Inside the Chamber: July 10, 2020

July 13, 2020
Inside the Chamber:   Lifting the Anchor 
 
The words, equally beautiful and potent, found in the Declaration of Independence, came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  However, the same words we hold true would not represent all lives, or should I say, all skin colors, as equal under the law until nearly two centuries later.  Presently, all human beings in America are born free and equal, however, are all things equitable?   
 
Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Having equity is different. It means just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper and reach their full potential.  
 
Recent events have left me deeply convicted, disheartened.  I have spent considerable time both in self-reflection, revelation and in contemplation regarding our organization and community, neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends.  One resounding question continues to present itself --- “Does a rising tide really float ALL boats?” Or do some boats have heavier anchors?
 
In taking a closer and deeper look at educational attainment, employment and business ownership, we have work to do, friends: 
 
In Catawba County, the unemployment rate for African-Americans is nearly double the rate of white people. (American Community Survey)
 
White students in Catawba County are almost two times as likely to pursue education further than a high school diploma than their black counterparts; and more than three times as likely as Hispanic students. (American Community Survey)
 
According to Kauffman, in 2018, white-owned firms had double ($2.38 million) the average sales of Asian ($1.19 million), Hispanic ($1.12 million), and black-owned ($0.91 million) businesses. 
 
Furthermore, Kauffman research shows that Black- and Hispanic-owned businesses have higher failure rates than do white- and Asian-owned firms.
 
These data points represent only part of the equation.  If you are thoughtfully reflecting on this data like me (as opposed to interjecting “but….” statements), other questions may come to mind.  Questions like, “Why is this so?” or “How can this change?” or maybe even, “How can I do my part to impact positive change towards a more prosperous and more equitable Catawba County?”  Here are only a few ideas to begin –
 
1.        Listen, learn and reflect – If you look like me, you will never understand the experiences of racism or discrimination that our black and brown friends have walked in their lifetime. I, and others like me, must choose to have the difficult conversation and ask the hard questions with a trusted friend or colleague.  Ask, not to respond, but to learn and develop a deeper sense of empathy towards your neighbors, colleagues, fellow community members and friends.  

2.       Support minority-owned businesses in our community – Surely this goes without saying, however, increasing support for my black and brown neighbors does not mean I intend to show less support to other businesses. I am not suggesting an either/or strategy, but giving more reasons to seek out, support, and celebrate both.  Here are only a couple reasons to add to those previously mentioned:   
  • Minority-owned businesses struggle with challenges that are common to all small-business owners—access to capital and contracts and finding reliable employees.  More sales revenue, or having the opportunity to gain a new customer, has a direct impact on the success of their business.
Data shows that Black businesses are more likely to hire black employees, thus lowering the unemployment rate and helping more people of color achieve financial stability.          

3.     Identify and support ways to eliminate barriers to opportunity for people of color in our community – From educational attainment, skills development, diversity in the workplace, community leadership rolesaccess to entrepreneurship, housing, access to healthcare and more – how can we continue to look at each of these areas through a lens of equity? 

 
So, knowing a little more than you did before reading this article, how would you objectively rank Catawba County now in terms of opportunities for all its citizens to prosper? My hope is that we can agree there is room, and motivation, to grow and change.  I look forward to continuing our work towards a more prosperous and equitable Catawba County and invite you to share your ideas, thoughts and perspective – email me at lkeisler@catawbachamber.org.  
Contact:
Lindsay Keisler, President/CEO
lkeisler@catawbachamber.org, (828) 328-6111