Since racial justice movements mobilized across the country this summer, several Faith and Money Network members have asked, “How can I use my financial resources in a more anti-racist way?” Sara Loving of Better Banking Options has been answering that question all summer and shares her experience with Faith and Money Network.
As a young white person, I believe white people in this country have a responsibility to invest in Black communities. Our institutions and ancestors have been accumulating wealth on the backs of Black people since the African Slave trade, even after abolition when our economic and legal systems were reworked during reconstruction to continue this tradition of profiting from Black labor. Although many of our government representatives refuse to consider reparations, it’s clear that it’s still much harder for Black families to build wealth because of these racist, systemic changes made after the Civil War. Not only do we need to repay Black people for their ancestors’ unpaid labor, we also need to acknowledge how this systemic discrimination still shapes our laws, our policing and justice system, and our culture to this day.
Without making reparations in one way or another, it’s unlikely that Black families, on average, would be able to close the racial wealth gap, even if our institutions stopped favoring white citizens overnight. While this may seem like a daunting task, every white individual can leverage their wealth in multiple ways to bring capital back into Black communities and neighborhoods.
However, I’d like to remind everyone at the beginning and end of this article that this is only one of many things we should all be doing to fight for racial equality in this country. For more articles about what you can be doing socially and politically to fight against racism, check out resources here, here and here.
That being said, here are five ways to use our financial resources to fight racism.
#1 Move your money to a Black bank or credit union
Black banks and credit unions have Black-majority ownership or membership, and they most often work in non-white majority neighborhoods typically neglected by traditional banks. This is a great first step anyone can take to bring more capital into Black communities, especially if you look for a bank that does a lot of housing and small-business lending, because these kinds of loans help families build generational wealth.
Check out Better Banking Options’ search engine for a list of Black banks and credit unions nationally and regionally. Even if you don’t have a Black bank operating in your area, we have a great article on long-distance banking options. FDIC insurance makes this a safe way to make sure some of the money you keep in a banking account or CD is proactively anti-racist.
If you aren’t convinced of the difference banking can make, read the series of Better Banking Options’ posts on Facebook and Twitter through the month of August. I countered the megabanks’ discriminatory practices with better banks’ community-building practices to illustrate that every deposit makes a difference
#2 Donate money
While I’m sure this one is fairly obvious, the places you can be donating to may not be. Bail funds and your local Black Lives Matter chapter are the more publicized groups you can be funding. Resource Generation, which focuses on social justice philanthropy, maintains an exciting and “growing list of national or international public foundations and intermediaries which fund communities organizing led by people most impacted by systems of oppression.”
There are plenty of individuals fighting for racial equality that could use some help financially, especially during this pandemic. If you have a friend who’s been going to protests, offer to buy them lunch occasionally. Even small gestures like this can make a huge difference to those devoting their time to fighting racial injustice through direct action.
If you need more ideas on where to donate money, ask your local activists; they will know where your donations are most needed.
#3 Support Black businesses
This also is one we hear about often, but it’s becoming more and more difficult as Black businesses have been disproportionately excluded from government loan programs designed to help small businesses survive COVID. That’s why it’s more important than ever to find Black businesses to support, both in your local community and online.
A great resource is Black Wall Street, an online database of Black businesses ranging from real estate to beverages. Otherwise, look up a list of local Black-owned restaurants and businesses in your city or town and make sure to at least try them out. A straightforward internet search of “Black-owned business” with your town name will yield lists of businesses and relevant news reports, compiled by business associations, reporters and activists to make it easy.
#4 Divest from racist businesses
Another huge part of financially supporting racial equity is not financially supporting people and businesses that discriminate against Black people. This discrimination can take many forms: using racist images and language to sell their products (think Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima) or not including Black people in their upper management. Overall, the most important thing is that we demand genuine anti-racist action and sentiment from both individuals and businesses that we support financially, and if they refuse to take this action, to take our money elsewhere.
Identifying national racist businesses simply requires an internet search for news sources; local racial justice organizations and/or activists may be your best source of information on local businesses who are racist in labor practices and customer treatment, for example.
#5 Invest in Black Economic Liberation
Some financial professionals are making anti-racist financial options available to their clients. For example, one firm, Natural Investments, produced a publicly-available webinar, Investing in Black Economic Liberation. I was part of that webinar, introducing Better Banking Options. On that webinar page you’ll also find other options for investing, including community development, private equity, and mutual funds that you could talk to your financial advisor about to see if they are appropriate for you.
Supporting Black communities financially can take many forms, but the one thing I want to stress is that all white people, especially, should be making serious efforts in every area of their life to fight racism. Racism is a moral evil that spiritually degrades all participants, and it’s a persistent evil in that it infects nearly every facet of our society. We must combat it in as many ways as possible; by diverting capital to Black communities and projects, by making our social places unsafe for racist ideology, and by staying politically informed and active by demanding more from our public representatives and getting involved in direct action in any way that we can.
And remember; the most important bit of activism advice I’ve gotten was that you can’t pour from an empty cup; take breaks and take care of yourself, or you won’t have the energy to take care of anyone else! Likewise, learn to take care of your finances so that you can make donations or investments with confidence.
Sara Loving | September 17, 2020
Sara Loving is the lead researcher and writer for Better Banking Options.