In recent years, major corporations like Yelp, Netflix, and Microsoft have made significant investments in black-owned banks, recognizing their crucial role in addressing racial disparities in America. Since the tragic death of George Floyd, black-owned banks have gained $1.5 billion in lending power, thanks to a $150 million increase in equity capital. These banks aim to address the issue of “banking deserts,” where physical banks are scarce in minority neighborhoods.
Discrimination has historically prevented people of color, especially African-Americans, from accessing financial goods and services. Although discrimination may now be less overt, it still persists in various forms, such as credit scores and biased regulations. Black-owned banks have emerged as a solution to meet the financial needs of these marginalized communities.
However, black banks still face challenges. While African-Americans make up 13.4% of the US population today, less than 1% of all FDIC insured banks are considered black-owned. The struggles of these banks mirror those of the communities they serve. To truly tackle racial disparities, communities must have more wealth, access, and reduced discrimination.
The history of banking in America is marked by systemic racism, with practices like redlining segregating communities of color by denying housing loans. Despite legislation like the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which aimed to address financial discrimination, experts agree that the banking industry still has a race problem.
Accessibility is another significant issue. Black neighborhoods have experienced a disproportionate number of bank branch closures compared to white neighborhoods. JPMorgan and Bank of America, for example, closed a significant number of branches in majority black areas. While these banks claim to address racial equity, critics argue that more needs to be done.
Black-owned banks are federally designated as minority depository institutions (MDIs) by the FDIC. To qualify, they must have 51% or more of their shares owned by minorities or have a majority of board members who are minorities, serving predominantly minority communities. Presently, there are 146 minority depository institutions in America, with 20 being black or African-American owned. This certification provides visibility and legitimacy to these banks, recognizing their vital role in serving historically overlooked and underserved communities.
Black-owned banks function similarly to traditional banks, offering mortgages, loans, and insured bank accounts. However, what sets them apart is their mission to promote equality in banking and provide affordable financial services and education to those who need them most. Additionally, these banks play a crucial role in supporting local economies by providing loans to small businesses, nonprofits, and black homebuyers.
Despite their importance, the number of black-owned banks has significantly declined over the years. One United Bank, the largest black-owned bank in America, manages over $650 million in assets, while giants like JPMorgan and Bank of America manage portfolios worth well over $2 trillion. The size of assets determines their lending and investment capabilities, as well as their ability to innovate and serve their communities effectively.
To combat these challenges, several big banks and corporations have recently invested in black-owned banks, following the death of George Floyd. Microsoft and Truist Financial, for example, have backed the FDIC’s new fund to invest in minority-owned banks. However, while experts are cautiously optimistic about these investments, they acknowledge that more work needs to be done.
It is imperative that corporations examine their own practices and take responsibility for their role in perpetuating the racial wealth gap. Supporting black-owned banks is commendable, but addressing the systemic issues within their own institutions is equally important. Ultimately, the survival and success of black-owned banks depend on the support and attention of everyday consumers.
As the demographic landscape shifts and black and brown communities become the new majority, it becomes crucial for the country to invest in their economic viability and competition. States have already experienced a demographic shift where black and brown people are the majority. Recognizing the potential for wealth creation and entrepreneurship within these communities, investing in black-owned banks becomes a strategic move for the long-term prosperity of the nation.
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