To the editor:
During election season, a lot of pitches and promises are made. But there’s often three big issues that linger behind the scene: poor people, disparities in capital access and promoting diversity. You may not have the daily stresses that lower income residents have about bill paying or the obstacles that minorities face in opening businesses. Diversity may not be a priority for you. But for many, even in Alexandria, this is real.
Surely no one in Alexandria today is as poor as a person in Haiti or Uganda? As it happens, making such comparisons in the U.S. has recently become much easier. Because of the World Bank’s decision to include high-income countries in its global estimates of people living in poverty, we can now make direct evaluations between the United States and poor countries.
Properly interpreted, the numbers suggest that the United Nations has a point — and the United States has a serious problem. They also suggest that we might rethink how we help the poor through our own doings in Alexandria.
As striking as the median household income and the number of persons living in Alexandria with a high school diploma or higher is, a real issue prevails — there are a large number of Alexandrians that are not thriving as they should be.
As recently as 2016, 2.6 million more Americans fell below the poverty line for a total of 46.2 million living in poverty or more than 15 percent, the highest number of poor in more than 50 years. At 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the poverty rate in America would be 30 percent.
Here’s how we fix that: better jobs, better housing costs and options, better education and better opportunity. We must change how poverty is understood and dispel the myths and stereotypes that uphold the mass complacency and leave the root causes of poverty intact.
Another way to initiate this change is to help those minorities trying to make a decent living. Capital access remains the most important factor limiting the establishment, expansion and growth of minority-owned businesses. Given this well-established constraint, the current financial environment has placed a greater burden on minority entrepreneurs who are trying to keep their businesses thriving in today’s economy.
We can rectify this in Alexandria. Business growth depends on a variety of capital, from seed funding to establish new firms, to working capital and business loans to expand their businesses, to private equity for acquiring and merging with other firms and grants and donations from individuals, foundations and other entities.
Increasing the flow of capital for minority-owned businesses must be a national priority to re-energize the U.S. economy and increase competitiveness in the global marketplace. Why not start in Alexandria? We can be the perfect example to the nation.
Lastly, a lack of diversity, whether racial or gender, shows the inability to reflect different life experiences and perspectives, and thus presents an inaccurate picture of what life really looks like. It’s long known that diversity creates a better anything. It drives revenue, motivates people and cultivates innovation. That’s what we should want Alexandria to look like, a place that supports the well being of everyone and a place that leaves no one behind.
Yes, we do live in a place where change has taken place, but every day brings new challenges and new opportunities. As the primary election draws closer, let us be mindful of real change.
-Tavares M. Floyd, Esq.,
The BeWell Project, Alexandria