United Way of the Mid-South was honored to host the Community Impact Town Hall; a timely and pivotal conversation with keynote speaker, best-selling author, combat veteran and CEO of Robin Hood, Wes Moore. During this powerful session, he addressed a few key points that are so relevant to our mission of creating economic advancement and opportunity for all.

  1. How do you see structural racism and systemic inequalities contributing to our society and how has this been generated historically

Racism isn’t necessarily an act. Racism shows itself as a system that we have to combat and push back against. It’s a system that allows a 10:1 racial wealth gap inside of our society. The black and white income gap has not only existed over time, but is still at a level where black income is at 61% of white income. A college degree increases lifetime earnings of $1million, but the number of  black high school graduates is less than white high school dropouts. All of these things are systems we have to uncover and dismantle if we are going to address these issues. If we aren’t able to dismantle systems that allow these things to continue to happen, we will never see progress. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions.

  1. Whose responsibility do you think it is to make these changes? — public, private, for profit, non-profit, etc. Which sector might take the lead and what roles do each of us play?

We all have a role to play, but there are going to be times where we all have to play different roles. Sometimes we will be the leader, sometimes the follower and sometimes working in partnership. Our roles might even change over time. Take the example of the Washington Football Team. Activists had been pushing for quite some time to change the team’s name, but it wasn’t until FedEx (for profit) stepped in and said they weren’t comfortable with their name being used on the stadium anymore if the team continued with their old name, that any change occurred. It took a corporation to stand up and make a move. What we say in a collective matter… it matters. How do we exercise every tool at our disposal in a coordinated and unified way to get to the solutions for the future of our society? That is too much weight for one of us to bear. It takes all of us. We’re not all asked to do everything, but we are all being asked to do something.

  1. There has become a lack of trust between people and institutions. How can we overcome this?

Trust is at the core of whatever we are trying to get done. The most important question we have to figure out as a society is how to build trust again. However, the amount of mistrust is fair and it is justified. Oftentimes, it’s because we have stopped talking to each other. There’s a default response when a conversation gets difficult is to stop having the conversation. The problems get calcified and the problems get harder, which is the reason we often don’t make the kind of progress we are trying to make. We must all understand the history, understand that the fear is justified and come up with a unified plan on how we can fix it.