Leadership Florida Special Council on Equity, Equality and Justice
Wendy Spencer: ...The special counsel was our board chair and president of Broward College, Greg Haile's vision. And today is the first of many opportunities to convene and learn about ways in which we as Floridians can help make our state a more equitable place to live, to work, to play, to enjoy, and to thrive. And now welcome our wonderful leader, Leadership Florida board chair Mr. Greg Haile. Welcome, Chair Haile.
Greg Haile: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Wendy, for that kind introduction, and I thank all of you for attending. We have a very special engagement before us. Before I get to that, I do want to make sure that I thank Brittany Birken and [inaudible 00:01:47], who brought the potential for working with the Federal Reserve to the doorsteps of Leadership Florida. This has been a fantastic engagement, and I'm very excited to let you all know that we have questions submitted already. If you would like to share more questions, you're welcome to provide your questions in the Q&A.
Now we get to have an engagement with someone who I would consider to be one of the most critical leaders in our country as it relates to our economy and certainly as it relates to bringing equity to those who need it most. Dr. Raphael Bostic became the 15th president of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta on June 5th, 2017. Before coming to the Bank, Raphael was a professor of public policy at the University of Southern California in LA. He brings a wealth of experience from an outstanding career in academia, government, and research.
Raphael has served as an assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and he also spent several years as an economist at the [Federal Reserve] Board of Governors. He has a tremendous passion for understanding the housing sector and how credit markets, financing, and public policy work together to help achieve the American dream. He's particularly interested in working with policymakers and researchers to help find ways to improve economic mobility and resilience so that we can make the economy work for every American. Raphael has published extensively in academic journals. He has a PhD in economics from Stanford University and his undergraduate degree is from Harvard.
In his tenure at the Atlanta Fed, Raphael has traveled throughout the Southeast to meet with business and nonprofit leaders, academics, students, and elected officials to better understand the workings of the many regional economies within the Federal Reserve [Sixth] District. He brings those insights with him to the monetary policy table in Washington, DC.
I'd like to just speak personally about my engagements with him over the last couple of years. He is, as I mentioned, a remarkable leader, one of remarkable compassion, conscientiousness, and intellect, and it is an absolute privilege to have him here with us today. Welcome, President Raphael Bostic.
Raphael Bostic: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Greg, thank you for such a kind introduction. It sets the bar high. I actually like to set the bar a little lower so that it makes it a little easier to jump over but I'll do my best to try to live up to your kind words. And I have to say, it's been a pleasure to work with you, a pleasure to get to know you better, and I'm looking forward to many years of our collaboration and me actually learning from your wisdom and the things that you're seeing in the field. I want to thank Wendy for allowing me to be part of this program and just want to say it's always a pleasure to be in a conversation in community with groups like Leadership Florida. I've actually had the privilege of being in a number of programs through Leadership Atlanta.
We have an annual thing where they come to the Bank and—well, they used to come to the Bank; we're going virtual these days. But we would sit down and we'd talk about what power is like, give us snapshots of leadership and a whole host of things that I think can give us all a better perception and understanding about how the world actually works and who is advantaged and who is disadvantaged, and really get us to think about what America can be and what it should be for all the people who live here.
I also wanted to say, and this is going off what I have prepared, it was very interesting that the lead in music was from "Hamilton" in the room where it happened. The reason why, first of all, I had not seen "Hamilton" until basically a month-and-a-half ago—I think I was the last person in America to see the show. But that song and the idea about negotiations and tradeoffs really did bring me back to how I think about race in America, because one of the things when the compromise that was made in that era to get to a constitution in the country was the three-fifths compromise where people agreed, where the leaders agreed, that African Americans in the South would not count as full people and not have the same rights.
And so from the very beginning of this country, there have been issues and questions around racial justice and racial equity that I think are important for us to have in mind as we think about what the promise of America can be and how we think about economic inclusion in Florida but also across the rest of the country.
Before I get too deeply into this, I want to just say how pleased I am that you're working with Brittany Birken. She's serving on the special council. In a very short amount of time, Brittany has become a leader in our community at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and in particular on our economic development team's work on the benefits cliff—and I'm going to talk a bit about that in a little bit. I'm hopeful that Brittany and our whole community and economic development team will work with you guys and help advance some of the things that you're hoping to do moving forward.
