John Hope Bryant

Bestselling business leadership author and philanthropic entrepreneur

Solving Poverty: Poverty Is the New Racism

Racism use to be the worst thing that those outside America's corridors of power had to deal with. But today, racism is sorta like rain. Racism is either falling somewhere, or it's gathering. So we might as well get out an umbrella in a color we like, and start walking through it; because it's not going to change — so we must.

In Dr. King's day the issue seemed to be one of love or hate, but today the issue is less about love or hate, and more about of what I would call "radical indifference." Today, folks don't even care enough about you to hate you.

I remember a young man, years ago, going on and on to me about how then President Reagan hated black folks. That he was a racist. I had to correct the young man. I told him that to the best of my knowledge, President Reagan didn't know any black folks (well), didn't grow up around any black folks, didn't have any real lifelong relationships with black folks, and there were no black folks in his immediate family. When he awoke in the morning, it's not that he hated black folks — he wasn't even thinking about black folks. It was not love or hate, but simple indifference. With no real relationship with black and brown America, no rational link, and no reason to be compelled to really care, this situation doesn't so much suggest he was a good or a bad man, but rather a human one.

Today I look at what's going on in Greece, where 150 immigrants were recently attacked, and it becomes obvious that underneath the violence was a corroding economic tension. A country that was broke, and people who were quickly losing hope, and jobs too. They saw 'those immigrants' as a threat to them, their prosperity, their stability, and the future aspirations of both themselves and their families. The problem was economic. The problem, was poverty.

There is a difference between being broke and being poor. Being broke was economic, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind and a depressed condition of one's spirit. And we must vow to never, ever be poor again.

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