame the supposed lack of personal responsibility of a group of people. Nor can we afford to become mired in blame or defensiveness.
Too many individuals who are not people of color do not consider this “their” conversation. However, as citizens, this conversation must be owned by all of us, because its continuing impact is felt by our most important resource: our children.
The data is clear – and frightening for an America that values fair opportunity and access:
- White Americans have 22 times more wealth than African Americans — a wealth gap that nearly doubled between 2005-2010;
- African Americans unemployment rates are consistently double those of whites (13.6% to 7.4% for whites, which is below the national average);
- Less wealth and home equity – which makes up more of African American wealth than it does for whites – truncates opportunities for African Americans to send their children to college or to make other economic investments for asset accrual;
- Many racialized health disparities have underlying causes, including access to transportation, secure housing and proximity to grocery store and services.
Given these realities, we need a “problem solver” approach; an approach that uses data and research to continuously examine and test solutions, ranging from service to public policy, acknowledging the very real history and impact of structural racism without being mired in paralysis or blame.
This is the role of Associated Black Charities. We understand that these problems require a collective understanding of the “problem”, collective investments, collective discussions, and collective changes for individuals, systems and institutions. We use philanthropy, relationships, grantmaking, policy design and services to achieve specific outcomes, to learn what is and isn’t working and to galvanize a community beyond our physical boundaries, to understand how they too are impacted by these very specific issues.
We educate, advocate and influence citizens, policy influencers and makers, corporate and nonprofit citizens and help other investors in understanding how structural and institutional racism limits outcomes for people of color with the goal of helping them change the direction of their investments, and increase the effectiveness of policies, thereby creating more inclusive avenues of success and increasing the number of persons who can be successful.
We recognize that ABC cannot “boil the ocean” – we cannot facilitate problem solving for all of the issues which contribute to the wealth and health outcomes in the region. Our problem solving strategy seeks to find transactional and transformative ways to increase the economic assets for low wage citizens, to increase the assets for professionals of color, to increase the economic potential of African American college students, to increase the number of economically viable African American businesses, and to change the specific health outcomes especially as it relates to childhood illnesses.
This is a critical moment, a pivotal time for all fair-minded Marylanders to come together to create the type of state that we want our children – ALL our children – to inherit. This moment for creating a vision and a plan must be seized or the American Legacy that our children will inherit will be diminished by our failure.