Action, not tweets: Five ways corporate America can combat racism

Major companies across the US have flocked to social media to express their solidarity against racism and police brutality, but for many black Americans, the corporate tweets and executive memos on combating racism ring hollow from companies that too often have baked systemic racism into their business practices. The fact of the matter is there are many more effective actions companies serious about this fight can take. Here are five of them.

Offer relief funds to black-owned businesses: The combination of coronavirus lockdowns and looting has many black business owners in dire need of bailouts right now. A recent study commissioned by the social justice advocacy group Color of Change found 39% of black American entrepreneurs believe their businesses won’t survive more than six months without some type of relief funding. Black business owners have struggled to get approved for Paycheck Protection Program loans administered through larger commercial banks.

Business leaders like Magic Johnson and Sean “Diddy” Combs have pledged financial and administrative support to help ensure a generation of black-owned barbershops, beauty salons, service providers and restaurants doesn’t disappear. Combs recently partnered with the National Bankers Association, a coalition of 22 minority-owned financial lenders, to create his Our Fair Share program to help black business owners navigate the PPP application process. But if corporate America is serious about combatting racism, then it must also be the big companies and banks who step in to provide relief funds for black-owned businesses.

Increase black home ownership: The home ownership rate for black young adults plummeted from 23.1% in 2000 to just 13.4% in 2015, according to an Urban Institute study. A 2019 analysis by the Center for Responsible Lending consumer advocacy group found black Millennials carry more student loan debt on average than their white counterparts and were also disproportionately hurt by the Great Recession of 2008. Additionally, NAREB says many black Millennials who can afford to buy homes choose not to although it’s an essential part of generational wealth building for most Americans.

To help narrow the racial wealth gap, corporations should consider donating to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers. The trade group’s realtors specialize in helping African Americans purchase properties, selling 20,000 homes to black purchasers in 2019 alone, a spokesperson said.

Support unions: Organized labor advocates say companies that want to end institutional racism can start by supporting black workers who want to form unions and increase union rights. Black Americans make up a disproportionate amount of workers in non-unionized business sectors like the home health aid and fast food industries. African Americans are 13.4% of the US population but they also make up 26.5% of the workforce at Amazon, which does not have a union.

Increase pay for essential workers: Black Americans make up 17% of America’s essential workforce, according to a Center for Economic Policy Research report released in April. The national average salary for essential workers is about $32,000, roughly 18% lower than the average salary for all occupations, according to a recent Business.org study. If essential workers are so … essential, then why aren’t they paid more?

Hire and promote more black executives: There are just four black Fortune 500 CEOs. In 2018, black professionals made up just 3.3% of all executive or senior leadership roles within two reporting levels according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hiring more black executives is crucial for companies that want their leaders to better reflect the communities they serve. Black leaders also serve as aspirational figures for the generations that follow in their footsteps.

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