Together, We Must Work to End Systemic Inequality
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
By: Rich Nickel
Half of a century later, buffeted by the senseless killings of George Floyd and many others, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would still hear a deafening silence from much of America about discrimination, abuse of power, and trampled civil rights.
Talent is distributed equally, but opportunity is not. And, we know that societal transformation begins with personal transformation. So, it’s important to say out loud that many of us benefit from the clear disparity between privilege and oppression. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But only by owning the discomfort will we grow personally or progress as a nation. We have a moral imperative to do so.
This subject of institutional inequality is uncomfortable for me to talk about. I’m a middle aged, white male, and the color of my skin has never been a barrier to opportunity. I acknowledge that I have no real perspective of what it is like to be Black in America. I also understand that silence is no longer an option for me.
I regularly witness the benefits that come from attaining a college degree, and the transformation of the lives of those who have been systemically and historically discouraged from attaining that education. Because I understand the significant contrast of that oppression to my own fortunate situation, I stand with those who pursue change and who fight for a more equitable and just America.
Providing educational opportunities for social and economic mobility for low-income, minority, and first-generation college-goers is at the core of College Success Arizona’s mission, and we proudly advocate for equity and opportunity for all. Every day, our passionate and diverse staff work tirelessly to provide crucial advising, mentoring and support services to historically disenfranchised Arizona students, as they struggle to gain access to college and complete their degrees. Ninety percent of those we assist are racial minorities, and we hear devastating firsthand accounts of the routine racism they experience on their educational journeys. These students fight to fulfill their dreams and aspirations, because they know that if they succeed, they are succeeding not just for themselves but for all of those around them, their families, their communities.
The team at College Success Arizona and I commit to work even harder to help underserved students achieve their life-changing educational dreams. We invite you to join us in making this a reality and advocating for broader change. After all, the future we dream of cannot just work for some of us. We must ensure it works for all of us.
Rich Nickel is the president and CEO of College Success Arizona, where he leads the organization toward its goal of assisting all Arizonans in gaining access to, and successfully attaining, a college credential.