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Black Lives Matter: Addressing Financial Inequities Should Be Part of the Changes We Make


I start this article with trepidation. I have always been a proponent of equality but stuck with what I knew: feminism. George Floyd’s death on May 25 has focused our country on an insidious problem that persists in our culture, racism. My expertise is in finance so I will concentrate on that in this article. Part of equality is equal opportunities.

Many Black students start out at a disadvantage. According to National Equity Atlas, in 50% of the largest U.S. cities, most Black Americans attend schools where at least 75% of all students qualify as poor or low-income. The good news is, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more Blacks are attaining higher education. In 1992, only 16% of Blacks in the labor force earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 31% in 2018. 

Fifty-six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, equal pay is still not a reality. Let us start where I often start, with women. Equal pay day for women was April 2, 2019 last year; however, for Black women equal pay was Aug. 22, 2019. Up to these dates in 2019, women theoretically work for free compared to their white male counterparts. This means that Black women made 61 cents on the dollar for every dollar a white male made in 2018. The 2017 median income for Black women is just over $36,000, which is 21% lower than that of white women. The worst part is that unlike white women, the problem is getting worse rather than better. In other words, in 2018 equal pay day for Black women was Aug. 7 and in 2017, it was July 31. This means Black women are falling farther behind rather than catching up to the rest of us. To make matters worse, 80% of Black mothers are the breadwinners in their families. 

Black men face the same challenge. When comparing white men and Black men with similar education and both from affluent families, white men are paid more. Black men make 87 cents on the dollar compared to white males in the U.S. 

Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar held by white households in 2016 according to Pew Research Center. In an article from Brookings, “Examining the Black-White Wealth Gap” by McIntosh, Nunn and Shamgaugh, the net worth of a typical white family is $171,000 compared to $17,150 for a typical Black family in 2016. Also, Blacks are hurt more in economic downturns. Net worth declined 44.3% from 2007-2013 (Great Recession) compared to a 26.1% decline for white families.

Of course, to have wealth you need well-paying jobs, education and employment. According to a New York Times Article, “Can America’s Middle Class Be Saved from a New Depression?” Black-owned businesses are more vulnerable to going under than white-owned shops. During the 2020 pandemic, the unemployment rate for whites was 14.2% compared to 16.7% for Blacks. 

Obviously, something needs to be done differently. Inherent, unconscious biases are at play here. The good news is we agree that there is a problem. In 2017, 81% of Blacks believed racism was a big problem and 52% of whites agreed. I believe with the stark reality of George Floyd’s death being taped and viewed this year, we can all agree that number has increased. Now it is time to put our money where our mouths are.