October 19, 2021

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Give federal COVID relief funds to Black, minority Kansans

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The American Rescue Plan specifically sets aside money for startups in economically disadvantaged communities of color.

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On June 7, I secured a long-awaited meeting with the Kansas Department of Commerce to discuss the ways and means to remove the systemic access to capital barriers stifling the establishment and growth of minority business enterprises in African American communities of color. I had assumed David Toland, Kansas’ Democratic lieutenant governor and secretary of the Commerce Department, was in fact aware of the realities Black Americans face.

President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan confirms this country has suffered from a profound racial wealth gap that makes it harder for communities of color to weather economic downturns, from the pandemic to the financial crisis of more than a decade ago. The median wealth of white households is 7.8 times that of Black households, and 5.2 times that of Hispanic households. The rate of homeownership among white Americans is 1.7 times the rate among Black Americans. COVID-19 did not cause these disparities, but it exacerbated them and demonstrated the urgent need for change.

These disparities and the harms that flow from them matter for all Americans. The exclusion of communities of color from the ladder of economic opportunity holds back economic growth for the entire country. Research has shown that if women, people of color and low-income children had the same opportunities as high-income white males, the U.S. innovation rate would be four times its current level. Overall, according to a report from McKinsey and Company, the racial wealth gap could suppress U.S. gross domestic product by 4% to 6%, or up to $1.5 trillion, over ten years.

Pursuing racial equity is a vital opportunity to drive innovation and boost growth across the U.S. economy. With that being said, I requested Lt. Gov. Toland to authorize the Kansas Department of Commerce to submit to the office of the U.S. Treasury State Small Business Credit Initiative a modification allocation agreement request for $150 million on behalf of my bank holding company, Freedmen’s International Bancshares Inc., and the local 501(c)(3) nonprofits Hispanic Economic Development Corporation’s Impacto Fund and the Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce. These entities seek to correct the intentional historical exclusion of minorities from the banking system.

In the American Rescue Plan Act, Congress appropriated $10 billion to fund the Small Business Credit Initiative with the purpose of financing startups and other business enterprises in low-income and minority communities.

The outcome of the meeting resulted in nothing less than Kansas’ in-the-closet Dixicratism coming out in the 21st century — aka a do-nothing standard operating procedure. And that amounts to the deprivation of rights of small businesspeople of color practicing entrepreneurship in Black and brown communities severely impacted by COVID-19.

And therefore, we now seek the help of community stakeholders of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Alliances for Economic Inclusion, along with the United Nations Permanent Forum of People of African Descent — a 10-member advisory body that will work closely with the Geneva-based Human Rights Council — to petition the U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas to to classify Kansas’ economic exclusion policy against communities of color as a hate crime, and to activate and deploy the full force and authority of the federal judicial system under U.S. code forbidding deprivation of citizens’ civil rights.

Lt. Gov. Toland did in fact silence our collective voices by deliberately obstructing, impeding and preventing Black and brown economically and social disadvantaged communities of color from exercising our rights of life, liberty and due process — particularly the catalytic mechanism of equal access to capital, which is the essential ingredient for the constitutional pursuit of happiness

My question is: Where is the moral and spiritual passion of a new 21st century abolitionist John Brown to be found in the behavior of the Kansas State Capitol in either party? We need this spirit to get the white supremacist knee off the neck of Black and brown Kansans.

Murray D. Anderson, Sr. is founder and CEO of de novo bank holding company Freedmen’s International Bancshares Inc.

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