Thursday, April 28, 2011

Racism, Poverty, Unemployment - Network Building

Last night (April 27) I attended a panel discussion titled “The Relationship Between Racism and Unemployment” at First Unitarian Church in Hyde Park, Il.

Yesterday I wrote about an article about poverty written by Clarence Wood, President of Jane Addams Hull House. It focused on many of the same things as last night's panel.

Then this morning, I read a paper posted on a Social Edge discussion forum, (see pdf) where the researcher said "only when upper-class individuals were experimentally induced to feel compassion – thus orienting them to the needs of others – did they exhibit levels of prosociality that rivaled their lower-class counterparts."

In many ways, each of these discussions focuses on the needs of one community of people and the need to have the wealthy class, the political elite, and those living beyond poverty involved, and connected to those who are working in the field to solve this problem. There is much "bridge building" to be done. This graphic illustrates this idea.

In last night's forum, panel members (Dr. Finley Campbell, Social Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church, Dr. Dick David, Cook County Hospital, Nanette Campos and Samuel Gutierrez, Primerica, and Walter Bush IV, The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc.) provided information about the connections between racism and unemployment and shared ideas about what can be done.

As I listened my mind was shouting "Where are we connecting these people and this information to all of the other people and information related to the same problem?" In just a few minutes this morning I was able to create a map showing links to several places where this topic is being discussed by different groups, as well as to links on the Tutor/Mentor Connection library that connect myself and the people I know to thousands of others.

After panel members shared opinions and research related to the problem of racism and unemployment, recommendations for solutions were discussed. Among these were

* Educating yourself and others about these issues
*Learn (teach others) to take personal responsibility for your learning, actions and success
*Believe that the “right to work is an inalienable right” central to the pursuit of live, liberty and happiness in America.
*Organize. Form a movement to create political change and make this "right to work" idea a reality.

So how do we do this? In almost all events I attend people say "we need..." and "we should" but they don't provide a map or blueprint showing how this small group grows to an army that makes that idea a reality.

There is plenty of evidence of racism in America and gaps between rich and poor, but too few market-based strategies that will change this dramatically in the coming century

As I said, I wrote a blog article on Wednesday about a Perspectives article in the 4/24/2011 Chicago Tribune saying “people are not poor because they are Latino or African America or Caucasian. They are poor because they have not had the opportunities to advance themselves.”

The authors concluded that “we all pay for poverty” and we need to find ways to work together to solve this problem.

Since only about 20 people attended the Racism and Unemployment discussion the first thing we all might focus on is “how do we expand the size of the congregation?

In the research study from this week’s Social Edge forum led by Charles Cameron, the writer says “In Study 4, only when upper-class individuals were experimentally induced to feel compassion – thus orienting them to the needs of others – did they exhibit levels of prosociality that rivaled their lower-class counterparts.”

Only when we move from 20 people to 20 thousand and then 20 million and then 200 million people in this discussion can we change the way we all understand the impact of racism and poverty in the world, and become more consistently committed to actions that result in a different world.

So how do we do this?
On the Tutor/Mentor Connection site I’ve created articles that show how volunteers who become part of well organized, long-term, tutor/mentor programs can grow in their understanding, and empathy, to the point where they become leaders inviting others to become involved. In the T/MC library, I post articles like this one, that show how volunteer involvement can create understanding and empathy, that is essential for greater involvement. If this is happening in enough places, there can be a constant expansion of the number of people from beyond poverty who are getting involved and becoming informed.

Becoming informed of what? There is so much to know. What would be 10 things we’d want people to understand that would result in actions that increase employment among those who are chronically under employed, or unfairly compensated when they are employed?

What if we borrowed a chapter from the education reform movement?
What if we developed a set of “learning standards” for ADULTS? What do we want them to know about poverty, racism, philanthropy, capitalism, etc? How do we teach this? How do we motivate learning?

Then let’s develop standardized testing that would determine how well adults are learning this information, and would also help us understand how many are involved in this learning. Without this we’ll never really know if the congregation is growing and/or if we’re all singing from the same song book.

• what do people need to learn
• what test questions would determine if this learning is taking place
• how do we determine that a growing number of adults are involved in this learning and mastering the knowledge
• what changes in behavior do we want to see as a result of the learning
• how will we know this is happening

Then, let’s tie this form of Adult test taking to privileges, such as driving a car, or leading a company, or being elected for public office, or taking a trip out of the country so we’re sure that the people who don’t live in poverty are being motivated to ‘attend this school’ and take part in this learning.

If it works for kids in America why wouldn’t it work for adults?

This is only an idea. But it could be made into a reality if others felt it had value and wanted to use their own talent to develop it. We've many ideas that need resources and partners to develop.

That's where philanthropic investors come in. Take a look at the information we share and the maps and graphics we're piloting and ask "How much more could the Tutor/Mentor Connection be doing if I were its benefactor?"

If you see the potential please come forward with your support.

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