By Noah Parks
Equity is a word that has always been confused with ‘equality’. In the Black community it’s not confusing at all. The former is what civil rights leaders demanded and Black communities deserved. However, when politicians and even well meaning neighbors would offer assistance it was to fight for Equality. Now, equality is a fine sentiment but, it does not address the material experience of a people oppressed for hundreds of years. When you fight for equality, it is a fight for non-discrimination, a worthy goal. But, when you fight for equity, then you are fighting for equal value. An equity agreement means everyone will be paid the same, whereas an equality agreement may mean whatever a company interprets as fair treatment. It is an important distinction that hospitality, and all industries must make very clear where we stand on the issue.
According to the Social Security Administration, “White households in the United States are far wealthier than Black or Hispanic households”, we know that Black equity has historically been far behind their white counterparts. Sometimes blatant racist policies or veiled racist policies, such as “law and order” campaigns or “crime free neighborhoods” control wealth creation by Black Americans. Owning a home, a business, or receiving college grants such as the G.I. Bill after World War II were forms of equity that were denied to Black Americans. This troubling past does not scrape the surface of the problem but is a key factor in keeping Black wealth creation down.
Then consider how we create equity. In a capitalist society we can create wealth by educating ourselves, owning a home, or starting a business. But, it takes a baseline equity which, through no fault of their own, Black entrepreneurs may not have. The Aspen Institute says, “Specifically, while white and Asian Americans hold one third of their assets in business and financial assets, Hispanics and blacks hold only 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively, of their wealth in these forms.” This means that they are not creating or sustaining equity at the same rate or with the same results as white and Asian Americans. It is up to us as businesses to commit to improving the equity of the Black community. That begins by investing in Black owned businesses, encouraging policy makers to pass and enforce equitable laws; reflecting on our part in this problem to help change and become a part of the solution.
We must understand the scale of the problem before our global pandemic and accept it. We must then face the devastating economic facts for black business owners after the pandemic began. According to the McKinsey Institute, “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that more than 40 percent of Black-owned businesses in the United States closed between February and April 2020, versus about 17 percent of white-owned businesses.” With this kind of hardship we must now, more than ever support the dramatic improvement of racial-equity. I suggest that you take a look at these resources for investing in the black business community: https://www.uschamber.com/co/start/strategy/resources-for-black-owned-businesses .
HMG+ has taught me to cherish ‘community’ and when one part of that community is in trouble we must address it. Black business owners and the black community do not need kind words of equality, which indeed are welcome but insufficient to address the equity gap for the black community. If we are to truly be a community, then it is incumbent of us all to seek to meet the needs of the part of our community that is hurting the most. The aphorism that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is irrelevant if you don’t have a boat as many of our fellow Americans do not in the black community. Today is an opportunity to build that boat with Black business owners by acknowledging our past and investing in their future.