The Racial Equity Dividend: Buffalo’s Great Opportunity

This week the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable released a report called The Racial Equity Dividend: Buffalo’s Great Opportunity. Make Communities was fortunate to partner with the UB Regional Institute on this report and serve as lead author.

You may have seen the Buffalo News article about the report, but that doesn’t cover the full story. The report speaks to our shared values and our shared fate. As Buffalonians, rer-our-shared-valuesthe immense benefit the region will see when we close the racial equity gaps that we face and improve outcomes for everyone.
Ultimately, achieving our potential as a region requires us to unpack with a critical eye our assumptions about the ways our city has been built and structured — factors that create the divisions and disparities we face today. The real story of race in Buffalo (and indeed in America) is one of the continued and intentional disadvantaging of people of color. But as a society, we are a-historical. We generally don’t stop to consider the ways in which our systems have been built over decades, we generally only consider the conditions we see today.

Racism in America isn’t about whether or not you use racial slurs. Racism is about a system of advantage and disadvantage that is bestowed both overtly and discretely based on our race. Though insufficient to unpack all of the systems and symptoms of why whites are more likely to get, be and stay ahead, this report contextualizes the disparities we see in three ways: as a product of our institutions, as a product of the places we call home, and as a product of the actions and reactions of people on a daily basis.

In the absence of understanding, we tend to fill in the gaps with the narratives that surround us about race and about America. We blame people of color for not advancing, for being lazy, or violent, or uneducated, or being bad parents. Even those among us who understand these narratives as hateful myths and consciously resist these stereotypes often have difficultly expressing what is actually happening behind the curtain of American racism.
This report looks at how the influence of institutions, places and people have worked together to create differential outcomes across indicators of education & job readiness, income & wealth, quality of life & neighborhoods, and criminal justice & safety.
Hopefully this report can help develop a deeper understanding of how this inequity is structured and perpetuated, and give the Roundtable and countless others one more tool in the fight to overcome the inequities within our systems and within our society.


Please learn more about the ongoing efforts for racial equity in Buffalo by reading the report and checking out the Roundtable’s website at

Why I’ve stopped threatening to move to Canada (and so should you).

Fellow Well Meaning White People,

As the rising tide of bigotry and white nationalism emboldened by the new inevitability of a Trump presidency threatens the core foundations of a just and free society, it is hard for those among us who hope for a more equitable world to not be overwhelmed by the wayward bend of the universe’s arc, which suddenly seems to be not bending toward but hurtling from justice.

My natural instinct as this campaign developed, was to make the universal liberal threat (see: Brexit, Stay) that soon our family would be learning to like Tim Horton’s coffee and practicing our ‘soorry’s and ‘aboot’s. Since our kids already play hockey, and we can almost see the Peace Bridge from our house, it seems a gentle transition.

But this is also known as taking your toys and going home. [Footnote: by accident of our birth — and our largely unspoken inheritance of the long standing inequitable systems that preceded — white people are much more likely to own the toys and own the homes to go back to.]

Defining Canada as home, of course, calls on notions of home as a place we find comfort and welcome, a safe place to return. But this assumption of our inherent belonging, even in a foreign country, is a product of our whiteness.

As white people, threatening to move to Canada only highlights this privilege. Assuming our right to belong, while possessing the ability and willingness to opt out of systems and institutions that are inconvenient for us, rather than working to improve our shared and collective fate, has created the deep racial divisions in our opportunities and our outcomes: from schools, to neighborhoods, to local government, to transportation and health.

When we remove our individually held (but not, honestly, individually acquired) resources from the collective, we continue to disproportionately disadvantage people of color and all others who don’t fit within our society’s dated 19th and 20th century normative framework.

And, when you get deep into the facts, the causes for, and the results of inequity, it’s plain to see that divided communities aren’t just bad for people of color, they are bad for everyone. The conclusion is simple: white families are less likely to get ahead when their regions are places of inequity and segregation.

But flexing our instinct for flight at the first sign of trouble, even if we don’t intend to exercise it, flaunts the underlying if unacknowledged notion that wherever we go we take our whiteness — and all the privilege that it conveys — with us.

As beneficiaries of a system that is, indeed, rigged in our favor, those of us with a conscience — or, failing that, those of us with a stake in our own future success or that of our children — need not to look at our privilege as an ejector seat to parachute us to someplace safe (if not necessarily warm) when things get uncomfortable.

So, yes, take a knee, well meaning white Americans. Spare a moment to show your compassion for the ideals of liberty and justice for all, as they lay injured on the turf of American democracy.

But season tickets at the Rogers Centre are not the answer.

We cannot rise individually, collectively, or as a society while well meaning whites continue to have one hand on the door handle, unsure whether we can be bothered to stick around to see this fight through.

Don’t allow your ability to opt-out to act as your comfort.

If you are disgusted by the mess that our fellow white people have created, put down your passport book and get serious about turning the page, instead, on this uncomfortable chapter of American history.




Make Communities’ partners support and hold different political views and perspectives, but we are united against bigotry and hatred in all its forms.