With Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement serving a one-two punch to American society, now, more than ever, has been a crucial time for people to reflect and think critically about how racism has severely affected the Black community.
One of the most evident disparaging impacts of the oppressive system is Black America’s inability to sustain more equitable communities. As the country expanded its economic power over the last century, the racial wealth gap also significantly widened.
To further discuss the structural roadblocks that have prevented Black America from building and distributing generational wealth, Yahoo Life spoke with five Black public figures who are raising awareness about the importance of reinvesting in their communities.
KIMBERLY JONES: We're going to have to re-educate people in a way that they have the information so when we have a conversation about reparations, it's not something to laugh about. It's something that we're not asking for. It's something that we're owed.
TATIANA PYLE: Hello, everyone. I'm Tatiana Pyle, and today I have a excellent group of panelists with me. We have Alysha P. who was a cinematographer and cohost of "The Black Girl Podcast." Ashley Acuna, host and producer of "The Grapevine." Donovan Thompson, panelist and producer of "The Grapevine." Kimberly Jones, activist, writer, and filmmaker. And Doyin Richards, best-selling children's author and keynote speaker.
Today, we're going to be talking about recognizing and investing in the Black community. How we spend our money, where we spend it, and what businesses we're supporting is more important now than ever. But my question-- and anyone can jump in on this-- is how can we effectively drive that change?
KIMBERLY JONES: One of the things that we're going to have to do is educate ourselves on how we got here because that's part of what's going to be able to assist us in the fight of having people recognize exactly how systemic racism has played a part in the inequity in which we have in this country. When you look at wealth in this nation, 90% of the wealth is owned by white people. 2.6% is owned by Black people. So when people want to point out to me Oprah and Michael Jordan and LeBron James and talk to me about Black wealth, I'll say two 2.6% and leave it at that-- 2.6% and I'll be done.
We also have to look at how other communities were invested in for growth and development throughout this nation, which is also stuff that we're not taught and documented. Between 1921 and 1965, over $123 billion was underwritten for homeownership. 98% of that went to white people. Again, 2%.
ASHLEY AKUNNA: That's crazy.
KIMBERLY JONES: Not just went to Black people. 2% went to all other ethnicities combined.
When we talk about this conversation of reparations and people begin to give us the but it's a handout, then I reference them back to companies like Brooks Brothers suits who are still making suits, and generational wealth has still been passed down through those families, and then I make them acknowledge that Brooks Brothers made all of their initial money during the slave trade, that all of the coachman, all of the people who worked in the home were dressed by Brooks Brothers, and they had a niche market of providing shoes and clothes for all slaves across the nation. And so that is generational wealth that has been accumulated.
So if we talk about the generational wealth that have been accumulated, then we have to talk about the generational debt that Black people have accumulated. Besides just talking about the money itself, you have to talk about the fact that you had over 200 years where you weren't allowed to make money and another 89 years where you weren't allowed to participate in financial institutions. Then you don't have the financial education to pass down generationally in the way in which the white community have had that ability.
So you have to discuss the authentic nature of how we've gotten to this place economically so that people could understand that what we're not asking for is a handout. What we're asking for is a warranted catch-up, that they owe us some form of restitution for how we've been treated. I challenge everybody to send a letter to the textbook company that you had when you were a child and alert them what they didn't educate you want and how you want it to look going forward.
So when we have a conversation about reparations, it's not something that they can scoff at and say that happened 400 years ago. We need to educate people on how it is called itself a new name every 50 years so it's not something to laugh about. It's something that we're not asking for. It's something that we're owed.
ASHLEY AKUNNA: Kimberly, yes. That was [AUDIO OUT]. And I just wanted to say, you know, we're talking about what's happening in America, but then you think about what's happened globally. You look at parts of Nigeria, the Niger Delta, where they're extracting oil, and the people are dying because of the spillages.
And the response to many to this from many Nigerians is, OK, first we came with pamphlets. We tried to talk to you reasonably. Now we're going to start kidnapping your executives. You know, it became that extreme because people were dying and they weren't listening.
Like Kimberly said, I think there needs to be a re-education about what has happened in this country, and I think that research definitely has to fall on the hands of white people and understand how they have affected us globally and how they benefit from that.
ALYSHA PAMPHILE: And just look to piggy back off of what Kimberly was saying in regards to textbooks, thank God we have people like Colin Kaepernick who has Kaepernick Publishing who is literally helping rewrite the history and currently write the history moving forward on the stories of Black people. If we didn't have people, you know, doing these things, who would be telling these stories?
And I think as a Black community, we have to get more comfortable with the idea that you just need to have the vision and the dream and then the people around you to help you process it and do that.
Thankfully, we have these people in our community who are willing to fight for what they know is right, fight for what they know needs to be changed regardless of how many years it took us to get here. If we didn't have these people, we would be back to square one.
