A brutal police slaying. Rising protests. Social unrest. A country in pain. Race again the issue.
In an effort to get some perspective on what’s happening in America this summer, I reached out to Travis Mack, a prominent African-American business leader and person I’ve known for most of my life on the Central Coast. Mack, a Navy veteran, started Saalex, a national IT and security firm, about the time the Business Times was getting off the ground back in 2000.
Over the weekend, his Camarillo-based company deployed some 30 people to support the SpaceX Falcon launch and the Dragon spacecraft’s journey to the International Space Station, culminating years of prep work.
But when I caught up with him by phone, he was laser-focused on the moment and the social reckoning we are facing.
“Just do the math,” said Mack. “When it comes to housing, education, access to finances, early childhood, health care, policing, food insecurity and transportation,” minorities in America are systemically disadvantaged.
“The math doesn’t have any opinion,” added Mack. “The math tells you it is not equal.”
Mack said he’s been encouraged by the diversity of those who are protesting and he has no patience for looters who destroy property. “We don’t make change by destroying things.”
He said the better path is a level of opportunity that gives people a break. In his own case it was a chance to join the military that got him out of a small town in Texas, where getting caught after dark on a back road meant putting your life at risk.
Slavery was part of America’s original sin and, 400 years later, it is still a battle, he said, adding that of the 12 times the National Guard has been called out for domestic causes, 10 were to deal with race issues. “When we are at our worst, it’s because we are dealing with race,” he said.
The Central Coast, where demonstrations have been mainly peaceful and where large, diverse crowds have turned out in places like Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, has been a relative bright spot. “It’s been like a melting pot. That is huge,” he said. “But we can’t stop here.”
The fact remains, he said, that there are difficult conversations ahead. African-American men and women, even prominent ones, know that “no matter your title, money you make, whether you are a celebrity or a professional athlete or the CEO of Merk or any other Fortune 500 company, your skin color still isn’t equal,” he said. “It is disheartening.”
While African-Americans are too often the victims of social violence, the conversation should be about equality for all, he added.
“It’s an important issue for us overall,” he said. “This is not just for one race or gender. Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, everyone needs equal opportunity.”
In the end, he said, a more inclusive free enterprise system will make it better for everybody. More opportunity through internships, scholarships, military service and other paths will lead to better outcomes — especially if the playing field is level.
That, too, is a matter of simple math
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