The images of the past few weeks are gut-wrenching and continue to be deeply disheartening to me personally. The killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and the subsequent turmoil remind all of us that deep structural inequalities persist, and that systemic racism is pervasive in today’s America.
Many, many times over the past two weeks, I have personally been brought to tears watching current events unfold. Admittedly, I have struggled to craft the right response, as my personal feelings on this matter are very strong, and I have wondered how to strike a balance in my communication. In the end, I must make my voice heard and hope that as a community, we can all be heard.
Every human has a right to feel safe
Racism has the complete and opposite effect. I cannot speak to what it feels like to be a person of color in America. I will not try to pretend that I know. What I can do is be resolute in leading TAB’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization.
To do so, I have shut my mouth and opened my ears and eyes. I am trying to learn and thoughtfully craft a strategy, as an individual and with the help of our employees, for the organization. This is not a time for judgment, but rather a time for understanding and hopefully action. We should listen first, and then take action.
Our problems are systemic
The death numbers from Covid make clear that, while the virus doesn’t discriminate, attitudes and policies do, with far higher death rates in African-Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans. Ageism has also devalued the lives of elders in the pandemic. Moreover, the economic toll is far from equally distributed, with minority groups and women disproportionately affected. In all these areas, we need to redouble our efforts to root out the prejudice and structural barriers that undervalue the lives of some of our people.
For those of us in positions of privilege, it is easy to believe that we’ll ultimately get back to normal and then, after we recover, we’ll be free to live our lives as we did before: yes, normal. Any “normal” that assigns segments of our population to a life diminished by bias and fraught with anxiety is not one that we can accept.
Laws alone do not make change. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal to deny home ownership to black people. Since then, the homeownership gap between white and black people has actually grown. The homeowner rate among black people has not budged.
Today, 72% of white Americans own homes vs 42% of black people, the largest gap in 50+ years. A house is the biggest source of wealth: homeowners have 80x the wealth of renters. All of this becomes generational: 60% of wealth in America is inherited, largely from houses.
The financial system in America cannot shy away from the fact that we are part of this broader system and have been since the beginning. I am proud that TAB Bank has a broad mission to provide access to financial services to the underserved. But we can and will do more.
To start, TAB will make a financial donation(s) to organizations that are fighting racial inequality. We have historically fit CRA into our broader goals of community involvement. I am now also asking our team to identify other areas where we can provide service hours to support worthy organizations.
I am also including a link to a Google Doc with some great resources to help us educate ourselves on the complex issues at hand and varying points of view. Most of all, I am asking all of us to lean into this. God gave us two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason. Let’s come together.
For those team members who are hurting, I want you to know I am committed to stand with you. I am open to hearing how I can help, and I commit to you that I will be more than just an advocate.
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