Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: U.S. Economy Has ‘Never Worked Fairly For Black Americans’

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged the U.S. economy  “has never worked fairly for Black Americans or, really, for any American of color” in an MLK Day speech.

Yellen made the comment at Rev. Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network breakfast in Washington on what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 93rd birthday.

“From Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the present day, our economy has never worked fairly for Black Americans—or, really, for any American of color,”  Yellen said in her speech.

The civil rights activist and reverend was just 39 when he was assassinated in 1968 while participating in a sanitation workers strike in Memphis, TN.

In her speech, Yellen touted the Biden administration’s initiatives addressing economic inequalities, including the American Rescue Plan and the treasury itself, which injected $9 billion into community development financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs).

The treasury recently completed its first equity review, according to Yellen, and has hired the agency’s first counselor on racial equity. The treasury also has its most diverse leadership team in its history. Yellen added President Biden is working “to ensure that neither the figurative bank of justice, nor any literal economic institution, fails to work for people of color.”

It’s no secret Black Americans are behind in almost every aspect of the finance game. That includes access to credit, savings, investments, and the stock market. Black Americans are also the most likely to take out student loans for college, which is its own financial trap.

According to the Brookings Institute, in 2019, before the pandemic, White households held $188,200 in wealth, 7.8 times that of the typical Black household ($24,100). The racial wealth gap has only widened during the pandemic.

Brookings researchers add the gaps in wealth between Black and White households “reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception.”