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, the 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 racialequitybuffalo.org.