This article kicks off a new weekly series—The Promise of Targeted Universalism: Community Leaders Respond—that NPQ is publishing in partnership with the national racial and economic justice nonprofit Prosperity Now. In this series, writers will examine how targeted universalism—a narrative framework that advocates the use of targeted approaches to achieve universal goals—can inform efforts to close the racial wealth gap, community by community.
The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder ignited what many have called a new racial reckoning. But a true reckoning goes beyond recognition and acknowledgement and engages in difficult conversations that can foster real change. A true reckoning requires a willingness to shake up the status quo. Too often, those of us seeking racial justice and equity find ourselves playing defense to stop bad policies and confront bad behavior.
But what is needed now is an aggressive offense that reaches for the big plays, to include the systemic change and large-scale solutions that begin to dismantle the structures that have precluded far too many people from building economic power over centuries.
Here is the state of race-based economic inequality as it exists today: The US income poverty rate for people of color is more than twice than that of white households. Black workers are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts. Estimates vary, but Black and Brown families continue to have far, far less wealth than white families. A recent Federal Reserve survey noted that “the typical white family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times the wealth of the typical [Latinx] family.” Struggling just to make ends meet, these households often cannot save for emergencies or build wealth that can be transferred to their children. The effects of structural racism have been, in a word, intergenerational.
There’s more. If one compares wage and income numbers over time, one finds remarkably little change. The same is true with wealth. One indicator: the Black homeownership rate. Homeownership, of course, is a leading source of family wealth. Nationwide, the Black homeownership rate today is 44 percent, only marginally higher than the 41.6 percent Black homeownership rate in 1970, over a half century ago.
We must do better.
Since 1979, Prosperity Now—a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC—has been a persistent voice championing economic opportunity, innovating outside of and beyond existing systems to build power for all communities. Over the past two decades, for instance, hundreds of organizations in our network have helped an estimated 922,000 children nationwide receive subsidized savings accounts. These savings accounts encourage youth to invest in their future (such as a college education) and build wealth over time. We are proud of …….