Opinion: By working together we can achieve greater equity in our region
Prior to his assumption of the presidency, Abraham Lincoln gave what is often referred to as the “Divided House” speech. This speech was delivered in a tumultuous context: our country wondered whether slavery would be eradicated or normalized across the country. The abolition of slavery prevailed, but the seeds of racism continue to bear fruit in virtually every part of our society today.
A quest to rid our state of the divided house of “Two Connecticuts“ does not mean that everyone has to live in the same house, drive the same type of car, or earn the same salary. Yet no group of citizens should be systematically excluded from opportunities to prosper because of systemic and structural barriers that are rooted in racism (or classism, sexism and so many other “isms,” for that matter.)
Racism underlies so many inequities and disparities that we see today. These racial and ethnic disparities are so common that many are seen as the acceptable, natural order of society. This couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, the data in our state indicates a pervasive problem.
- In Greater Hartford, 32% of black adults and 27% of Latino adults report having negative net worth, compared to 14% of white adults. (Greater Hartford Community Well-Being Index 2019)
- The proportion of black and Latin residents who are unemployed significantly exceeds that of white residents; while 6% of white residents are unemployed, 12% of Latinxes and 14% of black residents are unemployed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these disparities:
- During the pandemic, 24% of all Connecticut residents say they are just doing it or struggling financially. For black residents, that number is 55%.
- 37% of Latinx residents say at least one resident of their household lost their job during the pandemic, twice the rate of white residents.
The economic impact of systemic and structural racism is staggering: McKinsey & Co. believes that the racial wealth gap “will cost the US economy between $ 1,000 billion and $ 1,500 billion between 2019 and 2028, or 4 to 6% of the GDP forecast in 2028” and by closing the gap, the US GDP could be 4 to 6% higher in 2028.
No organization, community, state or society can fully prosper by systematically excluding large proportions of its participants from equitable opportunities. The loss of creativity, productivity and economic performance is a constant and insurmountable obstacle to the prospects of any entity. We simply cannot compete with so many of our marginalized and sidelined talents.
Yet Connecticut can thrive as a state of diverse lived experiences. We have the wealth and the resources to set an example of what a more equitable state would look like. The question is whether we have the will and the courage to pursue this future.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving believes that to be true to our mission of creating a truly vibrant Greater Hartford, we need to be explicit about the root cause of inequitable opportunity – systemic racism – and how it has led to disparities in our region. We must take significant steps to dismantle structural racism and achieve equity in social and economic mobility in Black and Latin communities in Greater Hartford. While it takes a long-term commitment, now is the time to act. We know it won’t be easy, but by working together we can achieve greater equity in our region.
As we approach our 100e Anniversary, and as the state’s largest community foundation, the Hartford Foundation is committed to being a leading voice on this issue. As we embark on our own journey of reflection, learning and aspiration around equity and inclusion, we simultaneously believe that we must use our platform to encourage, inspire and cajole our community. in the broad sense to do the same. We see no alternative; as Abraham Lincoln rebuked our nation over 160 years ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Jay Williams is President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. He is a panelist on a series, “The two Connecticuts: conversations about race and location”, Which begins on September 22.
This special four-part series, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Mirror, will examine how segregation affects people of color – robbing them of personal dignity, economic opportunity, and access to health care and safety – but also puts them at a disadvantage. ‘State as a whole. Register and find additional information here. Participation is free and the program is accessible virtually.
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