Financial inclusion and racial equity go hand in hand - we must educate communities to ensure a brighter future.
This summer, it became clear that Americans can no longer turn a blind eye to racial injustice.

In Maycivil rights activists hit the gas. Prompted in-part by social media videos showing the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and the overt weaponization of race by a white woman in Central Park, millions poured into the streets with the same cry: Black. Lives. Matter.

Different groups have advocated for ways to achieve equity for Black communities. Some call for stronger diversity and inclusion hiring practices; the defunding and reforming of policing strategies; greater education about our country’s history of slavery and racism. There are calls for systemic change. Corporate change. Cultural change.

While this public willingness to finally confront past and present injustices is encouraging, one critical component of progress has fallen to the wayside of conversations: financial inclusion and education.

Black people have been physically and structurally excluded from established financial institutions. From enslavement and share cropping to redlining and having businesses razed to the ground if they became too successful - that exclusion has resulted in severe economic disparities: predominantly Black neighborhoods average roughly one bank per 1,000 residents, a fourth of what is found in other communities. According to the FDIC, 47.3% of all Black households are financially underserved. Together, these households spend an estimated $20.8 billion each year on fees and interest for alternative financial services.

Financial inclusion is fundamental to building an equitable world where everyone can thrive. Enabling people of all backgrounds to invest in business, build wealth and become economically independent is critical to uplifting Black communities and strengthening the American economy.

A critical building block of financial inclusion is financial education. Currently, only 21 states require students to take a personal finance course to graduate high school. This lack of required financial education contributes to financial exclusion in America.

A baseline understanding of how money works and how to leverage financial tools is important for building wealth and innovation. Learning how to leverage bank accounts, invest money and apply for a mortgage are all basic aspects of financial empowerment that we can help bolster in Black communities.

Like you, I am done waiting. Through financial education and anti-racism strategies, the YWCA is proactively working to uplift Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BlPOC) communities in Chicago and around the country.

Until Justice Just Is (a campaign of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago) aims to educate Americans about the impact of racism on our communities, calling on people to take a pledge to advance racial justice or become a corporate ally.

On a parallel path, other advocates for financial inclusion are expanding their efforts. For example, we partner with Master Your Card, a community empowerment program funded by Mastercard, that works to educate underserved communities through free online financial learning tools including videos, fliers and an interactive platform produced in partnership with World of Money (which recently merged with the YWCA). Mastercard itself recently announced it is investing $500 million in Black communities over the next five years.

Financial exclusion won’t resolve itself overnight, and Black communities will not grow, prosper and overcome 400 years of systemic injustice without a concerted effort from individuals and organizations alike.

That’s why I’m calling on you. We can work toward financial inclusivity for all communities through some immediate and long-term actions, including:

1. Ensure baseline understanding at the individual and community levels of how money works and the role of financial tools in the path to economic empowerment.

2. Commit to community investment by supporting economic redevelopment projects like those led by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

3. Increase support of Black-owned businesses - either as a customer, a supply chain leader, or as a venture capitalist. Check out, one of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s Small Business Development Center partners.

We must work together to uplift Black communities and work towards an equitable future. Through 2020 and beyond, make it a point to not only embrace change, but build upon it.

There are brighter days ahead. Black Lives Matter.

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