Now to provide a backdrop, I wanted to speak a bit about or refer to some words that I wrote in an essay titled "The Moral and Economic Imperative to Fight Racism." And in that, I talk about an inclusive society, where society has got to really include everyone and be true to everyone. And as part of that, I transitioned to say an inclusive society also means an inclusive economy. And when I think about what an inclusive economy is, it's an economy that represents a rebuke of systemic racism and other exclusionary structures and it would represent a true embrace of the principles that all are created equal and should enjoy unburdened life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, I'm going to talk a bit about some of the things that we can do—I'm expecting through the course of our conversation today—to get a more equitable economy, but I did want to start by just grounding us all in history.
It's one of the things that has really struck me as we've gone through the last several months of turmoil that we don't actually have a shared understanding of where our history is, and there are lots of things that are facts that actually really happened that set us on trajectories of inequity and inequality. It's important that we acknowledge and understand it, because that is going to be critical for us to get to solutions that are going to endure and actually help lift people up who have been kept down.
When I think about our history—you hear a lot of conversation, when we talk about racial justice, about bad actors or particular individuals or individual policies that create some of the racial injustices. But I actually think we should also be thinking about institutions and systems because these are bigger things. These are things that we are all a part of and just by their basic working, the rules that are set up can embed racial inequity and make it more difficult for people with particular backgrounds to participate fully in our economy and our society. Too often, I think we just take our institutions for granted and assume that they are who they are and they don't in and of themselves make any contribution to some of the structural challenges that people face. I actually don't think that's right. And what I'm going to talk about a bit today is some examples of that through our course of our history that I hope that you take to help shape your thinking about the ways we might move forward and the challenges that we face in terms of really overcoming them and getting better.
So when I think about economics and wealth in the family, in America the economic foundation of our middle class has largely been home ownership. For most families, the house and the equity in their home is their largest contributor to their wealth. And the wealth accrued through home ownership and through the house is often the way that wealth is transferred across generations. But when we think about how home ownership has played out the United States, what is true is that it has been very racialized from its very origins and very difficult for African Americans to participate.
There was a bit of stuff that happened from the 1930s that really shows how federal state and local public policies effectively segregated cities and suburbs and systematically locked African Americans out of opportunities for wealth accumulation, and perhaps the best one that we've had at the mass level in American history.
This started through a number of policies.
One that scholars had spent a lot of time working on setting occurred as part of the New Deal, and that's the Home Owners' Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration—as you might know it, the FHA. The Home Owners' Loan Corporation institutionalized redlining, where they would take maps and draw red lines around certain neighborhoods, definitely African American neighborhoods, and said that credit should not flow there and really prevented people from becoming home owners in those spaces.
Less well-appreciated and understood is something that I actually was really appreciative of. We had a conference several weeks ago at Princeton University in partnership with the Bendheim Center for Finance. We had a historian speak who talked a bit about the bond market and the municipal bond market, which has a whole bunch of embedded ideas, of thoughts about risks and rules, of guidelines and potential opportunities in minority neighborhoods and a lot of urban neighborhoods that really made it more difficult and more expensive for capital to flow there. Then it translated into greater difficulties, in building housing, in creating opportunities for employment, for having good schools, and for getting a whole bunch of other services. And then these markets were often very physically distant from the communities that were being impacted.
And in fact, in many instances, the people who were working in those markets didn't know anyone in those communities, but because the institution had all of these embedded conventional wisdoms and prejudices based on race, the cost for financing was higher and the willingness to finance was a whole lot lower. This is really significant.
Another example of a policy, an institution that really from its very origins disadvantaged African Americans is social security. So when President Roosevelt, when FDR signed Social Security into law, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of African Americans in the South were ruled ineligible for the pension program because of a decision to exclude certain lines of work and certain professions from being eligible for Social Security.
I think about Social Security as another important tool that we all rely on today to preserve our savings and wealth as we age, and as our family members age. African Americans couldn't do that. And as a result, it was very difficult for them to accrue savings and wealth and it really kept them less resilient and on the edge really, always being on the edge, the precipice of catastrophe from a financial perspective. So there are a whole bunch of policies and programs that I'm sure you're aware of—slavery, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, the Convict Lease program—these were all things that were prevalent in the United States, particularly in the South until the middle, even the latter, part of the 20th century. There's a growing body of research that's looking at these. The thing that has struck me is how these early decisions and these early programs continue to echo and their impact through today.
