One of the most successful, richest people in the world attributes a large part of their success to luck. He said he is lucky as he “won” the Ovarian Lottery; that is that being born as a white male in America gave him tremendous advantages. Who said this? Warren Buffet. Buffet indicates that being white and male, and being born in America, is the “foundation” of his success. I 100% agree with that, that being born white and male gives people a huge advantage.
I grew up in a suburban, white neighborhood. There was little diversity in the schools. Even the college I went to was mostly white.
But I was and still am a big reader. Non-fiction, history, fiction, business, biographies, and all sorts of books. In fact, some of my earliest memories were of reading the newspaper in 1983-1984 of the US involvement in Lebanon, middle eastern culture and US battleships bombarding the Beirut area with 16 inch guns. I was 7-8 years old reading about the world, history, different cultures, geography. (Yes, I am a nerd…and proud of it!)
I was not exposed to much diversity on a personal level. But I read about American and world history, other cultures, and always tried to learn. I know living life as a white male is completely different than reading/educating myself about diversity/racism, but I tried to learn about these issues and did the best I could.
I educated myself about the sometimes challenging and tragic American history. As I learned and got older, in particular into my late teens, 20s, and older, it started to sink in with me even more that racism, discrimination, and sexism was always and is a huge problem in this country. But once again, I can’t emphasize this enough, I have never lived it…but I learned from asking questions, observing others, looking at data, hearing other people in my presence say super offensive things, and doing my best to be open minded. While I am self-aware enough and know that discrimination and racism exist at an intellectual level, there is no way I can relate to it on a personal or an emotional level. As I also won the Ovarian Lottery of white, male, and living in America.
I can’t stand racism, discrimination, and sexism. As I get older, I really can’t stand to be around people who do not believe those problems exist in this country.
Lack of past opportunity for those that did not win the Ovarian Lottery
I know racism, discrimination and sexism is a big reason for the cycle of poverty. For people who are unable or unwilling to admit this, I will use a simple hypothetical example below to illustrate it.
Lets think about my mom (and dad) and their “generation”. My parents were born in the 1930s. They also won the Ovarian Lottery as they are white. But I ask myself what would their life and opportunities have been like if they were black….what if my parents were black Americans and who would that have impacted me? The fact is their opportunities would have almost certainly been greatly negatively impacted. This is not even opinion….that is a fact.
As if they were black, the limited opportunities they had would have greatly impacted my opportunities. Study after study, research and datapoint after datapoint supports this – that parents’ education level has a significant impact on their children’s success. (College Board/National Journal survey, U.S. Office of Education and many other studies; not to mention census data, economic data, and more).
While I am writing this post as a white male, I am using data, facts, and critical thinking to try (the best I can) to determine what if my mom/dad were black. What would my parents would have faced in the 1930s. How would what they would have faced, how would most likely impacted them and me?
If they were black, they would have most likely gone to segregated schools (whether openly segregated or “discreetly”). Heck, some states (such as NC) did not even desegregate their schools until the 1970s. The quality of my parents education would more than likely have been poor at best due to those segregated schools.
Then, of course, my parents opportunity to go to college would have been minimized if not non-existent. Their lack of opportunity for college would have been due to segregation (implied or implicit) that was still in effect in 1950s. Not to mention the quality of their high school education at a segregated school and/or finances may have impacted that ability for a higher education.
What does all this mean? That if my parents were black, they would have almost certainly had limited educational opportunities (if they were even fortunate enough to be educated). Which of course than would negatively impacted their income/earning power and all other aspects of their life.
Now fast forward. I was born in 1975. If my parents were black, my mom and dad more than likely would not have been educated or they would not have been working decent paying jobs (using that preceding logic). This means that I would have been born to an under-educated family. My parents more than likely would be financially struggling and living in an area with below par school systems. What chance would I have had? If my parents did not win the Ovarian Lottery, and I did not win it either, then what chance would I have had? As once again, studies that parents’ education level has a significant impact on their children’s success.
The thing is, there are obviously millions of minorities around my age, some a little older, or a little younger. For them, that example above is not hypothetical. It is their true family history. Their parents would have been born into challenging times in which they had little opportunity, so that means their kids today would more than likely be struggling. They did not win the Ovarian Lottery.
I just used this example for one generation…but of course you can extend this same logic going back multiple generations. What if my grandparents were black Americans? And their parents? Those generations would even have had it worse. That lack of opportunity, education, discrimination they faced and other barriers would have trickled down to my mom and me even more so.
Do I think it is impossible for minorities or black Americans to be financially/career/educational successful if they came from challenging backgrounds or the hypothetical example I mentioned above? No, I do not think it is impossible.
But anyone who does not admit that it is significantly more challenging for black Americans and minorities to be successful due to past and current racism/discrimination, they are wrong. Study after study, fact after fact, and data point after data point says you are wrong. Try to take any emotional response you have about this sensitive issue and try to show some empathy, and try to put yourself into a situation like my hypothetical example.
