Social Responsibility and Racial Equity

These are trying times for our community. People have strong feelings about many societal concerns. The YMCA has been there for times like these for more than 175 years, offering services, programs, and spaces for belonging that people want and need.

Social responsibility is one of the Y's primary areas of impact. As part of our commitment to racial justice and equity, we pledge to work with you to create more equitable and inclusive communities, where self-reflection and civility thrive. Here are some resources to help you learn, examine your own beliefs, and take positive action to benefit all.

How Racism and Bias Show Up for Me

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’" – Martin Luther King Jr.


“The brain uses bias as a shortcut to quickly assess a situation and draw conclusions in response to potential threats. In this article, we want to make a case for using bias productively and away from threat responses. Nonjudgmental awareness promotes focus and reflection and frames bias as perceptions the leader can use to actually increase their effectiveness.” – from “The Impact of Perception and Bias on Leadership” by Valerio Pascotto, Forbes Councils Member


  • Implicit bias is a universal phenomenon, not limited by race, gender, or even country of origin. Take the Implicit Bias Test to see how it works for you. Remember, having biases doesn’t make you a bad person. It only makes you human. TIP:Proceed as a guest to access the library of tests and discover your implicit associations around race, gender, sexual orientation, skin tone, and other topics.
  • Watch A Conversation on Race, a series of short films about identity in America.
  • “The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, a teacher in a small town in Iowa tried a daring classroom experiment. She decided to treat children with blue eyes as superior to children with brown eyes. The FRONTLINE segment A Class Divided explores what those children learned about discrimination and how it still affects them today.”

What is Privilege?

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else's oppression, we'll find our opportunities to make real change.” – Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race 


  • The median wealth gap difference between a white family and a black family is $80,000.
  • One in nine black children has an incarcerated parent compared to one in 57 white children.
  • A white man who has been to jail is still more likely to get a job than a black man who hasn’t.

Source: “18 Things White People Should Know” by Tiffanie Drayton and Joshua McCarther.


The Achievement Gap

“We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity, and power in our society.” – Nelson Mandela


Research shows that most white boys (in America) raised in wealthy families will stay rich or upper middle class as adults, but black boys raised in similarly rich households will not. Learn more.

The achievement gap between black and white students isn’t unique to Asheville, but the painful truth is that it’s worse here than in any of the state’s 114 other school districts. According to the Youth Justice Project, an arm of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Asheville City Schools have the biggest disparity between white and black students’ academic proficiency of any district in the state. Regardless of economic status, about 80 percent of the system’s white students achieve grade-level proficiency; less than 30 percent of black students meet the same benchmark. Read more.


  • Read this article to learn about the achievement/opportunity gap in the Asheville school system.
  • View an interactive New York Times article or download a free PDF on research that shows the economic differences between white and black men who are raised in similar households. 
  • Inspire yourself with this article from the Harvard Business Review about a group of black female executives who have persevered using strategies to overcome intersectional invisibility in the workplace. Then reflect on ways you can support a woman of color you know in her advancement.

A Rich Local History

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela


According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Asheville is 79.3% white. Black or African American is the largest minority by percentage of 13.4%. 

In the 1930s and 1940s during the New Deal, the Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government agency, recruited mortgage lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers in nearly 250 cities to create maps that color-coded credit worthiness and risk on neighborhood and metropolitan levels.

These maps and their accompanying documentation helped set the rules for nearly a half century of real estate practice. They have also served as critical evidence in countless urban studies in the fields of history, sociology, economics, and law.

In many instances, “red lining” in Asheville meant that the areas where African Americans lived and owned homes became "hazardous" areas for banks to loan money for mortgages.

In the United States home ownership is the number one way to generate wealth. The policies of the HOLC maps continued until 1968 when the Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in housing. The policies set the stage for the country and Asheville's persistent racial wealth gap. White households have had a head start and an advantage to building wealth.

Source: Mapping Racial Equity in Asheville


Building a Race Equity Culture

“This is the 21st century, and we would all like to think racism is dead in America. Actually, that's not the case: still there are some racial issues that are out across this nation, and so we have a responsibility as compassionate citizens of America, no matter what our ethnic group happens to be, to confront these issues when they arise.” – Alveda King


According to 11 Facts About Racial Discrimination from

  • In one U.S. study, 15.8% of students reported experiencing race-based bullying or harassment. Research has found significant associations between racial bullying and negative mental and physical health in students.
  • During the 2015–2016 school year, black students represented only 15% of total U.S. student enrollment, but they made up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of students suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled. The U.S. Department of Education concluded that this disparity is “not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.”
  • Black Americans and white Americans use drugs at similar rates, but black Americans are six times more likely to be arrested for it.
  • In another U.S. study, resumes with traditionally white-sounding names received 50% more callbacks than those with traditionally black-sounding names. 


Moving Forward

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


From "White People Are Broken" by Katherine Fugate:

In 1955, Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago who was visiting Mississippi.

A married 21-year-old white woman accused him of whistling at her. Three days later, the black teenager was hauled away from his bed by white men. He was lynched, beaten, mutilated and shot in the head. They strung barbed wire and a 75-pound metal fan around his neck then dumped his lifeless body in the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open casket. She wanted the country to view her son’s bloated, mangled body. “When people saw what happened to my son,” she said, “men stood up who had never stood up before.”

The all-white jury took two hours to acquit the two white men of Emmett’s murder. The jury would’ve acquitted him sooner, but they’d stopped for a soda break. Sixty-two years later, the woman who accused Emmett said she’d lied.

Read the full article about taking the opportunity to listen.