Can the economic disparity gap in America ever be closed?

Slavery may have been abolished in 1865, but the consequences of centuries of oppression are still being felt in the 21st century. We are experiencing a form of modern slavery where people of color still struggle to have equal access to opportunities to create wealth and economic freedom. The system was designed as a tool for control; create a system that people depend on, and you can control how much (or how little) they can achieve.

We’ve seen some progress over the last several years, and some of it is very encouraging. For example, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Black-owned businesses with employees increased by 31.2% from 2002 to 2017.

But is it enough?

Because it’s also a fact that white-headed households are nearly 6.5 times more wealthy than Black-headed households.

How do we bridge this gap? How can we bring about actual progress and change so that such vast disparities no longer exist?

Critics like to throw out the phrase “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” — meaning that if you work hard, you can improve your position with your own efforts. But what they don’t understand is that many people in the Black community aren’t wearing any boots. They exist within a system that’s still inherently racist and oppressive; it has created a cycle of dependency that makes it infinitely more difficult even to get access to a pair of boots, especially compared to their white counterparts. It’s not a matter of not having the will or the talent to improve the lives of their families and communities. It’s a matter of navigating a system that isn’t designed for Black success.

Real action and change need to happen. It’s not enough that corporations pay lip service to Black-owned businesses during the month of February, only to turn their backs on them the other eleven months out of the year. It’s not enough to share empty platitudes on social media or use self-serving trending hashtags. It’s not enough to use the topic as a talking point during election cycles. These are all nothing more than aesthetic drops in the ocean. The people are still drowning.

What does real change look like? 

It looks like grants to Black communities and Black-owned businesses — we’re talking enough to make an actual difference, not just enough to look good in the press. It looks like supporting Black communities and Black-owned businesses with our dollars every chance we get. It looks like electing leaders and officials who represent the diverse populations they serve. It looks like real resources that are made accessible to all, no strings attached. It looks like giving our Black brothers and sisters the opportunity to buy the boots, so they have bootstraps to pull. It’s not about handouts. Or temporary solutions. It’s not about quick fixes that seem positive in the moment but do nothing for long-term success.

It’s simply a matter of returning to the community what was so unjustly taken from them. It’s about leveling the playing field, decreasing the wealth gap, and making it possible for anyone, no matter their background or ethnicity, to enjoy the same privileges they’ve so long been denied. 

Tell us what you think. Isn’t time for a real discussion on the topic of reparations? Isn’t this a payment long overdue?