Center for Racial Equity Update: Supporting the Success of Black Businesses in Retail – – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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01/18/2022 | 10:10am EST

The dictionary defines the word disproportionate as “too large or too small in comparison to something else.” To me, the following statistic starkly illustrates “disproportionate”: While Black Americans make up 13% of the nation’s population, they only account for 4% of our country’s wealth.

This racial wealth gap has persisted from generation to generation, rippling through all aspects of family life – the ability to own a home, pursue higher education, access health care or simply put food on the table. Many factors feed into this inequity, but by and large, Black Americans lack accessto the financial opportunities and resources, such as income and capital, that build wealth.

Following the murder of George Floyd, Walmart doubled down on our commitment to advance equity in society. We prioritized addressing inequities in the nation’s finance systems (along with inequities in health, criminal justice and education systems) through business and philanthropic initiatives in collaboration with others. A group of Walmart leaders, through what we call Walmart’s Finance Shared Value Network, are working to use our business capabilities (for example, jobs, career paths, sourcing, business partnerships) to increase opportunities for diverse-owned businesses, empower associates to build generational wealth and expand access to financial services in communities.

At the same time, we at the Center for Racial Equityare complementing such efforts through philanthropic initiatives that aim to advance financial inclusion and equity for Black businesses. We believe this will not only help business owners and families build wealth, but also lift up entire communities, as Black businesses tend to hire from within their neighborhoods.

Like the factors contributing to the overall racial wealth gap, the issues facing Black businesses run deep. Early in my career, I had a front row seat in the world of Black business through my work at Black Enterprise. The publication’s founder, Mr. Earl G. Graves Sr., believed the American dream should not be determined by race. He spoke directly to Black business leaders to help them overcome unique and systemic issues. Later in my career, when I became an entrepreneur myself, I learned firsthand about those challenges. While leading my consulting agency, I saw my primarily-minority clients struggling to access capital, credit, expertise and networking. Such challenges have existed for centuries because of discriminatory laws and institutional roadblocks. That’s why it is so important to rethink the way we support Black businesses.

Working with other organizations, the Center for Racial Equity aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs in the retail industry to strengthen and scale their companies, in turn helping to sustain their communities across the country. Only 5% of Black Americanshold business equity – a key driver of wealth – compared to 15% of white Americans, yet business ownership has the potential to build wealth for families and communities. That’s why the Center, drawing on Walmart’s retail industry expertise and connections through our Finance Shared Value Network, will focus our philanthropic investments on strengthening entrepreneurship and Black-owned businesses in retail.

Our initial tranche of $2.9 million in grant investmentswill support organizations providing Black business owners with education, resources and training programs that open doors to networks and sources of financial and social capital. These investments include the following:

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