As we gaze in horror yet again at what happens to black people in America, we ask ourselves; “How soon till this happens again? When will it finally stop? What can we do to stop it? How do we stop it?” The brilliant Steven Covey said that we may know that we have to do and what we have to do, but not how to do it. And that is the hardest part.
The American myth of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” is just that – a myth. I know from my own experience that it is extremely difficult to make significant progress in your career without any outsider help, connections, contacts. I was born white, middle class, Jewish, well educated and still I have had a difficult time finding investors for Kronfeld Motors. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be for low income African Americans to get into good schools, good jobs, good careers, or launching their own businesses. I can’t stand the phrase “It takes a village”, but it’s true.
Throughout my life I have seen friends succeed and become “made” men and women because of the good work they did and equally if not more importantly the associations that they had. Does anyone honestly believe George W. Bush became president because of how smart and gifted he was? Or Donald Trump? No, it was because of what they were born into. FDR and JFK for that matter, presidents we all can admire were born to wealth and privilege.
And it’s not just politics; Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos, who cheated investors out of $100’s of millions was born rich, white, pretty, well connected. There is simply no way she could have sold her “better than Star Trek technology”, (thanks Thunderfoot), idea if she were born middle class, poor, black, etc. It was because of her family’s connections to wealth and power. She went to Stanford, but she obviously was better suited for community college and it’s where she would have been if not for what she was born into. Not that there’s anything wrong with community college.
We see over and over again examples of incompetent people being awarded golden parachutes for terrible performance, (Target, Boeing). This blatant truth is part of the fuel for the riots and protests; it’s not just about George Floyd, or police brutality; it’s continued and increasing BS. The lie that so many of the people at the “top” are really that bright, gifted, smarter than me and you – no, they were just born very white and very rich and we all know it.
No, no one is an island. No one is 100% responsible for great successes and achievements. Sure there are those that start from nothing and rise to serious leadership roles, (this is what gets me about political conservatives that love the “pulled myself up by my own bootstraps” myth – the last several Republican presidents were born to great connections and privilege Bush, Trump; while the last several Democrats were not – Obama, Clinton – okay, okay – yes Reagan wasn’t either) but the vast majority of successful people had some kind of help.
So back to the “How”. How do we solve the problems of inequity when so much of it boils down to what you were born into and the connections you have? This has to be one of the most challenging human questions of all time. And we can’t just throw money at it. The only thing I can think of right now as I hurriedly write this is that we all have to do something in our own lives. Hire an African American, shop at a black owned store or service, volunteer at organizations that help minorities. Just do something positive without waiting for someone else, or the government to do it.