As a retired member of the United States Air Force with a background in law, diversity and inclusion and government relations, Doc knew he had to apply for this position, as it’s always been an area of passion for him.
“The opportunity to enhance inclusion opportunities for people who have been historically marginalized has always been a passion for me,” says Doc. “It involves potential legislative changes at the federal, state and local level. When you leverage the power of large companies to research and share findings, we can really make a difference nationwide.”
The fellowship has four major pillars: economic empowerment, education, health care and public safety. Doc is part of the economic empowerment pillar, working on various projects that address economic inequality around the country. According to the Federal Reserve, the typical Black American family has eight-times less wealth than a white family.
“In 1919, there were about 800 Black people killed in Elaine, Arkansas – now, it is one of the most economically depressed areas in the country,” explains Doc. “The mass murders in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Elaine, Arkansas, are examples of racial injustice that continue to impact people today. Until recently, I was unaware of similar, but more horrific, acts of violence in the Arkansas Delta Region. The events of this year are emblematic of long-standing inequities and are rooted in a history of systemic discrimination.”
Doc says the racial wealth gap has profound consequences, both for Black families and for the U.S. economy. According to a McKinsey and Company study, the failure to address the wealth gap will cost the U.S. economy between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion in gross domestic product output each year. He says understanding the historical significance of the past is key.
“Much of the Black American experience is etched in history. People have said, ‘what happened 400, 100 or even 50 years ago has nothing to do with racial inequality today,’” says Doc. “I’m 62 and remember going to segregated schools from first to fifth grade. Now, there is still as much segregation in schools today as there was then, but it’s based more on affluence as opposed to race.”
In addition to his research on Elaine, Arkansas, Doc is also examining several other issues: helping those who rely on money orders, check-cashing services and payday loans to instead use formal banking services; developing strategies to close the racial gaps associated with home appraisals; and implement supplier diversity programs to utilize minority-owned vendors and contractors.
“I am very proud of USAA’s commitment and effort to addressing systemic racism,” says Doc. “I am humbled and honored to play a small part in USAA’s effort to address systemic discrimination and advance inclusion.”