Solutions for Wealth Inequality:
A Joint Statement from Civil Rights Leaders and Organizations on Black History Month
As civil rights leaders and organizations, we stand together this Black History Month to call attention to the income inequality plaguing Boston’s communities of color. The Brookings Institution recently reported that Boston is #1 in income inequality among the 100 largest cities in the United States. In Boston, households in the top 5% of earners make 18 times as much as households in the bottom 20%. Not surprisingly, the Federal Reserve Bank found that “while white households have a median wealth of $247,500, Dominicans and U.S. blacks have a median wealth of close to zero” in Boston. In this manner, Boston’s concentrations of wealth and poverty are dividing us into a city of “haves” and “have nots.”
The wealth gap is also reflected in housing. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, 79% of White families in Boston own a home versus 34% of Black families. The Massachusetts Community and Banking Council reported that in 2014, “Black borrowers received 49% of total loans in Mattapan and 25% or more of total loans in Hyde Park and Roxbury, but received no loans in the Allston, Beacon Hill, Downtown, Fenway, Mission Hill, North End, and South Boston neighborhoods. Latino borrowers received between 16% and 18% of total loans in Hyde Park, Roxbury, and East Boston, while there were no loans to Latinos in the Beacon Hill and North End neighborhoods.” In this manner, families of color are experiencing a modern form of “redlining,” which is resulting in the re-segregation of our neighborhoods and public schools.
We must begin to close the wealth gap by creating meaningful opportunities for economic participation and empowerment in communities of color.
We can begin by supporting the stabilizing presence of minority-owned businesses in communities of color. These businesses are economic engines that hire local residents. All government proposals must feature inclusion criteria to ensure that minority-owned businesses and those owned by women of color have equal opportunity to compete for public contracts.
Large-scale development projects, especially those relying on public funds, tax benefits, and public land, must employ local resident and businesses. Hiring local talent – Boston jobs for Boston residents – will ensure greater economic inclusion, especially for projects based in communities of color.
As stewards of public resources, we must adopt policies that promote inclusion and that create opportunities for people of color in every workplace. City and state officials must lead by example and set a tone for diverse and inclusive contracting and employment practices that can be emulated by private businesses. Diversity in the workplace – from city hall to our schools, and from the police force to the fire department – is a critical component of addressing income inequality.
Together, we must work to close the wealth gap and create a more inclusive society. Boston’s political, business, and religious leaders have a proud history of galvanizing in times of crisis. We must do so again. Let’s make Boston Strong, Boston Stronger!
The following fifteen civil rights leaders and organizations — many of them individual and organizational participants in the Boston Civil Rights Roundtable — join this statement:
Amb. Charles R. Stith
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
Bithiah Carter, New England Blacks in Philanthropy (NEBIP)
Black Leadership Forum
Black Economic Justice Institute
Boston Society of Vulcans
East Boston Ecumenical Community Council, Inc. (EBECC)
Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association
Hon. Mel H. King
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (MAMLEO)
NAACP, New England Area Conference
Kevin C. Peterson, Founder, The New Democracy Coalition
Sen. Dianne Wilkerson
Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
This statement on wealth inequality was featured in the Bay State Banner.