Opinion

How Companies Can 'Turn Words Into Action' On Racial Equity

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

This week, our country marked the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s brutal murder. It has been a year of intense debate, massive public demonstrations and considerable introspection about racial injustice and inequality, focused principally on the need to reform policing and the criminal justice system more broadly. Former President Obama captured both the continued frustrations and hopes of many Americans when he wrote, “When injustice runs deep, progress takes time. But if we can turn words into action and action into meaningful reform, we will, in the words of James Baldwin, ‘cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.’”

A corresponding and closely related reality is the vast and increasing income inequality in our country, with its especially pernicious effect on Black Americans. In general, income inequality has been rising steadily in the U.S. for the past 50 years. It is higher in the U.S. than in any other developed country—closer to Mexico than to Sweden or Germany. This inequality is widening because most of our considerable economic gains have gone to those already at the top. The pandemic has disproportionately harmed those who are most economically vulnerable and compounded this inequality.

These economic disparities have a disproportionate impact on Black Americans. As Ray Boshara of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank and others have documented, these wealth gaps actually have been growing over the last few decades. Between 1992 and 2016, wealth among college-educated white people increased by 96 percent, while Black college graduates saw their wealth fall by 10 percent. In 2016, the net worth of a typical white family was $171,000 – nearly ten times greater than a typical Black family’s net worth of $17,150.

Read the full Forbes article.
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Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.