What does STEM have to do with the death of Michael Brown? Everything. Before you tune me out, take a moment to consider my explanation.
Unless you have been living on another planet, no doubt you have been inundated with news coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer.
From all accounts, Mr. Brown, a young African-American teenager, was unarmed and surrendering when the officer pumped multiple rounds into his body. To many it seems like the police departments of America have declared open war on Black men. The list of unarmed Black men who have been murdered at the hands of police officers seems to grow daily.
Their names are Kimani, Kendrac, Amadou, Ousmane, and Oscar, just to name a few.
Why are these unjustified homicides happening so frequently? Why do some police officers think that they can willfully violate the rights of certain members of our society with impunity? Why does our judicial system seem to more times than not exonerate these officers when there is a preponderance of evidence suggesting the officer has committed a crime? The only answers I can come up with is that the perpetrators of this violence, and society itself, have come to devalue the lives of these people and in the process,
written them off as powerless members of society.
This powerlessness was a consistent theme in the admonitions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was all too familiar with this power imbalance in America. In defining power, Dr. King asserted that power is the ability to achieve purpose in the face of adversity. Additionally, Dr. King understood that in a system that is based on capitalism, like our American democracy, there is a strong correlation between one’s level of power and her financial wherewithal.
In other words, when a person or a group of people have the financial capability to access resources that can then be marshaled to
their advantage, they are then in a better position to defend themselves against “societal bullies.” I define societal bullies as people or institutions that persecute discrete segments of society because of race, gender, ethnicity, economic status, religion or a combination of all the above. As a child growing up in the projects of South Baltimore, one thing I learned about bullies is that they tend to prey on those who are least able to defend themselves and often change their behavior once the victim decides to fight back.
In my analogy, fighting back implies that one has the financial capability to do so. In America it takes cash to fight. People can talk all they want to but at the end of the day, someone has to sit down and write a check before things get done. One lesson I have learned as a STEM entrepreneur is that the better I become at solving the problems of my customers and of society, the more checks I am able to write.
When I am able to write a check (cash) and couple it with financial intelligence I then am able to create wealth. Once I have wealth I am now in a stronger position to defend myself when the societal bullies decide to attack me. In today’s technology driven world, the most potent skills for creating wealth are STEM skills – mathematics, engineering, technology, architecture, and science. It is not mere coincidence that companies that leverage and embrace the power of technology are driving much of the wealth that is being created today.
Now I am not so naive as to think that all police officers are societal bullies or that wealth by itself will prevent societal abuses. Most police officers I know (including the ones in my family) are truly dedicated and professional public servants.
Additionally, the experiences of Henry Louis Gates Jr. being arrested for breaking into his own home provides further evidence that wealth by itself does not prevent abuses.
However, I have concluded that I am in a better fighting position as a Black man when I am in a strong wealth position and my STEM skills help making that happen.
There, I said it and I am sticking to my story!
Robert L. Wallace is an accomplished entrepreneur, author, business consultant and internaationally known speaker. He is the current president and CEO of BITHGROUP Technologies (www.Bithgroup.com) and founder of BITHENERGY, Inc. (www.Bithenergy.com). Wallace can be reached at [email protected].