I think about small businesses and entrepreneurs. We know from a lot of research that most small businesses start with wealth from their families and their friends. For the small business owners oftentimes, that wealth originates from value and equity in the home. Without that, it's very hard to have robust entrepreneurs. So today's African American entrepreneurs are disadvantaged in that regard. What we see is that even today, as we go through our COVID crisis, African American businesses have less capital, they have less buffer, and they're more at risk. And so all of those things are drawn from this legacy of early prevention of African Americans getting in to home ownership—and that's an important part. I think also about credit scores, because African Americans have often been excluded from certain markets and certain sorts of activities.
They can have lower-grade squares as well, which makes it more difficult to get loans. Either you're going to have to pay more or you're going to have to take on risk of your products, both of which again put minorities at a disadvantage. And so if we think about society closing these risks and these gaps, we're going to have to think about policies that address the more subtle ways that the exclusions now manifest. Because in the mortgage lending situation, the banks and lenders are not intending to discriminate per se—they've got their own risks to manage—but because of a historical legacy, African Americans and minorities more broadly are going to be deemed to be riskier and to be less creditworthy.
I talked about COVID. We actually know that COVID is hitting minority communities much harder than others, and that means that minority-owned businesses and minority-owned communities are absorbing a blow, precisely the ones that are at least able to do that. There's a study by the New York Fed that came out recently that showed that 41 percent of Black-owned businesses shut down their operations have permanently, which is twice as much as the rate of closures across the country. And it really is. It all ties back to the broader weakness in these communities that has often been triggered by an inability to build savings and wealth due to lack of generational transfer, which is quite important.
Now, I'll say that there are a couple of things that are making me optimistic. I could stop there and leave us all super depressed. I would say there are a couple of things though that give me some hope. First is that there are groups like this that are actually talking about this or facing these issues directly, openly, and honestly. And what I've seen across the country is a growing awareness of the challenge, of the problem, and also a growing willingness to make a difference and to be a part of the solution, to be part of positive change to make America more real for everyone. I would also say that within my Bank, I've seen a tremendous amount of effort and some really promising things that are moving that make me smile as I go through the course of the day.
Now I hope that you know that we have in our Bank called increasing economic mobility and resilience a strategic priority for the Atlanta Fed. We are galvanizing resources from all over our Bank and all the communities that we touch to focus on this and understand the work that is to be done.
When we were introducing this to the Bank, what we used to always do is put up a map of the Southeast. We have six states, six southeastern states, and we put up things like the percent of the children of poverty, obesity rates, whatever you want to call. And the Sixth District is just extremely poor-performing at almost all of them. And this really means that people's chances of moving up in income and [inaudible] sale are quite low, and it means that inclusion is just not happening.
We have to do better than that. I mentioned there are efforts going on. I talked about the stuff that [inaudible] attest to, which is the benefits cliff issue. This is something that I've been really struck by. A lot of policymakers have not been aware that this is the reality, but what happens and what can happen, is that people who are getting assistance, if they earn extra dollars, if they earn extra wages, their benefits and their support they can have can be reduced by far more than the extra money they've been earning.
And this is a perverse incentive that actually says, you shouldn't try and make yourself better. You shouldn't try to get better skills. You shouldn't try to improve yourself because you'll be worse off for an extended period—and, in some instances, that time can be seven years, 12 years, 15, 17 years before you would break even. When people see that, their eyes open and they open wide...they get super wide and they're like, I had no idea. So people and policymakers have reached out. I've been pleased to say that one partnership that has made a lot of progress is right in South Florida with Broward College and President Haile. I'm really grateful that they've been willing to step forward with us and walk the walk as we try to find ways to help workers who are facing these exceedingly high marginal tax rates so we can get that fixed.
I think they'll start to see people respond positively. And one thing I've heard so many people realize is that sometimes people are not trying to do more because the incentives are really not aligned with them being better off by doing more. They're not dumb; they're just responding to the incentives that are out there. So it's on us to actually change those incentives so that people understand what the potential is and move forward towards opportunity.
Speaking of opportunity, I also wanted to mention that we have a Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity that we stood up right when I started at the Bank. So we have been thinking about this long before I got here, and it has been my good fortune and good pleasure to just pick it up and run with it.
