ESSAY #8 – 10.8.20, POSTED 2.18.21

For All of Us

It is a commonly held belief that people of different colors and cultures are a threat to what we have worked for, and that if we take action to reduce systemic racism in our society, it will be a sacrifice that white people are making for black people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything we collectively do to make our system more equitable will be for all of us, and of benefit to all.

For All of UsI have been through a lot of different trainings in the past 40 years, trying to understand how human beings work and why they do the things they do. One thing I have learned is that you can’t go down this road without learning something—really, a lot—about yourself. The last ten years, for me, have been about excavating a pathway between my head and my heart, and bringing my experience of life into the balance offered by our creator. It hasn’t been an easy path, but it has been an incredibly rewarding one, and the peace I experience every day makes life so much richer, fuller, and more joyful. I could add dozens more adjectives, but let’s just say it’s a good thing.

Like most Old White Guys raised in the 50s and 60s, I learned to look at things practically and analytically. I am good at planning, analyzing, anticipating, and figuring out how to work most efficiently with time, people, and things. These are not useless skills—they are quite useful in linear thinking, science, engineering, law, and running businesses. But they are a little less useful in raising kids, hanging out with grandchildren, developing employees, being a good partner and lover, and understanding how people work. Perhaps they are useful for when you are working with things, and less useful for when you need people to help you with those things. If you want to accomplish something, sometimes recognizing things—things like feelings—just gets in the way. Guys like me don’t like things that get in the way.

The origins of hate

Over the years, I have been a casual observer of our society, and I have noticed that our children, Generation X and the Millennials, are a new breed in the way they participate in life and parent their own children. They seem to be a little less judgmental, and they are gentler in many ways. They are less prejudiced, as changes brought about by the social upheavals of the 60s were integrated into their lives without their knowing it. With all the upgrades in the newer models of Americans, our society has become more adaptable, more willing to experience the changes that have come and are coming. For example, although the gay community has been actively struggling for marriage equality for decades, the legalization of gay marriage appeared to happen overnight. It looked like it was going to take decades, but the generations that followed us Boomers had friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, and classmates who were openly gay. It stopped being an issue, the fear dissipated, and hearts opened.

Not every heart opened, and there are still people out there who cling to a particular interpretation of their religion, or a general ideation of right and wrong that is embedded in their belief and value systems. They will be there—there will always be people on the opposite side of acceptance—but even that opposition will migrate to a different explanation of righteousness, over time. The minds of those who resist human and social change will appear—especially to themselves—reasonable and practical, and they will cite their higher values, but behind those words will be fear. It seems that today, the most common explanation for the behavior of the other side is hate—that is, we describe the other side as hateful. But it is not hate, it is fear. If you can be in a moment of intense integrity with yourself, and ask yourself why you hate someone or something, you will find that fear has a tight grip on your upper arms, holding that hate in place.

There is only us

So, where the hell am I going with all of this?

It’s now. The time is now to resolve the issues that Blacks have with Whites and Whites have with Blacks. We have made a lot of progress over the past 60 years, but we have not yet witnessed the Promised Land. Now, some of you might think that that means that black people haven’t gotten what they want, or whatever it is that we might project that they want. But the truth is, none of us have gotten what we want, and many of us have the idea that if “other” gets what they want, then I don’t get what I want. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is where all of that crap about opening the heart comes in.

In a letter from a Birmingham jail cell that he was inhabiting at the time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote,

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,

tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one

directly, affects all indirectly.”

In other words, there is no “they,” no “them,” no “other.” There is only us. Getting to the Promised Land is about all of us. It is not just a favor that some of us are doing for another some of us. It is a unified society working together for all of us, socially, politically, and culturally sharing the common values we share.

This is true as it relates to the head and heart, the peaceful enjoyment of economic productivity and security, and the sense of safety in our streets and in our homes. I was taken aback to hear of my brother’s fear that the nation might be under siege by protestors and rioters that are trying to upend the American way of life. But it isn’t just his fear—it is the fear—of millions of white Americans. It is the fear that people who are a different color and culture may be a threat to what they have worked for. I want my brother to be free of that fear.

Imagine what it would be like living in our country if we had no fear of people who we perceive to be different from us. Reconciling our racial differences is not something we have to do for black people, but something we have to do for all of us, so we may live in peace, with and within ourselves. It is incalculable, almost unimaginable, what resolving the tension between Blacks and Whites could do to lift the American spirit and broadly open up our potential as a nation. Check it out for yourself: imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you were able to remove from it a great fear, or even a minor fear or dislike. I am speaking about how we feel about each other and the country we share. I am talking about a reduction of fear and the possibility that every child, white or black, urban or rural, could truly believe in their unlimited potential.

A nation divided

Ultimately, and actually, that which we do for each other, we do for ourselves. That’s what my heart tells me. And now, I am going to let Citigroup speak for my head for a moment, through an article that showed up online. I want to take a moment first to note that I, and I think a great multitude of Americans, would tend to think of Citigroup, a very large banking operation, as much more interested in profits than in people. They are generally not known as a great bastion of progressive thought. The purpose of business is to stay in business, and this organization and others like it would tell you that their first responsibility is to their stockholders.

But let me just start with what I found online (, September 2020), where Dr. King’s words, penned in that Birmingham jail, jump to life:

The analysis in the report that follows shows that if [emphasis added by me] four key racial gaps for Blacks — wages, education, housing, and investment — were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the U.S. economy. And if the gaps are closed today, $5 trillion can be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years. New York-based megabank Citigroup found that the US economy has lost out on $16 trillion in growth over the last 20 years because of discriminatory policies in wage growth, education access, homeownership, and lending to minority-owned businesses.

The latter accounts for the biggest chunk of the losses by far, with the bank blaming $13 trillion worth of losses on American banks’ reluctance to lend to black-owned businesses. Wage inequality came in a distant second as a cause, costing $2.7 trillion.

The study’s authors likewise found that $5 trillion could be added to US economic growth over the next five years if these inequalities are addressed now.

“These gaps exist based on systemic issues that caused and continue to cause discrimination against Blacks over the years,” read a Citi statement announcing the study. “The gaps in many cases remain wide 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement.”

In addition to highlighting lopsided incarceration rates and voter suppression in urban districts, Citi’s report found that the gap between white and minority homeownership widened even as homeownership in the US as a whole has soared since 1980.

Citi’s research also found that while the pay discrepancy between white women and white men has narrowed slightly since 2000, it has stayed consistent or widened for every minority group. Black unemployment has also stayed well above the other groups, regardless of the strength of the overall job market.

A nation united

In 1856, Abraham Lincoln said, “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.” In 2020, Citigroup added that a nation divided against itself will lose a lot of money. It is not a zero-sum game folks. Our GDP, the amount of money we collectively generate, does not have a limited ceiling. If you don’t believe me, ask the Chinese.

Every dollar invested is spent and then spent many times more. The more people we educate, support, and encourage to contribute to the economy, the more the economy will grow, and the more the collective we call the USA benefits. Any money we intelligently spend to move the black community toward economic parity with the white community is an investment in us as a nation. There is simply no other way to see it. Besides, this isn’t coming from me—Citigroup said it.

Now all we have to do is help each other in reducing our level of fear. Maybe if we stop insisting on the righteousness of our own positions, and quiet ourselves for a couple moments, something might occur to us.

Just give it some thought.

Note: In fairness to Citigroup, I think it is important to note that they have announced a $1 billion commitment as part of their “Action for Racial Equity” initiative, which means they are putting their money where their report is. An expression of confidence?