Systems are designed so that some people win, and some people lose. Despite the rhetoric of opportunity, the claims of “ people striving to be middle class” and the proclamation of a post-racial society, the reality is that the people who lose are disproportionately poor, women, and people of color.
The oft heard cry is that the system is broken. But, it is not true. Our systems are designed perfectly to produce the results that they are getting. The US economy is set up ideally to produce twice the rate of unemployment among black males (13.7%), as white males (6.2%) [](file:///C:/Users/mpeters/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/092K1DOG/Some%20People%20Lose%20Revised%2071713%20(2).docx#_ftn1). Urban school systems are perfectly designed to graduate 50% of students from high school. The Florida legal system is perfectly constructed to produce the result that George Zimmerman could admit to killing Trayvon Martin and be found not guilty in a court of law.
I think about this idea every day. I think about it in my work, and I think about it when I talk to my mom-a sociology professor-who introduces this concept to students every semester in her intro class (always to some of their surprise). I think about it when I hear Congress proposing another stupid, quick fix to a complex problem. I even think about it when I’m at a party and someone tells me their grand solution that they think will fix the problem of poverty in our country.
Because if we want different results, we need to change our systems. And I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that together we can change systems to produce better results. But we’ll never get anywhere if only the poor, women and people of color are advocating for themselves. Because they have been for years!
Almost every system is set up for me to win. I was born white and into a family with upper middle class, highly educated parents. But, at the same time, being female and Jewish, I’ve experienced how systems often privilege males and Christianity implicitly and explicitly. People, like me, who come from privilege need to step up and start realizing that how we experience the world, is not how the world is for everyone. As the author Junot Diaz said at the 2012 Facing Race Conference , “Privilege cannot exist without silence.”
As a beneficiary of privilege, I’m committing to ending my silence. This country is not the land of opportunity for all. And the longer we pretend it is, the longer we ignore the way discrimination is deeply embedded in our systems and institutions and in ourselves. The longer we avoid disrupting and rebuilding our systems, our institutions, ourselves, the greater the number of people who lose. I do not believe that my country or its people do better when we approach living as a zero sum game. I do not believe that we can succeed when some people lose.