There's a program that we've called the Unemployment Claims Monitor. This tool can be used to identify those who are bearing the greatest runs of job losses through the pandemic. In the Southeast, it's been African American workers disproportionately, also workers that have lower levels of skills in South Florida. I know that the hotel and restaurant hospitality sectors are seeing extreme pain and we're really going to try to unpack this, understand it, and try to do better. Now in both of these instances in the workforce development area and also the benefits cliff work, what we really want to do is make sure that we have a system and a structure that helps families get on and stay on a path of self-sufficiency. And it's going to be work.
I'm not going to sugarcoat this, but I do think that we have an opportunity now and going through this current crisis. [inaudible] important parts of our society and put those who have not been on a positive trajectory on a much better one for equitable economic growth. And the other thing, lastly, I want to say before I open it up for questions is that one thing that we [the Fed] do have constraints on the things that we can do as an entity. We don't do grants, we don't do loans, we don't typically do those sorts of things. But one thing we can do is convene, and we have large communities. When we ask people to come, they usually show up. We usually give them some free food, which helps.
When we do bring people together, the opportunity that we see today is that there are people who are interested in coming together who may not have ever talked to each other before, who may not have ever gathered before, and who may never have shared conversation in space around issues around racial justice, around inequity and inequality, around economic mobility and resilience. And the conversations that we're starting to have, the partnerships we're starting to create with institutions like community colleges I think have been extremely encouraging. I think they're going to be critical to help shape the skills that workers can get, because we need them to get new skills if they're going to be competitive for the jobs that are emerging in tomorrow's economy.
There's a lot of tension. There's a lot of turmoil that we're going through, and we have gone through, but there also are a lot of opportunities. I want us to stay focused on those solutions that open up opportunity for as many people as possible because we really do need all of our citizens to contribute to our economy; [that] is the way that we all preserve our quality of life, make sure we continue to innovate, and as a community and as a collective stay resilient and at the forefront of innovation and creativity. So let me stop there. I'll open it up to Greg for questions and look forward to the conversation.
Haile: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Raphael, first for the level-setting and helping us with an understanding, a brief understanding—but thorough—of some of the history around this. And of course thank you very much for the optimism, as we think about how we move forward despite some of that history and the challenges that we face.
I want to actually step back a little bit. You talked about the essay that you wrote and I'm going to ask if, Wendy, your staff can put the essay in the chat called "The Moral and Economic Imperative to End Racism." So many recognize that as a powerful statement, as a bold statement, particularly for someone coming from your role. And so I wanted to ask a two part question. What compelled you to write the essay? And, in particular, you mentioned systemic racism being the yoke that drags on the American economy. Talk to us about those two things.
Bostic: I've been struck for a long time that people think about racism and antiracism efforts as primarily a moral thing, that we should do it because it's the right thing to do. And maybe I've become cynical as I've gotten older but oftentimes just doing things because they're right doesn't galvanize a lot of energy. I think about affordable housing, that's one example where, when we talk about affordable housing as something that's nice and we shouldn't want for others, that's one thing, but if we can talk about affordable housing—or lack of—as contributing to traffic that you yourself have to bear with and deal with, it takes on a different understanding.
So in thinking about the essay, I really wanted to make the point that this is actually something that touches all of us. This is an us issue, and we're getting fewer innovations, we're getting less productivity, we're getting fewer ideas and less engagement. Our ideas aren't being challenged as robustly because we're talking to a narrower population than we should and we should otherwise, and that costs us all. We are not as good as we could be. And that was the message I really wanted to put on this, that too often the conversation is about this couch and that it's a there problem. This is over there and if I want to engage, I'll go over there. And I really wanted people to recognize this is our problem and that even if we are not actively discriminating, if we're not pushing back against the historical discrimination that's happened and asking ourselves deeply how are the institutions today playing out in terms of racial justice, then we might be part of the problem and we should be thinking about that.
Then the other thing that I think was an impetus for the essay was the point that all of us actually can do something about it. This is not something that is so large. Well, it is large. I don't want to say that, but it's also small things can make big differences. And I've been struck by... in my bank, we've had series of pretty raw open conversations about race, about the burdens that people are carrying and their staff members who have been sitting next to African Americans for a decade, 15 years who had no idea, and once they had that kind of understanding, they took us all to a shared place and a richer and a closer community that allowed us to move forward. That's not changing the school districts or any of that kind of stuff. But when you have that stronger community, it allows you to talk about things in a different way, it allows you to contemplate a different set of solutions than you might otherwise.
