The American Dream: the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. (source: lexico.com)
I am no philosopher, but as a former engineer and lifetime entrepreneur I believe in the power of dreams, especially the “American Dream”. Heinous acts of violence and oppression of Black Americans, like the horrific murder of George Floyd and the many who came before him, are wildly antithetical to the principles of this country and deny access to that shared dream which has been routinely and systemically denied to Black people in America for far too long.
This troubling pattern of repression comes in many forms -- police violence disproportionately affects Black people and is a logical and necessary place to start making reforms. In 2019, Black Americans were nearly three times more likely to die at the hands of police than Whites according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence. The chronic reprehensible behavior of law enforcement against Black people of our nation must cease.
I am hopeful that the recent series of catalytic events and the related broad-based groundswell, combined with committed action, will swiftly abolish such blatantly unjust deeds. However, personal safety and justice under the law must only be the beginning. We must stop this senseless persecution and give Black Americans an authentic and credible shot at achieving the American Dream. It is a fundamental human right to thrive, not just to survive.
Unfortunately, the problem runs deeper than that of systemic persecution. Too often our own individual behavior is driven by implicit bias, closing doors rather than opening them (see comments from Song Richardson, the Dean of UCI Law School). Despite our intentions, our reflexes may take us in another direction -- acts as subtle as leaning on stereotypes and making snap judgements. This bias is wrong. It is un-American. We are failing our Black community, deluding ourselves, and shirking the core principles of our nation.
When we allow all people to freely and fully pursue the American Dream, we all succeed. Individual success breeds confidence, wealth, and community-wide economic vitality. The fruits of success don’t just inure to the individual but to our society as a whole.
I call on each of us in the entrepreneurial community to take some kind of tangible action. I suggest we all make an effort to first listen and become educated on racial injustice -- without understanding, we cannot be change agents. And second, to commit to being part of the solution -- not just engage in rhetoric but engage in overt changes to behavior and priorities. You might pledge to secure greater access to opportunity for those who currently lack access (see the fine work of PledgeLA).
To truly help this country move forward together, we must go further than providing equal justice. We must ensure that each Black American has access to their inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without systemic impediments -- fight to give Black Americans the freedom and space to realize their dreams. I assure you that the benefits to American society will be massive. So are you with me?