TATIANA PYLE: Doyin, I know you were going to say something.
DOYIN RICHARDS: Yeah. No problem. One thing that I'm not going to do is step over any Black women who are talking, so I will wait my turn patiently.
KIMBERLY JONES: We appreciate that.
DOYIN RICHARDS: That being-- yeah, that being said, I don't know about y'all, but I am doing a lot of educating white people for free right now. So one thing that I did is like, yo, listen. I am dropping my Venmo right there. You all want to learn on my time. It's going to cost you. A lot of Black people feel really icky about that. I don't feel icky at all about it.
And one thing that I did, I watched the Anti-Racism Fight Club. And what that is, it is a group of white people who come to me, and I teach them everything that they need to know to be an active antiracist in America.
But here's the thing. Admission is not free. You have to pay to get in. The thing sold out in under three hours. But there's a lot of good white people who are tired of sitting on the sidelines that are quietly waking up and like, yo, I need to do my part. So I highly recommend that Black and brown voices, like all of yours, do not be afraid to charge for your knowledge and your expertise because you've been giving it for free for so long. Time's up. Time's up.
DONOVAN THOMPSON: I agree with that 100%. And to that point, one of the most amazing things that I have seen during this time is Black people on LinkedIn going in on these companies. It's amazing. It is fantastic.
And the reason why is because, as we know, anyone who's been in the corporate space, we know about the macro and microaggressions. And finally we have the opportunity to say, I didn't like when this happened. This is what I've been experiencing. This is what I need moving forward. I need this day off because it's important to me as a Black person. It is important that we're not only diversity leads. It is important that we're just not working in the mailroom. It's important that we tell the stories and that white people are just not talking about us like we don't exist. If anybody does you wrong, you let the world know, and make sure that this isn't just a moment, that this is something that continues.
ASHLEY AKUNNA: And I just want to add one more point, I just want to say a lot of times even before you get inside the company, getting inside the company is a huge barrier. You know, the only reason that I've got certain corporate jobs is because of other Black people at those jobs.
So I implore these companies who are writing all these statements. That's nice. But they have to look within their corporation and realize that there aren't a lot of Black people, especially in positions of power.
And it actually does these companies a disservice because Black people, especially Black young people, are full of vitality, beauty, and add so much-- so many things to these companies which we see. It's not enough to just take these ideas when you see them on Twitter and on social media. You have to hire these people. You have to have them in positions of power, and you have to pay them well.
DONOVAN THOMPSON: Amen.
TATIANA PYLE: Yeah, absolutely. I'm so happy, Donovan, that you started talking about the companies because out of the Fortune 500 companies, there are only four Black CEOs, and none of them are women. You know, and that's just, honestly, like a mirror of how companies treat Black people.
When you hear about the tenure at companies and people are like, oh, I was only there for six to-- six months to a year, like, it's very telling about how the fact-- how undervalued we are.
Do you guys feel like this is genuine? Do you feel like it's the right step in the direction towards more inclusivity and diversity in these companies?
ASHLEY AKUNNA: I think it's up to us to continue to tell these stories and to be honest and to say it's not about hating white people. We love all people. You know, Black people, we're the most loving people. It's about being honest about our experiences in these spaces. So, no, I don't think it's genuine, but I think it's going to last, and I think that's because we are going to continue to hold people's feet to the fire.
KIMBERLY JONES: I couldn't agree with that statement more. I think that right now there's a lot of posturing because there has been a global reaction to this movement. This movement has not been local. It has not been national. It has not been relegated just to African Americans. These companies recognize that it is just not the 13% of Black people in the US who are-- has their eyeballs on me right now. The world is looking at all of us to see how we're going to behave because people are listening to Black people and the leaders in our community for the very first time.
And this is, like, some, like, private, kitchen-table-talk, Black people stuff. We have to stop giving so much power to companies exterior to us.
And the other thing is we have to begin to offer grace to Black businesses and continue to go back and be supportive and give them the opportunity to grow. They'll never grow if they're not receiving the income from you.
You've been to McDonald's 64 times, and the ice-cream machine is down. You have not gotten that sundae yet. Yet you still return and give them your business. But if you go to a Black business and they don't have a fork, you're ready to go to Yelp. You ready to get in the car and be like and this is why I don't support Black business right there.
And so it's like we don't offer each other the same grace that we extend to other people, and we have to get better about that if we're going to circulate the Black dollar and make sure that we are investing in the growth of the community. Yeah, Tamika's Sausage doesn't have cups. It's because she did not get the loan that someone else got because of redlining, and so she started that with her 401(k), and that sister is doing the best she can. If you really want to be helpful in this movement, the next time you go back, you take her a bag of cups and you say this is just to back you up.
ALYSHA PAMPHILE: Amen.
DONOVAN THOMPSON: That's great.