Haile: Wonderful. I want to follow up on that a little bit. Leadership Florida—it's our statewide leaders, they're leading our for-profits nonprofits, government entities, just an extraordinary group that represents diverse political views but the single view of wanting to move Florida forward and to move in the best direction possible. We have a lot of goals for our state, and one of them that we talk about quite a bit—led by the Chamber, in fact—is around taking Florida's GDP, which is currently ranked the 17th largest in the world, and moving it to the 10th largest by 2030. Can we have that conversation without addressing systemic racism? Or give us a sense of the need to address that in the context of pursuit of that role.
Bostic: Yeah. Well look, you can have the conversation without addressing systemic racism. You can do it. I think it makes the job harder because it assumes that we know where the good ideas are coming from, we know where the most innovative ideas are coming from, and we understand all the segments of markets that have potential for growth. I don't think I know that, and if I'm not trying to hear from people who have different perspective, different understandings, and reach into different communities and different lived experiences, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to know what sorts of things might be present in those communities that should be lifted up and grown. And so for me, I actually think, through my career, one thing that's been true is that some of the best work I've done has been precisely because I've been around people who aren't like me and I've been on teams where all the team members were totally different.
So people will hear something and it triggers different things in their mind about what's possible, about where there might be problems, about how things might advance, and that knowledge actually can fundamentally change how I think about a proposal or a project or an effort, or what are good ideas for a company or where capital might be deployed. So I think you can do it. I think there are real advantages to being more inclusive in those conversations and being more willing to challenge our conventional wisdoms about where good ideas are going to come from because, I think, I'm not an expert on patents and Florida or new business creation, but I'm guessing it's not balanced across the entire state and I think that sort of belies the reality that there are good ideas that come from all over the place. There's smart people in all these communities, and we should be trying to lift them up and allow them to be as powerful as possible.
Haile: Thank you, Raphael. I'm going to start to move towards questions that came in before this. We have a question from Chris [inaudible] [Leadership Florida] Cornerstone Class 36 member and also a special council cochair. The question is as follows: Your leadership role at the Federal Reserve Bank means that you sit at the nexus of government and the economy. In fact, the monetary policy decisions the Fed makes are a major way in which government impacts economic outcomes, but it is not the only way. How should states, cities, and counties work to overcome the legacy of inequitable economic policy decisions, including but not limited to underinvestment and neighborhood infrastructure, job creation, quality of life enhancements, underrepresentation of minority-owned businesses (which you've discussed), and government procurement processes?
Bostic: Well, that was a lot. Well, first, I think the overarching perspective is...it's important to be purposeful and to have equity as a priority and think about how you want to go about doing the things that you do. At our bank, we took on supplier diversity as a priority for us about seven or eight years ago, and in very short order, we became the best performer in the Federal Reserve System in terms of having a diverse supplier base. We would not have done that if we didn't decide that was something that was going to be important for us.
In all of the areas that were mentioned in that list, the first thing is that the leaders have to decide that these are important things for them. Once they do that, there are lots of communities, there are lots of experts out there who can really help identify a strategy and develop communities, develop that plan. That's one of the things that we do at the bank, actually. Once we are aware that there are challenges that people want to overcome, sometimes we have experts in-house—I talked about our Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity—but sometimes we don't. And in those instances, what we try to do is connect people with experts in that regard.
I go traveling around a fair amount and sometimes I'll hear things and I'll be like, "Oh, I know some people who might be able to help you," and [I'll] send them a list of those names and say, "Give them a call and see who works well with you and we'll set it up and we'll help however we can."
But it has to start with that internal desire to make the difference themselves. We're not going to swoop in. One thing I'll say—and [this is] too long an answer and I apologize for that—you have to work with the willing, and if people aren't willing to do it, you can drag them kicking and screaming but they're not going to put their best effort in. So it's identifying and building that willingness first, developing a purposefulness. and then you don't have to do this on your own. There are lots of folks around who can take you arm in arm and help you move, make progress.
