Quotes for our Times

  • We wear masks as racism is unmasked.
  • There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.

In light of George Floyd’s death, let’s focus on the hope that with global attention now on racism and racial injustice, perhaps, this time, citizens and governments will enact policies to address the underlying issues. 

Economic Inequality

A key underlying issue is the economic inequality between blacks and whites in America.  The data is vividly presented in the June 4, 2020 Washington Post article, “The black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968.”

For example:

·       You would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 black household to get the net worth of a typical white U.S. household.

·       The economic disadvantage is as bad or worse than it was before Civil Rights, 70 years ago, according to an economist at Federal Financial Analytics.

·       Many white parents pass on wealth giving their children economic advantages.  Most black families have no accumulated wealth to pass on.

·       Even less educated Americans have a leg up.  A white household headed by someone with a high school diploma has almost 10 times the wealth of a black family with the same education. 

·       Since the pandemic is hitting low-income workers hardest, it is increasing inequality.  The first victims of the Corona Virus were in the service industries that employ a disproportionate number of black and brown workers.  This spring, after the “lockdown, fewer than half of black adults had a job.  Black workers are least likely to hold jobs that they can do from home.

·       More than twice as many black businesses as white businesses were forced to close during the pandemic.

·       More than 1 in 5 black families report they often or sometimes do not have enough food.  That’s more than three times the rate for white families. 

·       Healthwise, black Americans have suffered higher hospitalization and death rates from the Corona Virus than whites.  Paying hospital bills adds to the precarious financial position of these Americans.

·       African American college students have struggled to graduate because financial burdens often force them to drop out. 

·       Then there are the inequalities in the job market.  Black men make 75% of what white men earn, according to the Labor Department.

·       Black workers are less likely to be called in for an interview if a hiring manager can tell from a resume that the applicant is black. 

·       Studies have shown that black loan applications are less often approved.  Black home ownership is 44% compared to 74% for whites.

Next Steps

There are signs of hope, especially among some younger people who say they are willing to make sacrifices in order to have greater justice and equality.  

There’s a great deal to learn about the problem.  My book club is now reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo.  Getting educated is a good place to start. 

Then, let’s enact legislation to provide all Americans education, housing, healthcare and other essentials needed for a multi-racial democracy with equality and justice for all. 

Flexibility and New Perspectives

Some important themes have been appearing in my coaching work lately.  One is flexibility and the other is changing your perspective.

We Need to Be Flexible

After I taught a workshop at a local library, I met with several people who are struggling with the high cost of renting in Marin County, CA.   One person has decided that if staying in the county means that he needs to do Senior Homesharing – sharing household help in exchange for reduced rent, he’ll do it.  A friend who has lived alone for 20 years is looking for a roommate.

However, another person told me a litany of things that “must” stay the same “or else.” This person is angry, depressed, and unwilling to change.

Most of us don’t like change.  I know I don’t.  However, I’m continually reminded of these lessons: Stay Flexible and Keep an Open Mind.  We don’t know what is supposed to happen.  Sometimes a change that looks bad, turns out to be good; the change often leads to something positive that we couldn’t predict. 

I recently saw the fabulous Broadway musical, “Come From Away.”  On 9/11, 2001, 7,000 airplane passengers were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  They were stranded there for two weeks, and, at first, they felt angry and lost.  But then the locals took them into their homes, fed them, entertained them, and showed them other remarkable generous qualities that humans are capable of.  Some of the passengers, who were strangers at first, got married to each other afterwards, and most struck up life-long friendships with the folks from Gander.   Yes, it looked like a disaster, but such beauty came from the experience. 

Change your Perspective

I was hiking yesterday with a man who had a motorcycle accident two years ago.  He lost vision in one eye and has compromised the use of one arm.  I asked him what he learned.  He said the accident reinforced what he always thought:  “Nothing bad has ever happened to me.”

My girlfriend, who was part of the conversation, added, “There are no mistakes.” She said, “When I say what seems like the wrong thing, I no longer get angry with myself.  I wonder if what I said might, ultimately, be helpful for the person who heard it.”  Wow!  These are interesting and refreshing perspectives.

Speaking of perspectives, last week I taught a class on Positive Thinking and referenced the work of Martin Seligman, the author of “Learned Optimism.”  Seligman’s research proved that three attributes make the difference in how optimistic we are.  He studied how people view the Permanence of a situation, their view of Pervasiveness, and if they take the situation Personally.  It turns out that you will be more successful and happier if you view a situation as:

  1. temporary (not permanent)
  2. limited in scope (the situation is not going to impact everything, it’s not pervasive), and
  3. if you believe the situation is due to outside factors and is not your fault (not personal)

As some of us face hard times – debt, high rent, underemployment, health setbacks – it’s helpful to think about staying flexible and looking at life in new, more optimistic ways.  It’s wise to see the situation as temporary, limited in scope, and not your fault.

Feeling that our lives “must” or “should” look a certain way, only leads to depression.  It’s more helpful to simply say, I “prefer” this to happen….and “I’m flexible.” 

Finally, when life feels hard, try to stay open to hearing what others are telling you.  If you say, “But, but,” to others’ recommendations, you will find yourself alone.  What sounds crazy at first, might be the seed of something worth looking into.  It’s easy to say, and harder to do – we need to trust and “live into” the answers.  The answers are coming.