Racial Injustice - It Kills Some, but Wounds us All
We are barely halfway through 2020, and already we have felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the shutdown, record-breaking unemployment and a market crash. And now we are facing a real social crisis, one that neither science nor a vaccine can fix. The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many before them--These horrific events are clear evidence of the systemic racism that is profoundly at work in American institutions, culture, and our justice system. In no uncertain terms, the threat of physical endangerment that people of color feel when they encounter law enforcement is real, very real. Is it finally time for us to make right the systemic racial injustice of this society--something that is long, long overdue?
The phenomenon of the white man’s dividend, white privilege--and when it comes to encounters with law enforcement, the benefit of the doubt--is alive and well in this country. As a white man, I have the privilege of educating myself about racial injustice, visiting the topic, and then retreating “safely” to my privilege. Unlike people of color, I don’t experience living with racial injustice 24/7, I have no idea what that must be like, but I can clearly see the impact it has on the lives of people of color.
As a member of a church in downtown Brooklyn, NY, I’ve made friends with many people of different backgrounds and colors. I’ve listened to them recount their experiences of encountering law enforcement. These heartfelt stories introduced me to a world I naively hoped did not exist or merely existed on TV or in the movies. This world is far removed from my reality and my frame of thinking. I was taken aback, all the time failing to understand how they felt, but still hearing what they were telling me. I heard about parents of color teaching their children how to conduct themselves when encountering law enforcement, and I came to realize how their lives were being impacted on a daily basis. I had some self-educating to do and still do.
In 2020, it is clear to everyone what racist and segregationist views are. But there is a particular kind of racist view that is not always seen (in my opinion anyway): Assimilationist. “Assimilationist policies and programs are geared toward developing, civilizing, and integrating a racial group (to distinguish from programs that uplift individuals). .... antiracist policies are geared toward reducing racial inequities and creating equal opportunities.” In order to truly be antiracist I realized that I had to understand and be able to identify how these different kinds of racist views (segregationists and assimilationists) were woven into the fabric of society, policies, culture and peoples’ thinking, and also clear up my own constructs and thinking. But who can I talk to about this?
In early 2019 I became aware of Dr. Anica Camela Mulzac, a young lady at my church who was making a difference in fostering candid discussions about racism in our society, how to identify it, and be a voice for positive change. The mission of Dr. Anica’s initiative, Race(+)Positive, is as follows:
“We believe that racism, prejudice, and bias may be defeated when we Engage, Empower, and Equip leaders and educators to harness strengths, champion diversity, and inclusion, and foster a healthy culture/morale in the workplace and classroom alike.
From exploring unconscious/implicit bias, privilege, and microaggressions to developing listening, communication, and conflict resolution skills our services offer practical tools needed to address the complexities of race, including its intersectionality with other key areas of diversity.”
I attended two workshops run by Dr. Anica, one in Harlem and one in midtown Manhattan. In her workshops, Dr. Anica would pose a question about a race-related topic to the room, regardless of the color of the attendees, and lead a healthy discussion amongst a diverse group of people. I found it refreshing and encouraging to be in an environment that allowed for candid, frank, and sincere discussion. I learn by hearing. On March 23 of this year, Boerum Hill Financial Advisors signed an agreement with Dr. Anica and Race (+) Positive, to provide financial support in the promotion and hosting of Race (+) Positive’s Race Talks (unfortunately days later the gathering of people was not allowed due to Covid-19). To me, Dr. Anica’s efforts directly address what writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde said in the ’60s:
“...we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.”
To learn more about Dr. Anica and Race(+)Positive, visit https://www.doctoranica.com/
The peaceful protests across this country and the world reveal the need for dialog, open-mindedness, civil leadership, policy change, and cultural reform. For me, I not only need to listen, empathize, and learn from others, I also need to get involved, actively support, and act when it comes to the elimination of systemic racism. This means becoming a small part of the patterns needed for recognizing all humans as equals and reconciling human differences. Racism kills some but wounds us all.
Normally my articles focus on matters related to personal finances but clearly these matters are attached to our social systems. The pandemic has a clear financial impact that causes personal stress and anxiety; to that end, I spoke to you about the financial steps we could take to adapt and address our individual circumstances. Now, recognizing the seminal event that is taking place today, I wanted to also communicate with my clients and prospective clients on how we can seek to address our collective circumstances. By speaking a little about my journey and what I’m doing to learn and act against systemic racism, I hope it will be of some encouragement to you and your journey.
 How to be Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, page 32
 A. Lorde - Sister Outsider (1964)