Rich Americans like me should use our money and influence to end systemic racism
If wealthy Americans cared as much about equity for people of color as they did about tax cuts, this would be fixed. And it's in our interest to care.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, activists and thought leaders have spoken openly about white people needing to be proactive allies in fighting racism. As Angela Davis says, it’s not enough to just not be racist, you must also be anti-racist. Silence is complicity.
I would take that sentiment one step further for my wealthy peers.
Just like it’s not enough to not be racist, the wealthy must do more than not actively support the economic marginalization of minority communities. We have benefited immensely from an economic and political system that degrades and persecutes Black and brown Americans. We must take active, forceful steps to reform those systems.
Thanks to centuries of government policies that have prioritized securing and expanding the wealth of the already well off over protecting the lives and livelihoods of Black people, Black people in this country have less access to health care and quality education, lower incomes and family wealth, higher unemployment, and lower life expectancies. Police brutality is just one hazard that Black communities across America are forced to deal with on a daily basis. Addressing only that one issue fails to overturn centuries of systemic oppression, yet it’s the only one I see many of my wealthy peers talking about.
Press for racial equity, not tax cuts
It’s easy for the rich to call out police violence because, for most of us, the police play very little role in our lives. As a 60-year-old white guy who lives on Park Avenue in Manhattan, my interactions with police officers mostly consist of hearing someone say “Good evening, sir,” as I walk into Gracie Mansion or talking with someone from the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York at a political event. It’s a lot harder for rich people to rethink how their own economic success is tied in with the oppression of others, but it’s absolutely necessary.
The rich and powerful in this country need to start reexamining the role that they play in widespread racial inequality that goes well beyond police violence, and if they’re uncomfortable with what they see, they need to take real action to change the status quo.
It’s not enough for the rich and powerful to post a hashtag on Twitter and claim that they’re doing their part. We know what it looks like when millionaires and billionaires really want the government to do something — they use their money and their connections to influence government leaders, and more often than not they get their way. If wealthy Americans cared one-tenth as much about equity for Black and brown people as they did about tax cuts, this would have already been resolved.
Overcoming history: NAACP, White People 4 Black Lives, Color of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, and many, many more.
This is just the start to addressing all of the issues that plague and have plagued the Black community in the United States because of a broken system that we have helped propagate.
Instability is bad for business
To my fellow wealthy Americans, ignoring the role that you play in perpetuating an unjust system (and hiding from your responsibility to fix it) isn’t just amoral and selfish, it’s stupid. Even if you care about no one but yourself, instability is bad for business. Your businesses and investments depend on a stable country with a strong consumer base. Leaving vast swaths of the population economically disenfranchised and unable to pay their bills will put many of the same opportunities that made us rich out of reach for our children. It should go without saying that policies that lead to almost annual mass protests and rioting — like an unspoken acceptance of widespread police brutality — threaten the stability that your prosperity and safety rely on.
Debt slavery: Patriotic Millionaires, is the former managing director of BlackRock Investments. Follow him on Twitter: @morris_pearl