You know that access and opportunity open doors. And maybe you’re becoming aware of the fact that access and opportunity are not equally distributed across all racial groups. But do you know exactly what the disparities look like? And further, the actions you can take to address them head on?
1) 70% of the people served at Crisis Assistance Ministry are African American vs 32% of Mecklenburg County’s population.
The reasons for this are complex. Systemic racism and discriminatory policies and practices – including in education, housing, and law enforcement – have intertwined over the centuries, creating vastly disparate economic realities for African Americans and white Americans.
One thing you can do: Read The 1619 Project, an ongoing initiative by the New York Times Magazine that offers thought-provoking essays and reflections aimed at telling our nation’s contentious history truthfully.
2) There is a significant racial income gap in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
About a third of white families in Mecklenburg County have incomes in the highest quintile ($125,000+) while less than 10% of Black families do. At the other end of the scale, 29% of Black families and 14% of white families have incomes in the lowest quintile (<$29,999).2
One thing you can do: Support Black-owned businesses. Check out Charlotte Agenda’s list of Charlotte area Black-owned businesses for inspiration.
3) The racial wealth gap is enormous.
At the median, a white family’s wealth is ten times greater than a black family’s3. While much of the work around economic mobility has focused on income disparity, wealth (the value of all assets minus debt) is a better indicator of a family’s stability.
One thing you can do: Read “The Racial Wealth Gap: Charlotte-Mecklenburg” by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and watch Netflix’s “Racial Wealth Gap”, a brief but thorough explanation of how we got to this troublesome state.
4) A Black man from Charlotte is nearly ten times more likely to be incarcerated than a white man4.
Our criminal justice system has a long, troubled history of systemic racism. As evidenced by the current events surrounding the deaths of innocent Black people at the hands of police, the issues are complex and painful.
One thing you can do: Call or write your state legislators and advocate for racial impact statements to be required for all criminal justice legislation under consideration. These statements evaluate whether a proposed bill would exacerbate racial disparities if it became law. Learn more here.
5) “Wealth stripping” is a thing, and it happens here in Charlotte.
Probably the most infamous example is the story of Brooklyn. Once a thriving African American community, it fell victim to Charlotte’s first urban renewal effort in the 1960s and ‘70s. Hundreds of Black families and business were displaced, freeing up the valuable land for government buildings and parks. But wealth stripping is not an archaic footnote in history; some zoning policies and predatory banking practices keep it alive and well today.
One thing you can do: Watch video reflections from former Brooklyn residents who shared their stories for the Levine Museum of the New South’s exhibit Brooklyn: Once a City Within a City.
6) Silence is complicity.
We’re all familiar with the Department of Homeland Security’s mantra, “If you see something, say something.” It was designed to raise awareness and prevention of possible terrorist activity, but the words apply to much more than that. It is our duty to protect our neighbors from harm – be it physical, psychological, or financial. If we’re honest, we know there are injustices and inequalities in our community. The question is, will we speak up?
One thing you can do: Vote. As we head into another election cycle, research the candidates and their positions on social and economic issues. The League of Women Voters offers nonpartisan information at Vote 411.
1 United States Census Bureau
2 “The Racial Wealth Gap: Charlotte-Mecklenburg”, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, November 2019.
3 “The Racial Wealth Gap: Charlotte-Mecklenburg”, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, November 2019.
4 “The Racial Wealth Gap: Charlotte-Mecklenburg”, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, November 2019.