We Need more than Money to Change the Justice System

Originally Published July 2, 2020, via LinkedIn
Dr. Tara Jabbaar-Gyambrah

As I reflect on the shifts taking place across the country as race finally gets a seat at the table, I wonder if money would make a difference. The answer is “yes” because economics is at the center of all disenfranchisement of Black and Brown people. Indigenous and African people were forced into slavery and one of the ways to maintain power over us was to divide us and give us a new identity. But we need more than money to transform a systematic legacy that has been built upon for hundreds of years. It’s a start but we need a strategic plan with solid actionable steps. So, here are a few to start:

Mentoring + Money

Netflix recently donated $120 million dollars to HBCU’s for Black students.[1] Along with the financial support, invest in developing intentional mentoring programs that merge practical experience with knowledge. I’m not talking about traditional programs but ones that go deeper by providing sponsorship into corporations with paid experiences, career pathways, entrepreneurship start-up options, etc.

Unlearn What We’ve Been ‘Schooled’ On

I can recall my first experience in history class in high school teaching me that who I was didn’t matter. You wanna know why? There were literally two paragraphs on the Civil Rights Movement that discussed only two leaders — Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s time to revamp primary, secondary and higher education curricula to incorporate holistic perspectives of history and recognize the significant contributions of Black people. Also in high school, I was told Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492; it was not until I was in college that I learned he slaughtered the Taino ‘Indians.’[2]

Eliminate Student Loan Debt

We all know that the student loan debt ratio has reached an all-time high of trillions of dollars. This is money banks have made off the backs of the middle class but Black students are effected the most because they have 32% more debt than their White counterparts.[3] Student loan debt has become a new form of enslavement or what Michelle Alexander calls the ‘new Jim Crow.’ In 2019, Robert Smith, eliminated the debt of the entire senior class at Morehouse University. He serves as a leading example of how we can jump start the economy and shift the entire future of a generation.[4] Bail out Black students from student loan debt and it results in freedom to develop wealth, create a legacy of land for future generations, access to global learning experiences, and much more.

We need more than money to change the justice system and tear down the walls of inequity and inequality.

We need to realize we’ve all been hoodwinked as it relates to the concept of race. Did you know race was a social construction that was created to divide all people? Race has no genetic basis and we see most differences within ‘races’ not between.[5] To learn more about this watch the documentary RACE: The Power of an Illusion, a powerful three-part documentary that outlines the truth behind what we are facing today.

We need to sit at tables with corporations and educational institutions (Pre-K to 16) and revamp policies, curriculum, leadership strategies, etc.

We need to tear down old ways of thinking and replace them with holistic worldview thinking.

We need heart-to-heart conversations that result in active solutions that go beyond the current ‘emotional’ state of affairs but extend to lifelong practices.

It’s time to move beyond money and dig deeper into the rich history to understand the underpinnings of how race has impacted America. Are you ready to talk?

References

Allana Akhtar and Hillary Hoffower. “9 startling facts that show just how hard the student-debt crisis is hurting Black Americans.” Business Insider. June 10, 2020. Retrieved on June 22, 2020: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.businessinsider.com/how-americas-student-debt-crisis-impacts-black-students-2019-7%3famp

 Allana Akhtar. “Warren and Sanders say canceling student debt could help close the racial wealth gap for families. This startling graph shows they might be right.” Business Insider. July 6, 2019. Retrieved June 22, 2020: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-eliminating-student-debt-would-close-the-racial-wealth-gap-2019-6

 Artem Dunaev. “Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy: Christopher Columbus undoubtedly changed the world. But was it for the better?” History. October 7, 2019. Retrieved on June 22, 2020: https://www.history.com/news/columbus-day-controversy

Leah Asmelash. “Netflix CEO donates $120 million to black colleges in an effort to ‘reverse generations of inequity’” CNN.  June 17, 2020. Retrieved on June 20, 2020: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/17/business/netflix-ceo-hbcus-donate-trnd/index.html

Marjorie Valbrun. “A Clean Loan Ledger for New Graduates.” Inside Higher Ed. September 23, 2019. Retrieved on June 23, 2020: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/09/23/billionaire-robert-smith-follows-through-pledge-pay-morehouse-students-loan-debt

“Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Race” RACE: The Power of an Illusion. California Newsreel. (2003) Retrieved on June 20, 2020: http://newsreel.org/guides/race/10things.htm

Endnotes

[1] Leah Asmelash, “Netflix CEO donates $120 million to black colleges in an effort to ‘reverse generations of inequity,’ CNN, June 17, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/17/business/netflix-ceo-hbcus-donate-trnd/index.html

[2] Artem Dunaev. “Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy: Christopher Columbus undoubtedly changed the world. But was it for the better?,” History, October 7, 2019, https://www.history.com/news/columbus-day-controversy

[3] Allana Akhtar, “Warren and Sanders say canceling student debt could help close the racial wealth gap for families. This startling graph shows they might be right.” Business Insider, July 6, 2019,  https://www.businessinsider.com/how-eliminating-student-debt-would-close-the-racial-wealth-gap-2019-6  

[4] Malorie Valbrun, “A Clean Loan Ledger for New Graduates,” Inside Higher Ed, September 23, 2019, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/09/23/billionaire-robert-smith-follows-through-pledge-pay-morehouse-students-loan-debt

[5] RACE: The Power of an Illusion (2003) by California Newsreel.

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