Haile: Thank you. Our next question is from Allen Borden, [Leadership Florida] Connect Class 11. Raphael, you talked earlier just about the disadvantage that will be created by certain policies. How can the Federal Reserve help people who are far behind today get the same opportunity that those who already are well-resourced?
Bostic: So I think there are actually two answers to that. One is that we've got to change, and the Fed is actually going to work on this. My bank is working on this, on some of the early experiences that people have in the school district. We do a lot in terms of finance and economics. When you look at the proportion of African Americans who are getting [inaudible] PhDs and the like, who are pursuing these sorts of jobs, it's far less than it should be. It's my view that part of that is when they're in grade schools, they're not getting the positive reinforcement that this is something they could be good at, they could be granted. They don't see role models. So they led them into something that may not be something that's important to them or that's for them.
What we've started doing is we're building curricula for teaching economics in fifth grade and eighth grade, and we're actually piloting it. We're doing this through the partnership with the Federal Reserve Banks in Richmond, St. Louis, and Philadelphia to try to change the narrative about what is possible and what that looks like. We've also just started adopting, we just adopted a school. It was just a short-run thing, but we're really trying hard to get out into the community and change their understandings of what's possible. So that's sort of the longer pipeline. In terms of today, I think there are a number of things.
So one is, we think about skills training and skills retraining. The work that we're doing in terms of our Center [for Workforce and Economic Opportunity] and our Opportunity Occupations Monitor, these are things that can be used today to help people reposition themselves moving forward. I think that some of the stuff on the benefits cliff is also quite important in that regard. We're working hard to get out into communities and really reshape what they know and how they think about what the possibilities are, both at the personal level and institutional level.
Haile: Yeah. I'd want to make sure our audience knows that this outreach in the community, this is something that the Atlanta Fed has done in a very material fashion, reaching out to colleges, reaching out to local communities to try to understand what's happening on the ground. And I know Chair Powell launched the Fed Listens event maybe a couple of years or so ago now. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that, Raphael?
Bostic: Sure. People complain that the Fed sits in an ivory tower [and] we just do our little industry thing. We don't know how people are really experiencing our policies and the things that we do. So Chair Powell decided [is that] every five or seven years, we try to refresh our strategies and our thinking about this. But before we do that, we should actually go out and listen to people and ask them, how do they think labor markets work? What's working and what's not working for them? How do they think about interest rates and the business cycle? And do we stop? Do we put the brakes on the economy too soon? And one thing we heard—and we actually know this is true from a number of different sources— is that lower income and minority communities are often the last ones to benefit from economic growth.
And if we don't take that on board and really embrace that, we may try to prevent the economy from overheating before these communities actually have any benefits. So we're thinking about the front end, [but] the back end hasn't really matured yet. That was something that the chair and many folks in Washington heard. It has informed our thinking about how we should operate our monetary policy. I don't know if you guys are Fed watchers, but the chair has been pretty clear on this, that we will definitely be mindful of what's happening. We will not be preemptive and slow economic growth for fear of overheating. We're going to let data show us that we're overheating. Our hope is that we really translate this into far stronger recoveries in the communities that have historically trailed in that regard coming out of recessions.
Haile: Yeah, that is powerful information, and I will suggest to our Leadership Florida family that this is information that can be localized in a material way. One of the things that we looked at at Broward College in Broward County was, despite the fact that at the time we had a 3.0 unemployment rate or 2.5 at one point that there were still communities at 10-plus percent unemployment, so you don't necessarily look at trying to cool things off when you know those who need it most are still hurting in such a dramatic way.
Bostic: Yeah. Greg, can I just jump in on that? So one of the things that has been the most striking for me in this job, I've been here about three-and-a-half years, is that we talk about the U.S. economy, but there's actually not a U.S. economy. There are multiple economies, and some places rebound pretty quickly. Some places...don't actually drop at all, and then other places get devastated. And we've seen this show so intensely through this COVID crisis where the virus has not hit these communities or our communities in the same way. We have to really take that on board and make sure our policies don't declare victory before everyone has actually healed.
Haile: So this speaks to one of the questions that's been raised to more of education classics. There are many predictions for the shape of the economy, the economic recovery. U, V, K, L—what is your prediction for the United States and why?
