Beyond Juneteenth: Equal Access to Capital, a Path to True Freedom
Being black and walking away from someone who legally owned you became a reality on June 17, 1865, when Texas became the last state to implement the Emancipation Proclamation. The day, now known as Juneteenth, has become a holiday for black Americans.
It was a start.
As black Americans, however, we must continually ask ourselves the question, “Are we truly emancipated? »
While it is important to celebrate a day that freed our ancestors from physical bondage and the inhuman ability of slave owners to treat them as less than human beings, we should also view this day as a reminder that we have yet to liberate the black community from the remnants of restraints, controls and power structures that bind us far beyond the physical realm of slavery.
Participating in capitalism through business ownership is one. Many people were then, and still are, reluctant to accept our access to all that our country offers. The quest for fairness, justice and fairness – at least on the part of the federal government – has been attempted through years of court rulings and reforms. Yet equity in America, even after 157 years, is a work in progress.
According to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, differences in business ownership account for 20% of the wealth gap between average white and black households. The analysis noted that people of color, women, and those in rural areas are underrepresented in their share of total federal procurement dollars, even relative to their low rates of ownership in the general economy.
Seeing that corrective action across government was needed, the Biden/Harris administration directed through executive action more than 90 federal agencies to scour their agencies to find changes they could make to provide more support. equity in services and programs for the underserved – a group that includes Black Americans and other communities have been disproportionately affected by poverty and inequality over the years. In response, the agencies released a combined total of 300 new actions to remove barriers to fairness in federal services.
The federal government buys 90% of its goods and services in America each year and is the largest buyer in the world. Access to the federal market is therefore an obvious key to economic fairness.
The Biden/Harris administration has set a goal to increase federal spending on disadvantaged small businesses by 50% by FY2025. give disadvantaged small businesses better access to federal contracts. dollars.
The SBA has worked with federal agencies to put measures in place so they can accurately track spending and report progress publicly. This awareness has already boosted government spending on disadvantaged small businesses to 11% this year, from 5% the previous year.
Additionally, the SBA has allocated more funds to resource partners who advise and train small businesses not only to enter the contracting world, but also to start and grow their businesses. This funding added 24 new women’s business centers in 2021, tripling the number of centers located on campuses of historically black colleges and universities, and continues the expansion of the largest WBC network in SBA history. With these new additions, the full list of WBCs hosted on HBCU campuses now includes:
- Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland
- Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina
- Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia
- Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi
- Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi
- Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina
- Miles College, Fairfield, Alabama
- Bowie State University, Bowie, Maryland
- Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia
In an effort to increase the number of Black Americans participating in the SBA 8(a) contractor program nationwide by 12,000, the SBA is also expanding its reach to the National Urban League, specific sororities and fraternities for black Americans and HBCU business students. increase their knowledge of business ownership and federal contracts.
Being realists, we know that these reforms will not work overnight to turn areas of poverty into wealthy enclaves or to combat the many pockets of our country where institutional racism or lending disparities still exist.
But if capitalism is to work to sustain the people of our nation, first our federal government, then our whole country needs reform. Poverty knows no borders. The struggle is the struggle – even in a country that has the greatest wealth on earth. And the federal government alone cannot change that.
For capitalism to work – we must all commit to individually and collectively providing strong financial and business learning and mentoring experiences for our children and to building community ecosystems where the possibility of small business, the accumulation of wealth and working capitalism can exist.
The SBA and its resource partners are committed to providing training and guidance on starting and sustaining small businesses for every client – whether they live in a pocket of poverty, a rural town, or are held back due to skin color or sex designation. Visit us at www.sba.gov.
To begin with, the federal government is on the right track on this file. It may bring a higher tide to lift some boats, but we’re all going to have to paddle a lot harder together if we’re going to achieve fairness and all of the American people can truly enjoy the freedoms promised by democracy and capitalism.
Right now, black Americans are still chained to systems of financial bondage. You have to think beyond Juneteenth to continue to find ways to access capital, which brings real freedom.
Ted James and Vercie Lark are the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Regional Administrators for Region 6, covering the states of New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, and Region 7 of the SBA, covering the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa. , respectively. The Office of the Executive is a guest column providing advice, commentary, or information on resources available to the business community in New Mexico. To submit a column for review, email [email protected]