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Monday, October 18, 2021

NAACP Survey Highlights The Need To Address The legacy Of Economic Racism

Carolyn Riley-Payne

In 2021, the promise of the American Dream continues to elude the vast majority of communities of color. 

Thanks to a long history of economic racism dating back to the start of slavery, White families today have been able to achieve a median net worth that is 10 times that of typical Black families. People of color continue to face extreme disparities in employment, home ownership and the building of generational wealth.

To help close that gap in Seattle and King County, The Seattle King County NAACP’s Economic Development Committee launched a survey this spring to gather information about the demographics, needs, and wants of local NAACP members regarding economic development activities. According to the NAACP, this research will aid in the development of future programs that maximize member participation. 

The mission of the Economic Development Committee is to implement local efforts and support national programs to preserve and expand economic empowerment among communities of color by: 

• Researching and establishing relationships with private and public entities. 

• Supporting the work of the NAACP National Office.

• Implementing local efforts to promote growth of business ownership.

• Increasing employment and job creation. 

• Encouraging business development and home ownership. 

The membership survey fit within a larger objective to support the African American Asset Building initiative, a NAACP national initiative to analyze the current asset and wealth creation landscape and infrastructure with the African American community, with the goal of establishing an African American Asset Building coalition with corresponding resources and services.

In this first-ever survey of the branch’s members around wealth and economic development, the results offered some key take-aways:

• It confirmed the Black-White wealth gap is very real and exists even within the membership.

• Black women and older people represent a significant base of membership.

• Black members are more educated, wealthy and sophisticated, compared to national statistics.

• Members need programs and services commensurate with higher levels of education and financial interest, as opposed to the basic introductory information that is typically offered.

• Black men in the membership tend to be business owners and so more focus on entrepreneurship is warranted.

• Members have low levels of trust in financial institutions (banks, investment firms and insurance companies), which presents a potential opportunity for the NAACP to build bridges between financial institutions and its membership.

• Younger people and non-Black People of Color are missing from the conversation, as shown by the low number of survey participants. 

Other interesting facts included data that showed many black and brown people have earnings similar to their white counterparts, yet this income is not translating to similar levels of wealth. This is a glaring disparity.  

Bolstering the work of the NAACP will require more involvement from Black businesses and individuals who want to be involved in the future of Black communities not only in the Pacific Northwest, but throughout the United States.  

The NAACP intends to take this information and develop programs utilizing a fact-based and community-informed approach that works to build Black wealth and narrows the racial wealth gap in King County.

To learn more about the Economic Development survey, watch the Chair Sarah Solomon’s presentation to the Algonquin Group in June: https://youtu.be/NN4Zlru1W_8

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