- Rhonnie Brewer
AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR ALLIES
America is a weighty quilt fabricated with the blocks of inequity. A quilt is created by sewing together blocks of fabric that are joined together by other “cornerstone” blocks of fabric. Every incident of injustice on a black life is a block. If you pay attention, you will recognize that over time these blocks have led to “cornerstone” events in the history of black citizens in America. You must also understand, the murder of George Floyd was not a single, random act of injustice, block. It is not even the last in a long list of injustices suffered by black citizens throughout history, Manuel Ellis, block. It is the result of failures by the American justice system, legislators, and quite frankly society to act sooner on behalf of black people. Why didn’t they act? Because, it has become a norm. It has become normal for people to shrug their shoulders and accept that another black life was lost at the hands of police or vigilante citizens, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbrey, block and block. It was established as a “norm” during slavery that black lives where only worth the economic value that you can extract from a black person over their lifetime, block. And, just as a child loses interest and value diminishes in a gift one week post-Christmas, those who would oppress, abuse, and exploit black people have systematically worked to diminish the value of black lives ever since, block.
According to history books, slavery existed in the United States for 246 years, but the social constraints of slavery still exists in the black community today, 155 years after its abolishment. In reality, black people have lived an existence of indentured servitude. Provided a social contract based on the American Dream and a paycheck, which often times only provides them with enough money to scrap by, while amassing debt without true economic means of ever ridding themselves of this debt. How is this? Simple, they are given the opportunity to amass debt freely over their life span, digging themselves deeper and deeper into a financial trench, while being denied the simple tools used by white citizens to gain financial stability.
According to the Washington Post, in 2017 alone, Black applicants were rejected at more than double the rate of non-Hispanic white applicants on all types of loans, including conventional mortgages, block. But, not only are their loan applications being rejected, those that do manage to get loans are charged higher interest rates, block. Basically, America has two credit rating systems, one for whites and another for non-whites, block. According to a recent article in Black Enterprise, black-owned businesses are twice as likely to be denied business loans, block. Even with 750-760 credit scores and consistent annual profits, they are denied and given mediocre excuses for their denial. Even with these persistent stumbling blocks, black business owners have always steadfastly maintained the hope of building wealth through business development.
However, history has shown us that economic status does not save black Americans from racial hostility. Take for instance the Tulsa Massacre of 1912, also known as the burning of “Black Wall Street”, a community intentionally built to grow wealth for black citizens of Tulsa through business development and homeownership. White citizens burned down buildings, looted businesses, yet not a single white person was arrested, while blacks were arrested and sent to detention camps. The remaining black citizens who were not arrested, were paid below market rate for their property, block. Cornerstone events such as these appear all throughout America’s checkered past. The tragedy of oppression and repression which has befallen black people has always been built on a foundation of racism. The burning of Robert Church’s home, block. The Red Summer, block. The Sanitation Strike, block. The Watts Riots, block. The L.A. Riots, block. There are far too many of these instances to name, but the underlying message is there. Black people continue to thirst for an America where economic parity can be had by all.
Thousands turn out for peaceful demonstrations on Saturday around Los Angeles.
Source: Los Angeles Times (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
What you are seeing demonstrated through peaceful protests, held across the country is an outcry for sustainable and measurable socioeconomic equity. A demand to provide access for members of the black community to fairness and opportunity when it comes to education attainment, financial security, healthcare, and quite frankly social status. Your support in letters, interviews and social media posts are appreciated as an amplification of the voices that have gone unheard and unheeded for far too long. However, what is more important is action and accountability for measurable change. Change that can be measured in pay rates, bank accounts, business revenues, retirement plans, home ownership, economic development, capital investment, stock options and many other financial tools used to build generational wealth.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Derek Russel
Now, here is the good part. For the past couple of weeks, I have been asked several times by friends and allies how they can help. In the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.” Bottomline, we cannot do this without all of us coming together to do our part. We need our allies to echo the need for equity. To amplify the outcry for justice you see playing out in the streets and across your television screens. To link up arm and arm with black people and be a catalyst for progress. To break down the stronghold that white supremacy has had on this country. What I am asking of you is bold and at times, it may even be scary. But make no mistake, without this unified push for equity, we will never be able to dismantle the racism and hate interwoven into the fabric of America. Be a part of this project and see how you can individually contribute to a collective action for equity.
As CEO of ProGeny Place, we have launched the ProGeny Equity Project, a movement designed to support the work of equity on a grassroot level. We have created a tool kit designed to help you see your community through the lens of equity and hope that you will consider leading an equity project in your city. For those of you who are willing to take up the charge, I have also outlined ways that you can build a foundation for equity in your everyday life. All I ask is that you find where you fit in and follow through. You may find that you belong in more than one category, that is okay too. What we know is that the time to sit on the sidelines is over. You must act and speak out against racism and injustice. Silence is no longer and option. My greatest hope is that this letter will spark within you to join this movement to balance the scales of socioeconomic power in our neighborhoods, cities, states and across this country.
Rhonnie Brewer CEO, ProGeny Place