- There will not be any real change in America without equal opportunity and equal pay, particularly for African Americans.
Let me state it very clearly: the murder of George Floyd is 8 minutes and 46 seconds of American history that we will never be able to logically explain to our children. There is no excuse for it that can be accepted by a civilized, educated, ethical society. The fact that it is even a controversy is a clear indication of the systemic racism that is pervasive in society.
While we as citizens band together and peacefully protest hand-in-hand with the police officers that put their lives on the line every day to protect us, against those that harbor and live by such ignorant thoughts, we as consumers must demand that corporations that have louder voices and deeper pockets than us rise to action. But they need to do it in a way that actually makes an impact.
Updating marketing campaigns by removing Aunt Jemima and the Quaker Oats characters is not the support that under-represented communities want or need. Recently, it was announced that the Washington Redskins will refer to themselves as the Washington Football Team until the team can decide on a new name.
As Shakespeare famously wrote, what’s in a name?! While these goodwill gestures of changing product names make for great press releases, they do very little to effect real change.
For example, the Houston Association of Realtors announced in June that it would stop using the word “master” to describe the biggest bedroom in the house and realtors in Chicago followed suit. That’s because the term ‘master’ has both racial and gender connotations. It will now be referred to as the “primary” bedroom.
That makes for a great soundbite, and it’s lovely that they didn’t want to offend Blacks or women. But I have a better idea! How about galvanizing true change in society so more Black Americans can afford to buy a home? If they have the opportunity to watch their kids play in their backyard, something tells me they won’t care what the biggest bedroom in their home is called.
More Black Americans could afford to buy their own homes if they were hired for the corporate jobs that they are qualified for, but a study by Harvard University showed that 25 percent of black candidates received callbacks on their resumes when they “whitened” their names against only 10 percent receiving callbacks when they had ethnic identifiers on their resume. It is 2020 and in the entire Fortune 500, only 4 CEOs are Black — TIAA (Insurance), Tapestry (parent company of Coach), Merck (Pharma) and Lowe’s (Home Improvement).
Again, I’ll invoke Shakespeare: What’s in a name? Black workers earn 62 cents for every dollar earned by a white person for the same job. So perhaps in addition to amending their marketing campaigns, companies could amend their hiring practices and actually commit to the concept of equal pay for equal work.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2018, while the average white but non-Hispanic household income was $70,642, Black Americans earned only $41,361. Could you live off of $41,361 a year? Don’t forget that’s before Uncle Sam takes his cut. After paying rent, utilities, groceries and other expenses, how much is left to save for a down payment on a home? Speaking of which, do you know what an equity cushion is?
According to reporting by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Black Americans have to put down more money when applying for a mortgage and data from Pew Research shows that they have tougher loan terms even when situated similar to white borrowers. There is no denying this, as it is what the numbers indicate. Don’t ask me why the system is this way. I don’t know, but what I do know is that it is incumbent upon each one of us to educate ourselves with facts and take action to encourage corporations to help even the playing field. Otherwise this is the sad world we will pass along to our children. I’m not the President but I will tell you that from my vantage point, the state of the Union is not well.
Kanika Chadha is naturally inquisitive and is fueled by her desire to unveil mysteries. Kanika has worked as a Business Analytics professional for 8 years after 9 years on Wall Street. She holds a dual M.S. in Financial Economics and Multinational Commerce from Boston University. In addition, Kanika has supported various South Asian focused 501(c)3 organizations, including the Sankara Eye Foundation. She lives in New Jersey with her son and husband.