Confronting Economic Injustice

My heart aches. I lament the cruel treatment of black people, the senseless loss of life. I have shed tears in private. I am disturbed by my only recent real sensitivity to the obvious pent up hurt and hopelessness in the black community. They are tired, frustrated, and longing for lasting change. So am I.

Unfortunately, none of this is new. Injustice, outrage, peaceful protests, rioting, and more dialogue are a repetitive cycle. One thing I am sure of: It will not change through clever slogans or hashtags or virtue signaling or hoping the government will fix it.

We desperately need a better way forward. I am committed to doing my part to participate in that better way. While there are multiple solutions needed, I am focused on a way that takes up the original, courageous cry for economic justice that rang out from Dr. King’s heart when he challenged the racial economic status quo of the pre-Civil Rights Movement.

The 2020 Economic Status Quo – 52 Years After Dr. King’s Dream

  • Net Worth – The median net worth of non-retired black Americans is estimated to be $17,150 vs. $170,000 for non-retired white Americans. This is a 10 to 1 disparity measured in dollars.
  • Access to Loans – Studies have repeatedly shown that black individuals are more likely than white individuals to face discrimination in the workplace or in having loan applications approved, making it harder to get ahead.
  • Income – Median weekly pay for black men is only 75% of the $1,096 that white men earn, according to the latest Labor Department data.
  • Predatory Lending – Studies show that minority populations were subjected to predatory loans more so than white populations. Lenders issued high-cost loans to 58% of low-
    income black communities and to 37% of low-income Latino communities, as compared to only 28% of low-income white communities.
  • When the level of income is taken into account, 54% of high-income black people and 49% of high-income Latino people were issued high-cost loans, compared to only 16% of high-income white people. Thus, even high-income black and Latino people were issued more high-cost loans than low-income white people.
  • Even when credit risk is controlled, black individuals were 3.9 times more likely than their white counterparts to receive subprime loans, while Latino individuals were 2.6 times more likely. In fact, when regulatory authority, credit risk, and other variables (which lenders use to determine issuance) are controlled, race is still found to play a major role.
  • Access to Job Opportunities – Even among black and white workers with similar resumes, studies have found black workers are far less likely to get called for an interview if a hiring manager can tell the applicant is black.
  • Home Ownership – Only 44% of black households own their homes compared with nearly 74% of white households. The black homeownership rate has changed little from the late 1960s, while white populations have made steady gains over time.
  • Financial Downturns – Black workers are less able to weather such a storm because on average, they have fewer earners in their families, lower incomes, and lower liquid wealth than white workers.
  • The jobs that have been affected the most during the COVID-19 pandemic — like leisure and hospitality — are in industries that have a disproportionate share of black workers.
  • Black Americans are underrepresented among those receiving unemployment insurance, a disparity that some economists have said is due to the difficulty that those who work in more informal or sporadic work capacities face.
  • Higher Foreclosures – Researchers at Princeton have found, for example, that “the greater the degree of Hispanic and especially black segregation a metropolitan area exhibits, the higher the number and rate of foreclosures it experiences.” That same study found that these disparities are due in large part to the disproportionate chance that minority borrowers will receive subprime loans.

A Time for Positive Change

Many know that Dr. King’s goal at the time of his death was the Poor People’s Campaign. On March 16, 1968 in Los Angeles, less than three weeks before his assassination, King explained:

It’s time now for something positive to take place. This is why we’re going to have a campaign in Washington; this is why we’re going with poor people. I don’t know what we’ll be able to do in Washington, frankly. I know we have to do something. I know we have to take the inchoate (early-stage/just beginning) rage of the ghetto and transform it into something constructive and creative… that is what we’re trying to do… so that for at least sixty days, nobody in this country can overlook the fact that there are poor people around. And we solicit your support as we go to Washington, not to beg, but to demand jobs or income now.

March for Economic Justice Behind the Scenes

I too can say, it is time for something positive to take place. I have personally begun a long march for economic justice for the poor in America, but behind the scenes. I do not want to do something that makes me feel better about the problem. I want all of us, God’s good Samaritans, to do something that makes a meaningful difference to those who are hurting. Here are a few practical steps you can take now that are on my personal list of action items.

  • Analyze your workforce, leadership, and board diversity. Make meaningful changes.
  • Consider donating a gift to support an under-resourced, black-led, inner-city church where the gospel is preached. We need to help the peacemakers and the caregivers doing good work.
  • Volunteer to use your knowledge in business and finance to train churches, communities or ministry leaders Biblical financial principles and best practices on topics like how to get a better job, get a raise, increase your income, get a lower interest rate, pay off debt, start a business, and many more.
  • Open your network. Use your influence to help someone in need to find a better job, get abetter mortgage, work out of a predatory loan, or get started in business. This may be an area where your generosity has an immediate impact.

There is a dangerous side of anger and frustration that has given birth to lawlessness in some pockets of the United States. Many of the ideologies and demands I am reading about will make the economic disparities worse for the poor. Where crime and violence are high, livelihoods are also destroyed. Where peace is present, economies grow.

As a teacher of Biblical financial principles around the world, I also know the prosperity gospel is an example of false hope and a cruel hoax that only enriches the peddler of that heresy.

To resolve the issues on my list of the status quo, we must share knowledge, wisdom, power, and love. Please, join me in this behind the scenes march. We must march and march and march until we can see economic justice for all.

 

This article was originally published on Patheos, June 22, 2020.

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