The Economic Cost of Civic Inequality, Social Anxiety, and Personal Vulnerability

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

It’s been a hard week for me.

One of my best friends in the world – a man that helped save my life from the periphery and repetitive gloom – lost a kidney and might be facing cancer at age 51. And he’s a man that has one of the cleanest lifestyles I have ever witnessed in all aspects of life, from prayer and diet to language and manner towards the world.

I’ve lost an aunt. Now, it’s just my dad – the 12th of 12 siblings.

I have seen or heard of more former classmates of mine passing away from COVID and cancer, from self-inflicted mortal wounds and hard-to-believe inflictions.

I am reading on the news regularly about the high-profile reports of Black men going through hardships and final encounters with the police. Again, I view the dichotomy of Dylan Roof and Kyle Rittenhouse nationally with the stories of Laquan McDonald and Adam Toledo just in Chicago. I watch protests from Pittsburgh to Portland once again playing out, with anger blurring the vision of peace for all and social media bitterness masquerading as thought leadership for a generation now.

We continue to see schools struggle to open due to political posturing. We wonder if the tolls of this past year with COVID and this past decade with race relations will ever recede to a better place in America for a united nation once again. We hear that we have more in common than we do that differs, and yet our politics, policies, economics, healthcare, employment, and education all have stark racial lenses through which we take it all in.

There is a cost to all this that we continue to ignore as we toil on with our daily rounds of shock and awe in 280 characters and cute internet memes. Just as I mentioned many years ago about the cost of domestic violence as a hidden tax for our businesses, a daunting toll on our police force, and an emotional burden across all levels of socioeconomics in our society, there is an increasingly apparent tax we all carry through the scourge of racial misunderstanding, cultural disjointedness, and/or outright racism – systemic or otherwise.

Whether we want to address these entrenched disparities as a national crisis or as a societal irritant matter more than most of us care to admit. The playing out of another generation of Black men seeing their quality of life and life expectancy continue to lag some five years behind other men in America has a dragging impact on our national economy. The inability to address this so that more Black doctors, more Black entrepreneurs, and more Black political leaders with vision that is political prudent and ideologically pragmatic is more than just a national embarrassment akin to a modern-day congressional “Angelo-Saxon” caucus that is shaded in ignorance and shallowness; it is an unpatriotic choice that embraces the notion that America will always be less than its fullest potential and somewhat hollow in its deepest promises.

There is a trauma experienced whenever death and despair are prematurely and disproportionately beating at one’s door. Yet, despite jaded news reports and statements from the DGCA (i.e., Doltish Grifters and Charlatans of America), this pain is due to much more than just Black folks rioting over police misconduct, Black-on-Black crime, and Black fatherlessness in America. And, further still, this pain is felt by more than just Black people that vote Democrat. The trauma, frustration, and hopelessness playing out in these continuing divisive times on the issue of race and socioeconomics in America – from education and employment to voting rights and basic civic equality – burdens the nation on the geoeconomics stage as China continues to catch up economically with 18% gains and the like. Our proud yet exhausted military continues to struggle with recruitment and retainment, only made worse with the image of a Black soldier being pepper-sprayed in yet another “Driving While Black” experience. The mistrust in civic institutions leads to corrosive policies that include overreaching in election laws on the right and court-packing proposals on the left. Americans are still considering the trade-off of staying at home to receive more COVID-related benefits versus re-engaging the American Dream of climbing the ladder of success, even as we remain millions of jobs underwater from 2020’s devastation. Schools that disproportionately serve Black- and Brown-skinned underprivileged children remain under attack from the academic establishment despite the establishment’s comforts of well-paying jobs, billions of federal dollars of support, and the enjoyment of middle-class communities.

The pain expressed by African-Americans throughout this era has a cost to all of us, regardless of the perceptions. The inequalities highlighted throughout varying aspects of society recede the city down the hillside as our foundation shifts more each day. My personal vulnerability as I watch the dichotomy of American life play out in my life is a mirror to the growing vulnerability that America is saddled with domestically and internationally.

There is a cost to inactivity, wrong activity, and misguided activity. Once again – just as we did in the 1860s and 1960s – we must decide what price we will pay and what we will secure for the sake of a more perfect union…or even if we choose to be more perfect or unified anymore at all.