In a recent article published by the National Urban League, "The State of Black America 2012--Tanning of America Makes Growth, Prosperity, and Empowerment Easier," Steve Stoute comments on the fact that our culture "is the golden thread that meshes together the exceptional quality, ingenuity, creativity and value of these products, (Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Jay-Z's music) that makes the American Dream accessible all across the globe. He speaks about the phenomenon of "tanning" or "the mental complexion" of America.
In essence, Steve is talking about the common experiences and values that go beyond race or even socio-economic lines. It is a good metaphor and one in which explains almost simplistically the idea that though there may be real differences in skin tone, our desires and our abilities are only limited to lack of education, lack of resources, or lack of desire. Two of these three things can be controlled by those of us willing to work hard to ensure there is equality in education and resources. The third item--lack of desire, could even be controlled to some degree if we ensure the other two items are in place. There are many who may have the desire to learn, or build, or do.... if they knew what they were missing. Broadband and technology could actually help those who lack the desire to be more interested in education, technology, innovation, or entrepreneurship.
Technology, as Steve explains in his article, is something that "millennials," or those born between the years 1977–1997, understand much better than those born before this era...so, therein lies the problem! It is mostly those born before 1977 who have difficulty understanding the need for digital equality. Those who were born when cell phones were the exception rather than the rule, and when spectrum was only talked about when referring to the colors of the rainbow, don't quite "get it" when it comes to understanding the importance of having access to the Internet.
The question of whether or not broadband is necessary in today's marketplace, education system, or job market, has long since been answered. Opportunities abound on the Internet and innovation is sparked. Creativity is sprouting from elementary schools at startling rates and young entrepreneurs are getting younger and younger. Those who are technologically curious today are becoming the inventors of tomorrow. Those who have access to broadband and the Internet can forge ahead uninhibited by fears of the unknown.
We must continue to encourage innovation and creativity. We must provide our schools and our communities with the resources they need to spur curiosity. We must contribute to programs, such as those that the National Urban League is promoting. We must continue to support these programs and learn more about them in order to provide our children more opportunities to become the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the teachers of tomorrow. But we must encourage them today. And we must provide them the resources today.
(Ron Busby is president, U.S. Black Chamber.)