This time it was Milwaukee. Shootings, protests, violence and the deepening sense that we’re coming apart along racial lines. So what’s the non-activist supposed to do about it?
A white friend of mine said to me, “As a white person, what am I supposed to do? I don’t discriminate against people. I didn’t cause black poverty or crime or these other problems with race in America, but after these shootings, I’m scared for our future.”
So if you’re black like me, with white friends like this, you might consider sharing these five things with them.
1. You aren’t personally responsible for racism but you can personally do something about it.
If you’re not the type to protest or take on the banking, justice, or political system then you can still support #SpendBlack campaigns. Michael Phelps, showed his support for black-owned businesses last week just before he won gold (again) at the Olympics.
#SpendBlack campaigns are a way for anyone to make a personal statement that you are willing to buy delicious foods, products and services from black-owned businesses the same as blacks have always bought these things from white-owned businesses. It is totally in your control to show support for black lives by supporting black livelihood. Now about that bigger issue…
2. The secret: Racism is about “family assets.”
After WWII the government invented the 30-year mortgage which made it possible for millions of working class white folks like your mom and dad or grandparents to buy a house for the first time. They also passed the GI Bill which reduced rates on those mortgages and provided over $54-billion in stipends for college and insured loans between 1944-1962 alone.
This created the normal middle-class. But the banks used race as a criterion for loans and literally drew red lines around black communities, denying them billions in what were normal home, college and business loans to your family.
The result according to “The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters” by Demos Institute for Assets and Social Policy, by 2011, the typical white family had 16 times the assets of the typical black family ($111,146 white, $7,113 black).
Those statistics are ugly enough but another way to think about it is that before they were billionaires Bill Gates’ or Steve Jobs’ parents probably took out a home, college or business loan at some point that a similar black family would have been denied based on race. That opportunity afforded them other opportunities and it just makes me wonder, how much wealth and growth opportunities did America lose by keeping millions of black people from billions of financing for generations?
So, for the record, black poverty is not caused by lack of effort, ambition, or moral fiber in the black community. It’s caused by “lack of access to capital” also known as “racism.”
3. Black folks can and are leading the way out of this mess but we need more people to join in.
Did you know that in the US, black people have created more financial institutions than all other ethnicities besides white people? Did you know that the rate of black business creation is growing at twice the national average, and has been for over a decade? Black folks have a long history of taking action against systemic bias in ways that are doggedly optimistic, self-reliant, innovative and ultimately good for the economy.
Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that if black folks alone spent 10 cents on the dollar with the 2.6-million black-owned businesses in America 500,000 to 1-million more jobs could be created. A million jobs are good for America.
Black-owned banks like OneUnited, for instance, were hit hard by The Great Recession but responded by becoming the biggest black-owned Internet bank in the country – with high-quality mobile banking, check deposit-by-phone, and branches in three cities.
Black people are not new to finance. In fact, the first woman of any race to ever run a federally charted bank was a black woman named Maggie Lena Walker of Richmond, VA way back in 1909 when women of any race still required permission from their husbands to work at all.
4. White-run companies see opportunities to close the wealth gap too.
Consider the $50-Billion Community Empowerment Plan that Eugene Mitchell, the black vice president and African-American Market Manager of New York Life thought up. Its goal is to get 200,000 black families to get $250,000 in life insurance that adds up to $50-billion in generally tax-free income to their family and heirs.
New York Life is neither black-owned nor publicly traded. It is legally owned by its policy-holders and has been managed well enough to not need any government bailout money. Of course this plan benefits the insurance giant but Eugene Mitchell and his better-known external partner, Maggie Anderson of Our Year of Buying Black are using the resources at their disposal to put more resources at black families’ disposal.
So that’s what everyone else is doing. Here’s what you can do, my friend.
If you don’t know where to find great black-owned businesses, then go to www.Pictition.com/SpendBlack, sign-up and it will connect you will be connected to Yelp-like apps and resources for black-owned businesses.
Whatever you decide to do, be visible about it. People need to see that you care. Having a black friend isn’t a statement. Showing that color is not a barrier to where you shop is.