Avibra is and has always been dedicated to the overall well-being of both our members and our communities. We also know that there is always more to be done to make a real difference in peoples’ lives. Just as we’ve supported the environment through our Plant a Tree program, we’re going to work to support the people who need it most through our new Social Impact project. This month’s topic is centered around race, racism and racial justice. We will also be donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been fighting for justice and equality for almost 100 years in the US.
Our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and our entire country is made better when we work to ensure that all people are treated equally. Each of us has countless opportunities in our community to help get us there. Discrimination based on race is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to end it.
While most of us probably agree that everyone should enjoy the same rights and opportunities, the truth is that it’s just not the case currently. Racism has been built into our systems and our society in ways that can make it tough to identify and even more difficult to remove.
A big part of being anti-racist is looking for the ways systems are biased and working toward changes. This includes your employer’s hiring habits, your child’s school’s history with punishing kids of color and your city’s treatment of neighborhoods that have a high minority population with respect to pollution, social services, policing, education and public policy.
There have been studies showing that a resume with a White-sounding name like Emily or Greg will get an interview much more often than an identical resume with a Black-sounding name like Lakisha and Jamal. This means that Black Americans just aren’t getting the same opportunities to succeed and thrive. That type of discrimination against Black people isn’t just limited to job interviews, you can see it in just about every part of every system.
We so often hear about how home ownership is a major step in financial well-being, but getting there isn’t as easy for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Studies from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development have shown that people of color trying to buy a home are shown fewer options than their White counterparts. With home ownership playing such a big role in personal finances, these differences in treatment will hurt a Black person or family for years and decades.
This is just a modern take on historical redlining — where banks would refuse to give out loans for houses to people of color even when they otherwise qualified. Each of these discriminatory policies and actions has contributed to a country where the racial wealth gap is enormous. Unless we’re willing to make real changes, it’s difficult for Black families to catch up.
Even healthcare systems aren’t immune from racial biases. Johns Hopkins found that medical students may be implicitly and explicitly learning to treat non-White patients differently than their White patients. We’ve seen these differences lead to everything from more Black mothers dying from preventable complications during childbirth to today’s Coronavirus pandemic with a disproportionate number of Black people dying from the virus.
In education, Black children are much more likely to be suspended for similar behaviors compared to White children. This is just as true in preschool as it is in high school. When our kids see that racism play out in the classroom, they’re going to take away the wrong messages. It’s not enough to tell them that they shouldn’t be biased, we also have to explain to them that a biased system might be treating their classmates unfairly.
Policing & Criminal Justice
The most visible systemic racism we’re seeing laid bare today involves policing and the criminal justice system. Black people were 24% of the 1,098 killed by police in 2019 despite being only 13% of the American population. These biases that people start learning early in life carry through to their decisions as adults, even for police officers who have received training to fight those biases. It’s not always the case that they were actively exposed to overt racism from family or friends. They may have just observed the differences in the way Black people are treated by systems without challenging the reasons behind that.
Even though we know that Blacks and Whites use illegal drugs at around the same rate, Black people are still 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for it. Their sentences are 20% longer, too. If you ask judges why they make decisions like that, some wouldn’t even be able to identify that they sentence people differently based on their race. Those biases may show up in their actions without them noticing. Those types of biases are perhaps some of the most difficult to change because we’re unaware of them in the first place.
When we let issues like this persist throughout these systems, our communities as a whole suffer from it. If we don’t take steps to be actively anti-racist, we will continue to lose current friends, family and community members to each of these systemic inequalities. We will continue to lose out on so many of our future Black teachers, nurses and doctors, entrepreneurs, neighbors, thought leaders, loved ones and more. And if we don’t make changes to address those inequalities, we can’t be the country that we aspire to be.
What We Can Do
The first step is getting comfortable with identifying how your own biases influence your thoughts and actions every day. There are some great books out there that can help, like How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi for adults and Sesame Street’s We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates for kids. The goal is to be more thoughtful with how we think and act and the systems we support.
Another way to take action is by talking to your relatives and friends about their own racism and biases. In these conversations, it’s important to focus on empathy, talk about the family’s values and be unwilling to ignore the racist jokes, comments or actions of other family members or friends. When talking to kids about racism, we have to address biases and race head on. As we mentioned above, they’re already being exposed to biased behavior everywhere, so make sure that you’re actively teaching them anti-racist principles.
Most importantly, we all have to be willing to constantly and consistently work on these issues in ourselves and our community. It means raising uncomfortable topics with our employers or our children’s teachers. It means going to town halls or meetings to voice your opinion on local laws or city planning. And it means taking these steps even when they seem difficult.