And this is in regards to discrimination that was OPENLY occurring 40 years ago as public policy. Now the discrimination of course still occurs, it is just not official policy but it is still there. Do not agree with unfairness happening today? Then once again look at the data!
Current opportunity gaps for those that did not win the Ovarian Lottery
Anyone who makes any effort to put oneself into someone else shoes and who has any empathy should be able to take a step back and look at your own personal as well as family history. What if you were a minority or your parents were? Now I can’t stress this enough, doing that exercise is not nearly the same as living life, but for those that have won the Ovarian Lottery, that is all they can go on…trying the best you can to empathize, use facts, put yourself into others shoes. Trying to put yourself into others shoes, be objective, non-emotional, use logic, data, and facts.
You say sexism, racism, discrimination doesn’t exist today? Well the data shows you are completely wrong. We have even blogged about many of these things in the past.
Look at this sad example of sexism and racism. In the Republican party, only 17% of Senators are women. Only 10% of Republicans in the House of Representatives are women. (Compare that in the Democratic party, 36% of Senators are women and 45% of Democratic House of representatives are women.)
Think that is bad. Then look at the House of Representatives. 93.7% of Republicans are White. Only 6% are non-white. That is a horrible, horrible stat. i can’t stress this enough….6% of Republicans in the House are not white. (63% of Democrats are white and 37% are non-white).
Republican party has about 85% of their house of Representative members as white males. Something is seriously wrong with that. (The stats are even worse for minorities, with Republicans significantly worse).
Data shows women make about 80 cents per dollar as men, with most minority women making even less. Now some people may say that pay gap is attributable to positions, experience, etc. and for “like for like” jobs the pay gap is not as great. There are some reports that support that. But if you take that position, then, once again…use critical thinking. As then you need to “peel back the layers”.
If you take that viewpoint, and peel back the layers, then you learn what causes the big pay gap (80 cents to the dollar) is that women are not giving the same job and career opportunity as men (even though women get the majority of college degrees). Look at the data….women have less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEO jobs. Women only hold about 25% of C-Suite executive jobs. And women are held back from countless other mid level managerial roles. As that sexism leads to the pay gap…as women are not giving the same opportunity to have the same income as males. (FYI all those stats are worse for minorities.)
You say schools do not matter and a minority should not use that as an excuse? Then why do white parents or those with financial means, who live in school districts that are not highly rated, why do those parents try to send their kids to private or other higher quality schools? If they did not think education or school systems matter in the grand scheme of things, then why not use the public schools? As many inner city schools, which many minorities go to, are rated lower and receive less funding. As just one stat, school districts with the highest rates of poverty receive about $1,000 less per student per Education Trust.
Schools and education do matter. And it flows from generation to generation, parent to child. This is why I used my hypothetical example of my parent. You can’t have it both ways by saying you disagree with my hypothetical example of my parent going to most likely a poor quality school should not matter than want to send your own kids to another school that is not poorly rated.
I could go on and on….almost every single stat shows the disparity between white men and others. Women have less opportunity, less financial and career success, lower income, more poverty, etc. Minorities (black, brown, etc.) have less opportunity, less financial and career success, lower income, more poverty, etc.
White males have won the ovarian lottery. I realize it. But what differentiates white males is those that have self-awareness and ability to recognize they won the lottery and those who do not realize it….those “good ole’ boys”. What differentiates people is those males who try to treat others properly, respectfully and fairly (no matter race) vs. those who don’t. Those who are entitled for the those who are grateful and humbled. Those people who try to educate themselves, recognize and be aware of their bias and “group think” vs those who do not. No one is perfect…it is a constant battle. I need to remind myself all the time to try to battle back harmful, sometimes unconscious biases.
While no one is perfect and they will make mistakes from time to time, there are sadly way too many people who are racist and who do not acknowledge the advantages they have from their past and current circumstances. And even most tragically, they pass those beliefs to their kids – perpetuating the cycle.
I watched the George Young video. I do not think I have ever observed such a horrible scene in my life. I felt like I was watching someone be tortured….and that is a word which can be used describe what was done to Young. If you have never watched the entire video, watch it. Anyone that watches this video and and that not feel the horror from what happened to Young is, in my opinion, not human.
And then the riots, looting and reaction to that murder…what a terrible time for this country.
Then this weekend I saw this picture of the kid in this post and his shirt “Am I next?” and my eyes filled up. The pent up frustration of racial issues not being addressed (poverty, racism, lack of opportunity, income and educational inequality, etc.). Those people that won the Ovarian Lottery and do not realize how lucky they are because of that fact, and those people that do not see the current and past racism and inequality. Or that see the opportunity gap in this country.
Then throw in the riots, and it is a horrible time.