Local News

Raleigh business community works to address systemic racism

Posted February 18, 2021 6:17 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2021 7:48 p.m. EST

— Business leaders in Raleigh held a virtual conversation Thursday focused on dismantling systemic racism.

The effort begins with identifying the root of it all – the systems that experts argue were built to prevent Black people from achieving social and economic prosperity.

“Unemployment, whether it is high or low, remains stubbornly at a two-fold gap between whites and Blacks before the civil rights movement and after the civil rights movement," said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard University.

Muhammad said he believes the private sector can be a catalyst for change. Using lessons from history, he encouraged business leaders in Raleigh to take the steps necessary to create a more equitable community.

"We ought to take seriously the responsibility for ensuring that we put our money where our mouths are and practice what we preach," he said.

RTI International, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and other groups have created a nine-month action plan to reduce racial disparities in health care, education, economic mobility and the criminal justice system.

"The bank is just a very significant player when it comes to the overall economy that we have here in United States," said Virginia Parker, Triangle market manager for Bank of America. "I think that, just because of what a bank does both for individuals, for other companies and obviously for our communities, it’s important that we take a strong role."

The livelihoods of many minorities depend on getting a loan to start a business, buy a home or get a college degree. That is why Bank of America recently committed $1 billion specifically toward making economic opportunities possible for all.

“We can really figure out, based on data, based on input, based on what we hear from the needs of our community, how we can move forward and what programs and services and resources and investments can we put into making this work for who we are and we want to be," Parker said.

Local business leaders said they believe the discussion was a starting point to make a difference in Wake County – and hopefully beyond.

"If you want to see something different, we’re going to have to behave differently. We’re going to have to start first with imagining a new America," Muhammad said.

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