(F)orget pulling yourself up by the bootstraps when you don’t have boots or the straps are broken. For many Americans, this analogy conjures up the ideal of good old fashion work ethics to achieve success. The problem is, it only works when you have boots and when your bootstraps are intact.

But how can you really have that expectation when systems in America places groups of people at a disadvantage? Do we really believe everyone has the same opportunities?

It’s like running a 100-yard dash. By design, everyone has the same chance of winning. Right?

But what if Usain Bolt is in the line-up against a baby and someone with a broken ankle? Well? You thought everyone had the same chance of winning. ROFL!!! To remedy this, you’d need to put them in a different position, maybe a few inches from the finish line. But you get my point.

What if you had a house with eight doors but I only gave you the key to the door on the opposite side of the garage? How many times would you park in the garage, get out and walk around before you asked for a key to the door in the garage or at least a closer door? Maybe you’d need to get wet a few times or chased by a dog, but at some point I’d like to think you’d ask for another key or try to unlock the door in the garage.

That’s structural racism-barriers that place groups at a disadvantage. This is what we call a systems approach. We shift gears from the looking at what the individual is capable of doing and look at the system to see if there are issues in the system creating risk and disadvantages.

Enter the word “R” word. If you focus on black people or black issues, you are called a (R)acist. I learned a long time ago, no one has to lose for you to succeed. So, this isn’t about other races, it’s about trying to focus on the plight of one historically disadvantaged group.

I am always challenged when “people” say someone is “playing the race card” when they describe situations, policies or processes that treat blacks differently or that place blacks at a disadvantage.

(S)tuff gets real when you mention the historic insult of slavery.

“Why do you have to go there?” “Slavery is over!” “You weren’t enslaved!”

Let’s flip the script…

Is it possible for individuals and families to reap the benefits of wealth created by their great grandfathers, grandfathers, and fathers? Of course it is. We have celebrities who are known for nothing more than living off the legacy of their forefathers.

So….

Is it possible for individuals and families to be at a disadvantage because of the lack of wealth, lack of education, and lack of equality of opportunity faced by their predecessors?

Absolutely, it’s called inherit disadvantage. Drill down to the root cause and you will always end up at the issue of slavery and the lack of restitution paid to black people who endured the horrible insult.

My disclaimer: Just because I am race conscious does not mean I am a racist. In fact, I am far from racist.

I met a white lady at Kobe’s last night who told me she didn’t see race. I am not certain if she thought that would make me feel comfortable but it was slightly insulting. I’m black and I’m fine with that. But that was not the time or the place to address this issue. If she hadn’t been on her third glass of whatever she was drinking, I may have told her to instead say…”I see people for who they are and how they represent themselves. Respect me and I will respect you.” A completely different narrative.

I am not racist, just aware of the society in which I exist.