Fresh off of the Juneteenth and the Fourth of July independence celebrations, most Americans are getting back to business and addressing the sometimes arduous challenges of everyday life. In particular, financial challenges are a fact that is becoming more difficult and even taxing for many Americans, particularly Black Americans.
Historically, Blacks have suffered severe economic and wealth disparities coupled with the educational and social inequities that have been an ongoing reality for centuries in our daily living. True, these issues were exacerbated by the pandemic, but even before the pandemic, we were still living in a world of limited financial advancements and declining employment opportunities.
Case in point: During the pandemic, 10% of Black women remained unemployed, but post-pandemic, in May of 2022, the unemployment rate among Black women reached 16.5%, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
And in the wake of the rising cost of goods and services and crippling inflation rates, we’re all feeling the pain from the gas pump to the grocery store. But the underlying reason inflation is so much more of a burden in Black communities is the widening racial wealth gap, with white households having many times more net worth than Black households. Duke University public policy professor William Darity Jr. estimates that the wealth gap between Black and white households is as high as $800,000.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, inflation reached 8.5% in March — the highest since 1981. And like most economic spirals, Black communities are disproportionately impacted as they spend a greater percentage of their incomes on necessities like food and gas.
So, since this concept or idea of fairness in economies continues to elude Black Americans, our only real redress to impact the racial wealth gap is at the intersection of political power and economic strength in the Black community. To defeat these astonishing wealth gaps, we’ll (like everything else) do it by using the power of our votes.
But first, we’ll have to work to salvage what’s left of the democracy and shore up those candidates and legislators who hold fast to the principles of fairness and ideals of shared wealth, particularly regarding taxation or welfare economics.
More specifically, we will have to insist our political leaders address and promote economic equality for all citizens — fair and equal income, financial products, and an increased commitment to a redistribution of wealth in all communities. In short, we will all have to work to support an economy that works for all, regardless of race or ethnicity, gender, or where they live.
Primary among those strategies to close the wealth gap is asset ownership and our leaders in Washington must do a deep dive into the lack of asset ownership because it gives citizens a stake in the economy at a time when the country is polarized economically as well as politically.
But far from broadening for larger segments of the population, asset ownership has been concentrating for the past 30 years. As a result, stocks, bonds, real estate (commercial and residential), commodities, and even cryptocurrencies are owned and controlled by fewer and fewer players.
In an effort to break the cycle of policymaking that continues to negatively impact communities of color, some financial analysts and economic experts have proposed measures — from compelling the U.S. government to bring their full weight to bear on lending institutions and require fairness to creating a wealth fund that is funded with bond issuance that invests in diversified portfolios of global risk assets.
Ideally, Congress would adopt a “fidelity for the people” approach, expanding and providing opportunities for business ownership, increasing access to financial opportunities, and removing obstacles to fair lending practices.
Black folks will continue to soldier on and manage in the face of inflation and increased financial adversity as we always have — with grit and resilience. But the current financial system has revealed its financial fragility and lack of a fair, comprehensive economic policy that extends to the most vulnerable members of our society. That’s a slippery slope, and it cannot continue if we are to earnestly work toward unification in our fractured democracy and failing economies.
Hiram Jackson is the CEO & Publisher of Real Times Media, which includes The Michigan Chronicle, a partner in the Word In Black collaborative