Bowdoin College in Maine and Vassar College in upstate New York are roughly the same size. They compete for the same students. Both have long traditions of academic excellence. But one of those schools is trying hard to close the gap between rich and poor in American society—and paying a high price for its effort. The other is making that problem worse—and reaping rewards as a result.
Great podcast here from Malcolm Gladwell, and if you are into pods and you haven’t heard of or started listening to Gladwell’s, check it out.
This is a very important episode where he draws some conclusions, very easily by the way, between a schools meal program offerings and their ability to support financial aid available to students less able to pay for their education. It’s one that everyone should hear.
Its part of a three episode series that is an examination of the idea that if you have some ability and work hard, you should make it to the top.
The first episode of this series, which was heartbreaking was called Carlos Doesn’t Remember about a kid called Carlos,“a brilliant student from South Los Angeles. He attends an exclusive private school on a academic scholarship. He is the kind of person the American meritocracy is supposed to reward. But in the hidden details of his life lies a cautionary tale about how hard it is to rise from the bottom to the top—and why the American school system, despite its best efforts, continues to leave an extraordinary amount of talent on the table.”
This is really interesting to me because just by happenstance some friends of mine and I have been having an ongoing conversation the last few days about the impact of celebrities and athletes of color with means, and the efforts that they are putting forth to help under represented and underpriviledged students fight their way to the top.
One of the points that we’ve been hitting recently is the whole discussion that has started this week after Facebook released some unflattering report about blaming a lack of talent available as a reason for their lack of, and silicon valleys lack in general of diversity be it female or minorities.
Just today Speaker of the House Paul Ryan posted a what I am sure in his mind was a harmless image on instagram that has started a virtual firestorm talking about diversity, on deft of, on Capitol Hill.
I wrote this about it on facebook, but I’ll share it here:
Here is the thing about this pic.
I don’t have any beef with Paul Ryan other than the fact that he is calling this a selfie.
A selfie is a pic of yourself, taken by yourself.
You can’t have a selfie with other people in it.
That doesn’t even make sense.
To the other point that everyone else is trying to make – and yeah there is a point to it – I get it, but what should we expect that from this dude.
He’s shown us who he is.
I actually have beef with not just him, but with everyone in any position of power out there in Washington.
This is much bigger than Paul Ryan.
Everyone who works in Capitol Hill should be ashamed of this picture.
These are interns. They are working for free. They apply and get hired for summer gigs.
To me its not a black thing, and I’m going to talk about Howard, but I’m just referencing Howard University because it’s right up the street and I know where it is in relation to Capitol Hill.
Literally, it’s like a 10 minute drive away.
You can’t tell me that they don’t have students of color that would love to intern.
You can’t tell me that there isn’t a diverse group of applicants to choose from coming from George Washington or Georgetown applying to intern.
Those schools are actually even closer to The White House than Howard is. And Capitol Hill.
As innocent as this pic might be intended to be, it’s not.
These are the “future leaders” and future deal makers and future people in charge.
If they aren’t going to become elected officials, they will be the people lobbying, they will be working at the law firms, they will be working at those companies that are making all the rules.
Very much like the problem in Hollywood of how these movies come out and everyone’s like, why aren’t there any black folks or latin folks or asian folks getting scripts greenlit and starring in good movies, and then the movie is made and there is mad backlash and we say, “why tf didn’t someone stop this at go?”, the problem happen because the diversity isn’t in the room to begin with.
Same shit is happening here.
We’re numb to it and it’s ha-ha funny to get all of our jokes off about how tone deaf Paul Ryan is or Donald Drumpf is or Hillary doing the dab, or whomever is when they do dumb shxt like this, but when you think about the context behind it, its scary af.
Now, as an addendum to that, this I am told are the GOP interns but that’s even more troubling when you think about it. I know that is the consensus, but we can’t have one side that looks like this exclusively and the other side be super diverse. I’d be interested to see Nancy Pelosi take the exact same picture so we can see her staffers.
The part that gets me, and taking it back to Gladwell’s pod, is that these issues aren’t not known. We can see it clear as day.
But, at the same time, and this is speaking from a black man’s perspective, we can’t keep pointing out the problem and hoping that someone else can sort it out for us. We can alert people to it, but we also have to step up and make the change ourselves. We, as the saying goes, have to be the change that we want to see.
Is there something I can do just as a regular dude? Is there something that our celebrities and entertainers and lawyers and doctors of means can do, more than I can do? I think there is.
