Robert Smith on the Importance of Opportunity

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Recently featured in a profile by Daniel Fisher on the cover of Forbes, as part of its top 400, Robert Smith sat down with Maya Rockeymoore at the 2015 Color of Wealth Summit to talk about the power of opportunity.

Both of my parents have Ph.Ds in Education. I remember growing up in Denver in a predominantly black neighborhood and going to recently desegregated schools… I lived next to the Lieuternant Governor of the state, who was black, a Representative who was black. I looked at how we lived and, you know, everyone tells me education is key — and it wasn’t bad — but I could tell that the kids I went to school with lived a whole lot differently than we did and none of their parents had Ph.Ds. I realized there was a gap, so I wanted to understand what that was… It isn’t just education. That’s a part of it. But it’s access to opportunity, access to mentorship, access to know-how… It’s knowledge and insight and information. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter how much capital or desire you have, it’s going to be hard for you to move along the wealth chain.

Rockeymoore has recently published an op-ed on Forbes.com about disparities in opportunity between black and white women, prompted by Viola Davis’s recent Emmy win for outstanding lead actress in a drama.

It’s no secret that black women in the U.S. face an opportunity gap that places them at the bottom of key economic and health indicators. While the gap in wages and wealth experienced by women is well known, the double whammy of race and gender hits the pockets of black women, even those who are educated, like a category five hurricane.

These two perspectives tie together the importance of both social networks and policy in creating an environment in which people of color can thrive and develop their potential.

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