No human being, black, white, Left wing or Right wing, could watch the agonizing death of George Floyd without feeling outrage against the officers who perpetrated this crime. Protests have justifiably erupted around the country against police brutality. After the protests, it is incumbent on every one of us to promote racial equity in our own lives.
Governor Cuomo on Sunday articulated the “core issues” of inequality as education, child poverty and affordable housing. Now that we have the attention of the nation, it is time to finally address the disparities. Recently, Newsday revealed the extent to which African-American homebuyers are steered to high-minority, high poverty neighborhoods, laws have been passed to make discrimination on the basis of source of income illegal, and there has been sweeping state legislation that limits rent increases and makes it harder to evict tenants. But these measures will not change the culture. The famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That too can be said of laws. Source of income laws are circumvented by credit check qualifications. Affordable housing requirements are circumvented by redefining “affordable housing” as rents $300 per month higher than the Fair Market Rents.
The only way to achieve equal opportunity for all is for each and every one of us to temper self-interest and sacrifice a little for the common good. The momentum now is with us to make fundamental change. No one should be denied a good education because of income or where they live, parents should be supported so child poverty no longer exists, and finally, all communities should have an affirmative obligation to create affordable housing in spite of “home rule.”
At CHI, we go out of our way to promote $25,000 grants to first time homebuyers in under-served communities, providing free counseling that levels the playing field for ALL people. We have administered $17 million since 1997 (with $440,000 just awarded) to 750 first-time homebuyers, a significant percentage of whom are African-American.
If each of us in our personal and business life commits to bringing a little more light, we can defeat the darkness. That has to be done from the heart.