Bostic: Yeah, I don't use any of those. We actually moved away from the letters and we've moved to a less-than symbol. So less than is the V, where it's turned on its side open to the righthand side. It's basically the reality that in today's economy, there are places that are actually getting better and growing robustly, but there are a whole bunch of other places that are not and are continuing somewhat of a downward trajectory. And so I think about—you take tourism, for example, which is really important in South Florida; we're actually seeing a split in the tourism reality. The places that are tourism locations with big hotels and cruise ships and conventions and that kind of stuff, those places are not doing very well. It's not very optimistic. On the other hand, if you look up at the Florida Panhandle, you are a drive to tourist locations where people will rent a house and can still be socially distant. Both places are booming, right? So you'll see the split in terms of experiences based on the nature of the tourism and how it plays out.
You see those kinds of disparities in retail. Home Depot, some furniture stores—when people are home, they have projects they have to get done, so they are at Home Depot three, four times. If it was my apartment—three or four times a day, and trying to get it all done. But other kinds of retail, and you're seeing this in the number of the bankruptcies and the shuttering that's happening, are not doing nearly as well. So again, you get this split where some are faring well. The thing about minority communities, lower-income communities, some rural places—these have been hit extremely hard, whereas a lot of suburban communities, they have robust broadband, so people could work at home and not have issues. Those are doing well.
So again, I think a lot of the numbers you see are an average of two realities that are not close to that average. And as I talk about the economy of what a rebound looks like, I try to make sure we remember that there are these places that are still experiencing a lot of pain and are still in a fairly precarious position. I don't want us to forget that as you think about what good policy is moving forward.
Haile: [That's an] incredibly important perspective. Thank you. Let me shift gears a little bit with this next question. This is from Jason Graham, Education Class 4, and has a bit of a preamble so bear with me here. When I talk with people about systemic racism and unconscious bias, I often feel two forces competing. The first is an urgency to educate them about how unconscious bias impacts decisions and ultimately negatively impacts marginalized communities. The other is an understanding that that approach matters and that my ability to change a person's beliefs and actions depend in part on my skill to broach these difficult topics in a way that is compassionate and devoid of judgment or ridicule. What advice do you have for me and for others who are looking for advice about how to approach these conversations?
Bostic: I think the biggest two things I would say is one, be honest and acknowledge that you don't know the perfect way to talk about these things, and then two is don't assign blame because I actually think most people when they hear it and it's directed at them, they think that they're hearing an indictment of them. The thing that I try to remind myself is I try to remind everybody, we all grew up in this society, we all grew up with these institutions, and we all share these visceral things that just have become us. So we didn't even think about it. We didn't actually go out of our way to have perspectives or viewpoints but when we live in the communities that we do, when we see the things and the signals that we see, when we're in school and we have experiences and friends, and when you go to the movies—all of these things inform how we think about how the world works and that's an important thing.
So this is not about [inaudible]. I think to me, this is much more about getting to acknowledge that, as we were talking about before, there are these multiple realities, there are multiple experiences, and some of them are far tougher than I think people appreciate. The conversation is really just to point that out, to say, "Look, we all have stresses, but there are some extra things that people in our society are having to deal with that is making it much harder for them to move forward." We can stay out of the blame space, and if we can just be in a sharing space and ask people to just think about it, I think that's how we're going to make progress.
One of the reasons I'm super encouraged today is I think people are so shocked from the George Floyd thing that they were like, something really is going on here. It made it easier to have this conversation and have it not be about...we all can be outraged. We all can be distressed and disturbed. Now it's just a question of, how do we together move forward so that we have a singular understanding of what history is or what our place is and a singular purpose moving forward?
Haile: Well, let's continue along those lines. The next question is from Darnell Smith, [Leadership Florida] Cornerstone Class 33, special council cochair as well. The recent awakening of so many Americans' conscience regarding the prevalence of systemic racism and your message regarding the moral and economic imperative to end racism—if you could go back and speak to the younger Dr. Bostic (you weren't doctor back then, but...) about how to prepare yourself for this moment, what would your message to him be?
Bostic: It would have been "Run!" That's actually a good question. That's a very interesting question. It's interesting because I have two thoughts. One would have been to be much more front-forward in calling out where bias was happening because it's very essential. As I grew up in the econ field, it was a tough field, not very historically racially sensitive and not very inclusive. There's a fair amount of bullying activity that goes on there. I called it out sometimes, I didn't call it out nearly as much as I probably should have, and that's one thing to think about. I guess I wish I had talked to us about race more in a nonaccusatory way. Look, what we were talking about [with] the last question–I wish I was more facile in talking about it because we don't talk about it and because we never talked about it, it's hard to start talking about it unless something super shocking happens. I wish there was a way that I could have been more engaged to have more people comfortable talking about it so maybe that super shocking thing didn't have to happen.
