I believe in America as a land of opportunity. Both of my dad’s parents were Irish immigrants who came to America basically as indentured servants. They had little more than hope for a better life in a land that was “paved with gold.” This country afforded our family the possibility to advance from low income Irish immigrants to productive business owners and contributing community members. Like many American success stories, that journey required unwavering courage, and a combination of education, hard work and opportunities. In short, it was a success both for our family and for the country.
But in my adult years, I have come to realize that the opportunities are not the same for all. I have lived most of my life in Dallas but was blind to the facts about what life is like for non-white families here until I joined the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Leadership Dallas program in 2014. The goal of this program is to improve the quality of life in our region by creating positive change, and they start with educating the group about successes and challenges in our community so that we have a shared body of knowledge. This is where I really learned about the past and present of our city, and the persistent economic divide that creates a very different life for a family like mine as opposed to a family living a few miles away in South Dallas. South Dallas is a food desert, meaning residents have persistent difficulties and stress about how to feed their families. Add in the time it takes to ride public transportation to a job, and lack of local healthcare, and it’s obvious that opportunity looks different when daily life itself feels unsafe and stressful.
These past few months have heightened that economic disparity and brought our racial divide to the fore. While many companies are releasing statements about racial protests and police brutality, or making social media splashes about what they believe needs to be changed, we are taking a different approach – one that is consistent with our mission of helping families succeed and to be confident about their money decisions. An approach that brings the land of opportunity closer to those for whom it has long been out of reach.
I’m proud to announce we are a founding company of “Be In Good Company,” a new program of the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT). I have worked closely with CFT for Business to create a new way for businesses to be a unifying force in these divisive times. Be In Good Company creates a structure – a bridge – between our remarkably philanthropic North Texas business community and the organizations that know who is hurting and have a way to help.
We know that there are small businesses, many that are women- or minority-owned, that want to be a part of this powerful force for good, but may not have access to traditional resources. Through Be In Good Company, we enable all types of businesses to give back, and help those in our community most in need. Modern Luxury recently recognized this innovative new program in “The 17 Most Influential Dallasites” article.
While the road may be long to achieve equitable opportunities for all, it’s time we start putting changes into motion so that one day we can look back and see how far we have come. It’s easy for me to apply the lessons of my own immigrant roots to today and see that providing economic opportunity to minority families can and should be a win for local communities and the nation. If people of all backgrounds can find their own opportunity to succeed, then we can have more business owners, entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and corporate leaders, all pushing the economy forward. That sounds like an opportunity for success for families and for the country as a whole.
Debra Brennan Tagg is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professional and the creator of the DBT360 Financial Plan, a proprietary program that helps her clients prioritize their goals, leverage their resources, and address their risks. She is the president of BFS Advisory Group and teaches the public and the financial services industry about the importance of values-based financial planning and investor education.