Last week the New York Times published the powerful findings from a recent study on Race and Opportunity in the U.S. The study looked at data from 20 million American children since 1989 and found that black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who grew up next to each other in the same neighborhoods, at the same schools, and with parents who earn similar incomes. The troubling conclusion is that, with all of these factors accounted for, the difference in income observed between black and white men is due to systemic racial biases, not lifestyle or behavioral differences.
Although the research and representation in this article are not free from critique, we are thankful to the New York Times for publishing this data and to all who are sharing and discussing these findings. It is important to confront the realities of racism in our society and discussions like this contribute to creating a new narrative on race in America. The conclusions presented by these researchers affirm that BUILD’s work is an important component of changing this narrative for black boys. We at BUILD are committed to empowering young people of color by giving them the support, tools, and networks they need to pursue their own success, but it is not enough without other systemic changes.
We must come together to support, empower and connect the students we serve. We must elevate their voices and we must listen. We encourage our supporters to join this dialogue with hope that it will inspire further movement and solutions for the young men we serve. We call for more research (and powerful data like this) to elevate our understanding of all the nuanced parts of this problem; more programs, new opportunities, and changes in the policy, education, and employment structures that threaten these outcomes; and more support for individuals and employers who continue to examine and challenge their own inherent biases.
We can change these outcomes for the better, and it starts with open, honest, and courageous communication like this.