Haile: I appreciate the candor around that that answer. We're going to have time for just one more question, and it's going to be from Dominic Calabro. Dominic, excuse me if I got this wrong, I believe you're in Class 4—his question is, what top three—and Raphael, one, two, or three, you can pick out if you wish—but what top three systemic changes can we make to repair past inequities? What would you say generally would be, what are the top one, two, or three things you would say that we should be doing to address those inequities?
Bostic: I hate top-three questions. I think the thing that has been stuck in my mind a lot recently is how do we not penalize today's generations because their predecessors were not able to accrue wealth. How do we think about giving real opportunity, when so much of our opportunity is based on what you as the individual bring in terms of financial capacity and capabilities in a setting where large segments or significant segments of population were not able to accrue those financial stabilities. That's the thing I think about. I did a lot of my work in mortgage lending and bank underwriting, and I think about the factors that an underwriter would use. So it's how many months of wealth savings do you have in case you would hit a hiccup? What's your income level, which is going to be a function of what kind of skills are you able to get when you were in school? And if you don't have wealth, it's hard to live in an affluent community that would have a great school or to even send your kid to a private school.
So that penalty keeps happening over and over again, and it means you can never get out of the rut. So I think that's the thing, and I actually don't have the answer about how you do that, but I think that's one of the most important things we've got to think about: how do you unlock to help people get out of that rut? I think there's a role for philanthropy in this, I think there's a role for broadening community.
So I guess the second thing I would say is, broaden your community. One of the most striking things I witnessed was in the Atlanta Chamber [of Commerce]. One of the leaders challenged all of the CEOs in Atlanta: how many African Americans—and I would run this for minorities and women more broadly—have you actually invited to play golf? How many African Americans have you actually been in their living room at their home?
When you start to know people like that, then what you think their potential is actually changes. And where your nature and your visceral reactions [are], those baseline [things], they're going to change, but that requires an effort on our part to actually do the broadening. So that's the second thing I think because I think there are a lot of people who actually do think and feel like they want to do the right thing but they just don't know enough. I think it's those simple, personal things that can make a difference.
Well, I got the third thing—I'm sorry, you said three. The third thing would be measure it, know exactly how you're doing. One of the things we spent a lot of time in our bank doing, we know exactly the share of minorities at every level, we know what jobs positions, where there are ways that disparities [inaudible]...there aren't that many in our bank, but if you don't measure, then you don't track, and if you don't track, then things can get out of hand. I think that would be the third thing.
Haile: Raphael you're talking to a group of difference makers, and you've given us some tangible ideas about how we can actually go and make a difference. We are grateful for your leadership, for your courage, and for your presence today. Thank you.
Bostic: It's been a pleasure. Thank you, Greg. Thank you so much.
Spencer: Thank you so much. Really so many inspiring things you said. I loved the part about, your quote about small things or actions can make big differences, which is really our belief at Leadership Florida, that every member we have is an influencer in some way or another, and we want to inspire members to make a difference one member at the time. You talked about being honest, don't blame others, talk about race more in a nonthreatening and nonaccusatory way. We do some of that in our classes, and we build these bonds of trust that allow for us to talk about some of these difficult subjects in classes, but I don't know that we carry it out in our communities as well as we do in our Leadership [inaudible] Forum. So that's a challenge for us, to do this better in all of our circles, and you've given us that challenge. Greg, thank you for the great conversation.
You mentioned about this article on the "Moral and Economic Imperative to End Racism"— I think we included an attachment to that in the invitation. We'll send it back out to everyone in a post-event, communication. Dr. Bostic, your message, your [inaudible], your guidance, where you are today in your life—we are very blessed. Your time is very, very demanding and we're so great that you gave the gift of time and wisdom to Leadership Florida, so thank you so much.
Our board chair, Greg Haile, thank you for your thoughtful dialogue. It's really important that we have these conversations and we're going to do a lot more like this. We're going to have forums. Some of these summits will have post-summit conversations and breakout groups, others will have active dialogue during the summit.