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Monday, January 25, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: No more status quo

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By MARSHAWN WOLLEY

The Black community is really hoping things will be different this time — it is becoming too expensive and painful for the status quo.

Black Indianapolis, by population, could be the third largest city in Indiana.

On any social or economic indicators, it is clear that too much of the Black community is struggling, even dying a social, spiritual and economic death.

COVID-19 has not only exacerbated but also clarified the need for direct engagement and the corporate community responded.

The Lilly Endowment African American Quality of Life Initiative is a game changer in part because it is direct. It isn’t a people of color program, a minority program or a diversity program. It is a specific engagement meant to empower Black Indianapolis.

While Lilly Endowment’s efforts have been among the latest in philanthropic support from foundations, CICF led the charge by recognizing the need to unapologetically engage on systemic racism and specifically anti-Black racism.

Before this summer’s racial reckoning, CICF proclaimed, “Systemic racism has led to the over-policing, under-protecting, harassment, brutalizing and death of innocent and unarmed Black Americans and other people of color nationwide and in Central Indiana.”

It mattered that IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy said, “We in health care have our own issues of injustice and inequity to address, as we know that African-Americans and other minorities have long had issues accessing appropriate care, have higher rates of common chronic illnesses, and more recently, have suffered disproportionate rates of infection and death from COVID-19.” 

Both the Indy Chamber and CICP have come together to develop the Business Equity for Indy Committee: “A local coalition of corporate and civic organizations has launched the Indy Racial Equity Pledge to hold their organizations accountable for driving measurable progress in advancing racial equity for African Americans in Central Indiana.”

More recently, economists have quantified the impact of anti-Black racism and have come up with an economic impact of $16 trillion. This figure captures the financial activity Black people have been locked out just over the last 20 years.

A Citigroup study found that just providing fair and equitable lending to Black entrepreneurs might have resulted in $13 trillion. Better access to home loans would have created an addition 770,000 Black homeowners and pumped another $218 billion into the economy.

Just closing the wealth gap for Black people would have added $2.7 trillion in income to the economy and raised the gross domestic product (GDP) by .2% a year, per year over a 20-year period.

Noting that the study looked at data over the last 20 years, which has had its economic shocks — this data also occurred during every “minority” corporate diversity program, corporate commitment to diversity, corporate, nonprofit and government celebration of diversity award, Black employee resource group, affirmative action program, supplier diversity program and disparity studies and government “efforts” to address them.

While folks might get an A for effort, the results of diversity and inclusion initiatives in some very real sense for the Black community has certainly been a failure benefitting almost everyone except Blacks.

You might also excuse Black people of being both skeptical and tired of entities making pledges to address “diversity or inclusion” but history or lived experiences says that very little will truly happen for Blacks in Indianapolis.

My sincere hope is this time will be different in that participating corporations and civic organizations will honor their commitments to the Black community. 

Addressing the challenges facing the Black community is not only supported by the data it has the benefit of helping everyone else.

What I’m hearing …

The grand jury decision on Dreasjon Reed did not strike many as a surprise. For some, it was based on their knowledge of facts related to the case, and for others the expectation of a no bill was simply another reminder of the two systems of justice in America — one for Black people and the other for everyone else.

I don’t know what reform would’ve changed the outcome of Reed’s tragic death. I do know that hard fought reforms that have been recently put in place will need to be monitored. Vigilance must be our community’s watchword.

While peaceful protesting is to be expected following the Reed grand jury decision, a concern is whether or not outsiders will come to our hometown and wreak havoc only to leave after sunup — leaving us with the mess to clean up.

The local activist community has done a good job of challenging these elements, and I am hopeful they remain up to the task.

We also saw more people than ever vote for a U.S. presidential candidate and for the candidate that lost the election. I predicted an increase in Black men voting for the Republican candidate, but even I was surprised by the increase in racial, ethnic and gender diversity of those who voted for Trump. I think political psychologists will have fun trying to understand this election — but for now lets just prepare to move on.

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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