The question of race and privilege is this: is it enough to change attitudes within the system or does the entire system need to change?
We embrace diversity here. We disdain the hatred that fuels overt racism and violence. Yet, we live in an expensive community bordering Chicago in today’s United States. We are not immune to the systemic racial injustices that widen the gap between those with access to opportunity and those without. The resulting tension tearing apart our country is our problem, too.
Even while we combat local attitudes towards race, the systems and culture breeding inequities remain throughout the US. Eradicating racism is an introspective, challenging endeavor.
Systemic biases can exist despite our best intentions. Let’s ask ourselves whether we only are creating beautiful, safe, middle class neighborhoods and business districts designed by and for white people but also open to non-whites – or something more radical. Are we trying just to make white society more inclusive or are we truly creating an inclusive community that values whites and non-whites equally?
For example, I believe the Chamber of Commerce is not a racist organization. I believe our policies and events are inclusive and welcoming to all. But honestly, how would I know? I come from the very class and race of people who set up the economic systems and institutions and indeed this very organization. Maybe it is time to challenge our own assumptions about inclusivity.
One thing I do know: small business is a critical component of a diverse, healthy community. Without local businesses, our reliance on residential property taxes to fund our schools and government services will be more than any but the rich can bear. Rich means white. If we are going to be diverse, we need to be affordable. We need local business.
Diversity also means that people of all kinds invest and build businesses here. The capitalist theories upon which our economic society is built do not discriminate. Those with access to resources and information “rationally” should succeed. If people of color aren’t succeeding, we should question whether accessibility is universal.
Let’s start challenging our notions about inclusivity and access. Without equal access to resources and opportunity across races, we will never achieve our aspirations – as a community or as a country.
This post also appears on the Chamber’s oakpark.com blog.