For the record, equity and equality are not the same things. If we are talking true equity, it means giving someone more than you, who has less than you, to elevate them to have the same as you. Are we all really ready to make this selfless sacrifice?
Well, if 2020 has shown us one thing, it is that we are all truly in this together. There is an African quote that says, "The wealth of a family/community is measured by the state of the poorest group/member and not the richest one," meaning we are measured by the level of lack in our society.
There is not a time when Black success did not equal success for all.
As a Black woman in business, it is my thought that rebuilding the Black business community is how we rebuild America. In fact, if we look at American history, there is not one moment in time when the Black community's success did not include everyone else as well. Case in point, the civil rights movement not only benefited Black people but it also aided all disenfranchised communities, giving all Americans the right to vote and proper education.
There is not a time when Black success did not equal success for all. In fact, it is documented that even despite oppression, Black innovators created the traffic light, automatic elevator door, and caller ID. Just think of how much more America and the world could have benefitted from Black innovators if Black business was supported equitably and not destroyed repeatedly as in the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Forbes reported that "the rate of [B]lack business creation continued to rise and fall throughout the 20th and 21st century, increasing in the 90s, dipping during the 2008 recession and rising again post-recession. Recently [B]lack-owned businesses have risen with [B]lack women fueling the growth." However, overcoming over 400 years of the inability to build wealth and repeated destruction, the momentum needed to build true equity is enormous. According to a 2019 McKinsey report, success of Black business is in the best interest of the United States of America. It is estimated that the current racial wealth gap will cost the U.S. economy between $1 to $1.5 trillion dollars in lowered consumption and investments from 2019 to 2028.
Putting an emphasis on building Black businesses in America will reduce the wealth gap, helping to minimize the constraints on the country's economy. The report further said, "Although reducing the racial wealth gap would still leave a substantially large gap, narrowing it through the rate of growth in each group from what it's been from 1989-2018 would be a major step. In 2016 the median white family had more than ten times the wealth of the median [B]lack family. In fact, the racial wealth gap between [B]lack and white families grew from about $100,000 in 1992 to $154,000 in 2016, in part because white families gained significantly more wealth, while median wealth for black families did not grow at all in real terms over that same period." Closing this gap disparity by a small percentage would add $1 trillion to America's economy by 2028 according to the report.
A 2017 study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that banks were twice as likely to provide business loans to white applicants than Black applicants, and three times as likely to have follow-up meetings with white applicants than even more qualified Black applicants.
Billionaire businessman Robert Smith is recommending a "2% solution," calling on corporate giants and larger banking institutions to invest 2% of their annual revenue into Black communities as a solution to help close the wealth gap.
And as a collaborative person, I believe it is important for the Black business community to contribute, and create funds as we have done at the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce. To help the Oakland Black business community during COVID-19, the Oakland African American Chamber recently raised over $1 million to provide grants to assist Black businesses in Oakland who were economically impacted during this global crisis.
In a time when it is reported that 41% of Black-owned businesses may not reopen after COVID-19, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses, we know the grants we provided are essential but only a short-term fix.
We know that more needs to be done to support and help. I believe the "more" at this time is the call-to-action to raise tens of millions of dollars to create Black business revolving loan programs, like the City of San Francisco's $3.2 million Black business revolving loan fund. Every urban city in American needs to develop a Black-owned bank in the Black community to help recycle money back into the community. Corporate partners are needed to make similar contributions like Netflix, who committed to invest $100M of their deposits into a Black bank.
As Black-owned businesses flourish, so does the community—and not just the Black community. Yet these very same businesses find it difficult to obtain fair loans from major banks.
This type of giving allows for reinvestments to occur in historically disenfranchised communities to build sustainable solutions. These are the type of solutions we need to implement if equity is truly the goal. Especially since we know that, historically, lending institutions have denied Black businesses credit or provide loans at a very high-interest rate, limiting cash flow and capital.
In the American small business universe, 27% of small business owners are women; among African-American owned businesses, 35% are women. Even with this momentum, according to the US Black Chambers, Black businesses remain challenged by limited access to capital.
As Black-owned businesses flourish, so does the community—and not just the Black community. Yet these very same businesses find it difficult to obtain fair loans from major banks. A 2017 study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that banks were twice as likely to provide business loans to white applicants than Black applicants, and three times as likely to have follow-up meetings with white applicants than even more qualified Black applicants. Black-owned businesses not only stimulate the economy but they also positively affect the unemployment rate by hiring historically disenfranchised people.
It is my hope that all the protests—all the historic shifts on the political front—will change the paradigm. A change that will bring collective groups together to provide the investment needed in the Black community to reduce the racial wealth gap and build more streams of wealth in diverse communities for a more equitable, inclusive, and thriving America.
- Financial Institutions Can Help Break the Cycle of Racial Inequality ... ›
- Black reparations and the racial wealth gap ›
- 6 facts about economic inequality in the U.S. | Pew Research Center ›
- How Income Inequality Feeds the Racial Wealth Gap - Bloomberg ›
- The economic impact of closing the racial wealth gap | McKinsey ›
"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.
"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.
I shook my head.
I stood there.
"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"
I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."
"Thank you, Momma!"
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?
Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?
"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."
"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."
"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"
"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"
"Needs to be done by Monday."
Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.
Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.
So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.
But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?
Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.
A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.
Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.