Is there a solution to racial inequality?
If so, it is much more complex than, “They should just work harder.” There are structural factors at work. Things beyond the control of “them” (the minority in question).
Here’s a parable to illustrate the point:
Billy and Bobby were friends who lived next door to each other. One day, they visited Mr. Smith’s Store, where they saw a shiny blue bicycle in the front window with a $100 price tag hanging from its handlebar. They went inside and told Mr. Smith how much they both liked that bicycle. “Well, if you work hard and save your allowance, you might just be able to buy it yourself.”
They boys were excited, and both went home planning to save up money to buy that new bicycle. Billy lived with him Mom and Dad, and they helped him put together a plan to save up for the bicycle. His Dad told him, “If you work hard and do the dishes every night, Mom and I will give you $5 a week toward that new bicycle.” They made a special calendar to keep track of his progress, and every night after he did the dishes they would mark that day on the calendar with a big red “X”. They would remind him every night to do the dishes, and even on some nights when he was tired or sick, they would do them for him and still give him his $5 for that week.
Bobby, though, wasn’t so fortunate. He lived with his Mom, and had never known his father. He told his Mom he wanted to make an allowance so he could save up for that shiny new bicycle. His Mom was working two jobs, and wasn’t often home in the evening. But she told him that if, after making his dinner, he would do the dishes every night, she would give him $1 a week. Some nights, though, Bobby would forget, and his Mom wasn’t there to help him. If he didn’t do the dishes, he didn’t get his dollar that week. And other weeks, even if he did them every night, his Mom wouldn’t have a enough money to give him his allowance.
After awhile, Billy and Bobby both went back to Mr. Smith’s Store, and that shiny new bicycle was still there in the window.
“Hello boys,” Mr. Smith said with a smile when they came in. “How is your progress on saving up for that new bicycle?”
“I’ve already saved up $40!” said Billy proudly.
“Wow, that’s great,” said Mr. Smith. “You’re well on your way, and obviously working very hard.” Then he turned to Bobby, “And how is your savings coming along?” he asked.
Bobby was embarrassed. “I don’t have quite that much,” he answered, looking at the ground.
“Well, I’m sure you’re doing great. Go ahead and tell me how much you’ve saved,” said Mr. Smith.
“Well,” Bobby looked at his foot as he kicked at the floor. “I’ve only saved $6.”
Mr. Smith frowned. “Well, it looks like you should probably work harder and be more diligent, son. Even if you don’t get as much allowance, you’ll just have to work that much harder and longer if you really want that bicycle. But don’t worry, God helps those who help themselves.”
Billy went home motivated and excited. He did the dishes and kept making his allowance (though sometimes his parents still had to remind him). Bobby, though, was discouraged. He would forget to the do the dishes on more nights, and by the end of a few months, though Billy had saved the full $100, Bobby only had $15 in his piggy bank.
Billy’s Dad took him to Mr. Smith’s Store, and they bought the bicycle together.
“I wish your friend would work as hard as you do,” Mr. Smith said to Billy as they were walking the new bicycle out of the store. “If he would just be diligent and not give up, I’m sure he’d be in here in no time to buy another bicycle just like this one.”
For months, while Billy rode his new bicycle, Bobby worked and saved, sometimes forgetting, sometimes his Mom not having enough to pay him. After two years, he had saved $80. He had an idea. He thought that, maybe, Mr. Smith would let him pay $80 and work at his store to earn the rest.
Clutching at the money in his pocket, he walked to the store. On the way in, he noticed the price tag on the bicycle in Mr. Smith’s window said $120 instead of $100. He felt like crying. And when he got inside, he saw that Billy was there, sweeping for Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith, seeing him come in and looking at Billy, said, “I hired Billy to help me around the store. If you learn to work as hard as him, maybe you’ll be able to buy that shiny new bicycle one day.”
Bobby wanted to cry, but didn’t. He turned around, walked out the door, and never went back.
The point of this story, I hope, is obvious.
(This parable was inspired by similar parables in the book Divided by Faith)