This past year, the subject of race is again front and center in the news and business. Addressing this issue can help improve the economy of every community.
On The Small Business Radio Show this week, I talk about some solutions provided by Melvin Gravely, the CEO of Triversity Construction in Cincinnati, Ohio. As one of the biggest construction companies in the region, it is a consistent member of the Deloitte 100 list of the largest privately owned companies. He has a new book called: “Dear White Friend: The Realities of Race, the Power of Relationships and Our Path to Equity”.
Interview with Melvin Gravely of Triversity Construction
As a successful small business owner, Mel never talked about race much. He realized that most of his life is spent with white people. He got tired of “watching the same move (on race) and perhaps I can be a vehicle to help with this problem.”
On the home page of Mel’s website for his book it says, in big letters “My friend, I do not believe you are a racist.” He starts the conversation here because “I can’t call you friend and racist at the same time.” This book is a series of letters outlining what we can do together about this problem as friends. Mel emphasizes that for many people, “it’s hard to realize that they have biases. The sooner we start talking about it the better.”
“While we live in a great country, we have this dark history around race. Fifty percent of Black families are more likely to inherit poverty and not any type of money compared to 9% of White families. The wealth gap has got worse since 2013. Closing this gap will help everyone. With more contributors, the country will be more prosperous.”
Mel believes racism and the wealth gap constrains economic growth and Black innovation. He insists that “anyone that cares about taxes and productivity has to care about this. The inequalities perpetuate problems and social programs that are very expensive to pay for. There is an economic imperative around improving this… it also saps our spirit on innovation. “
Mel notes that Black innovation peaked in 1889; “the research suggests what drives innovation is patents…in times of insecurity, Black innovation drops…any time a law that was passed that took a rights away or incidents like Tulsa (in 1921), patents dropped. This is a missed opportunity!”
Mel believes that Black entrepreneurship is a “superpower” for making our communities; “Wealth drives who the leaders are and then who sets the agenda. When you have African Americans that have wealth, this changes the seats of power and guarantees diversity. That voice is now heard.”
Mel lists steps that we all can do to help change:
- Acknowledge there is a problem since it is tearing our country apart.
- Decide it must change since we are fighting more eternally than the potential of America.
According to Mel, there are four areas that will help bring change:
- Improve our public education system so it helps everyone.
- Get safe housing for all that want it.
- Eliminate the healthcare disparities.
- Support Black owned businesses in your supply chain or as a consumer.
Image: Melvin Gravely