They might not want to do it, and that is a whole different conversation, but I think there are plenty of dudes that want to step up and do something about it. It has to happen on multiple fronts. One of the things that has gotten me most excited is seeing a lot of athletes with means, starting to get in to the tech space and looking to invest and fund some startups. I read an article the other day about Andre Iguodala heading an NBA Players Tech Summit in the upcoming weeks to help inform some of these guys the opportunities that are out there.
One of the discussions that me and the crew have all the time is in the aspect of taking back our minority dollars and spending in our communities and having that matter. We talk about how a lot of the people that we see on tv, doing things like this mattering, because it does.
We’ve recently seen the movement that Killer Mike is pushing where black dollars invest in black banks.
Black banks will now have more capital to lend to their customer base, which are people of color to invest in businesses and real estate that they may not normally be able to invest in because they would never get the capital from traditional loaning institutions that they have access to. That makes sense. I’m all for that.
But, I want to take it another route too and this is something that has been discussed plenty of times before and I still don’t know why it hasn’t happened.
If entertainment and movies are such an influence, why aren’t our richest and most successful businesses putting their money together and producing content? Why must Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler continuously searching for funding and distributors to produce great content that they have when if we put Jay Z and Oprah and Bob Johnson and Will Smith and LeBron James and Kobe and Samuel Jackson and a whole bunch of other people in a room together to produce and distribute it themselves.
Just using those names as an example though.
Why can’t we put some of those same folks together and hire some of these brilliant people to start a hedge fund that makes those collective billions together into even more billions and then they start buying companies up and forming a multi national like P&G.
Why can’t we get these NBA dudes together in a room, and they start figuring out ways to buy sports franchises and loading them up and being able to be the bosses and run them how they would run them as opposed to worrying about being treated a certain type of way.
I’m just throwing our questions, because on some level I know a lot of the answers, but still wonder why these bright minds and really deep pockets arent coming together to do more than just tweet their activism or write a post on facebook about it.
If I could mash all of this up and make a point, I’d love to recall the Facebook article, and mix that with the NBA players and their tech summit, and toss in the Gladwell pod and say wouldn’t it be beautiful if NBA players instead of investing all of their resources into just trying to find the next app or the next whatever to make them into a billionaire, but rather invest some of that money into fostering think tanks and tech boot camps and incubators.
If I am being honest, I’m just throwing this out there because I wanted somewhere to put down all these thoughts, because on a lot of levels I do see this happening. But, I also know that it just takes time. I think these guys are really starting to see it. I think it took the Michael Jordans of the world and the Magic Johnsons of the world to make a ton of money off of the court and get to a place where a lot of this generations players can see that wealth can be created and they can do A LOT for their community and people who look like them in many other ways than just giving them a game to look at and highlights to watch. I think the impact of Muhammad Ali and what we’ve seen from him in the last 20 years has impacted these guys. I think there was a time, and will always be a time, where a lot of athletes and entertainers just are out to get as much money as they can, without making a difference.
One thing that I’ve noticed, and this is from LeBron in general is that he doesn’t want to just be known as a basketball dude. He is making a point to be different.
He and his team have always made a point for him to not just be an endorser but also a partner in all of his deals almost from day one, with a sight on having a much greater impact later on. One way that we’ve seen this is in the The LeBron James Family Foundation and the University of Akron’s collaborative effort that promises to fund full scholarships for students who complete the foundation’s academic program.
An entire community potentially will move on to great jobs, and have great ideas, and start businesses or be more productive in their jobs and will be citizens of Akron and do all of that, or most of it at least, in Akron.
You want to tell me that LeBron doesn’t have investments in Akron that will do really well if the cities citizens income and earning power is high? Property values will be going up because the schools are good and the crime is down and all kinds of things like that.
What if this happens in not just Akron, Ohio but in 10, 15, or 20 cities in America. What if our richest funded programs like this and pooled their money into other ideas like this that may not be a return on their investment in year 2 or three, but what about that return in a decade?
Here is the other thing. Now, we don’t need Facebook or Google or Apple to look for bright kids that are qualified to work in tech. We obviously can’t make those assumptions in full, but you can’t tell me that out of potentially thousands of kids that there wont be 2 or 3 or 10 bright kids that will be making that app. Or will be coming up with some new tech that will change things? We saw just from Gladwell’s pod that there are all kinds of kids that get caught out there that if had the opportunity they would be just as high scoring if not better, than kids that do have a chance at just going to school. Or to a better school than what is there.
Is any of this making sense? Am I just rambling on now?