TL;DR: The Black experience is flooded with a significant disparity that cuts through numerous fields. Among those aspects, we can cite proper access to equal conditions in education and financial services, level of income, and healthcare. By the same token, structural violence has recently stirred historic social movements in defense of Black lives. Given this context, it’s imperative we celebrate Black History Month (BHM). We historically do so to honor the countless contributions the Black race provides to our world heritage. Today, the fintech, banking, and edtech sectors can furthermore rely on diverse innovative technologies for punctual measures to help narrow the gaps.
1986 marked the first year Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was a national holiday. It’s also the year Congress passed February as an official period to celebrate Black History Month (BHM) in the USA. The motion back then intended to “make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity,” lines that the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAHL) cites straight out of the Presidential Proclamation that’d fall on president Reagan’s desk.
Why we celebrate Black History Month today
Carter G. Woodson is the intellectual and practical birth father of this celebration. This Harvard-schooled historian dared to conceive honoring African Americans with a certain periodicity back in 1926. That was a time when raising awareness of Black history was beyond bold. Since then, schools, universities, communities, and all sorts of organizations in and out of the US have joined.
Canada, Germany and other nations have also taken February as an opportunity to honor Black culture’s legacy to our world. The need is to honor the relevance the Black race has on our world heritage. And it happens under a different focus every year. 2022’s theme is the importance of Black Health and Wellness.
For this blog entry, we’re acting on BHM’s ideals. We’re unveiling what BHM is and why it’s imperative we all celebrate Black History Month.
The importance of Black History Month
According to last years’ Pew Research Center (PRC)’s Facts About the U.S. Black Population, the number of people who self-identified as Black in the United States made up roughly 14% of this country’s population. Bear in mind the US ranks third in the highest population worldwide, positioning in the top 3 in the world next to countries as dense as China and India.
In spite of the population figures above, the financial disparity amidst Black households is astounding. It’s especially so in contrast to white counterparts.
PRC reports the median household income for Black households in 2019 at $44,000. However, their note on immigrant populations shares a higher median household income for households headed by Black immigrants versus those headed by Black Americans born in the US. We’re talking about a $57,200 median versus the $44K described earlier.
The median income in 2020 for white, non-Hispanic families according to the latest stats, however, was almost double fold at $75,000. The figures become even more disparate if we were to look into wealth across the diverse groups. Wealth is a luxury many black families living paycheck-to-paycheck simply cannot afford.
Speaking of an economic disparity for Black Americans doesn’t quite cut it.
On new historic movements
On the other hand, and less than two years ago, “about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States […] participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others.” The New York Times reported on this data while the newspaper’s headlines also described the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement behind these protests as “the Largest Movement in U.S. History”.
An often unpraised reality having to do with BLM is how it was actually created by three radical Black women. As these leaders profess, such resistance is “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise”. The movement is furthermore “an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Disparity even in education
When the National School Boards Association reports on Black Students in the Condition of Education for 2020, the devastating inequality becomes increasingly clear as it cuts across multiple aspects of the Black experience. From kindergarten to college, the NSBA’s statistics include a “recently released congressionally mandated annual report — the Condition of Education 2020 — [which] painted a very unsettling national picture of the state of education for Black students.”
First, “The poverty rate is still the highest for Black students” with “nearly one third of Black students [who] lived in poverty (32%), compared with 10% of white students” back in 2018. Black student access to the internet at homes falls below Asian and white populations. And the same source informs how 11% of Black students can only access the web via smartphones.
To trace the image further, “45% of Black students attended high-poverty schools, compared with 8% of white students”. The gap doesn’t just stand for those sitting in the learning seat, either. The NSBA reported on the period of 2017-18, as well. According to it, “only 7% of public school teachers and 11% of public school principals were Black”. This is true in a context where more than 15% of students who attended public schools were.
Tie the information above with The Ohio State University’s quick facts about “Non-Black teachers hav[ing] lower expectations for Black students than Black teachers,” predominantly Black schools being staffed with less qualified teachers, and “Black students [being] two times more likely to be suspended without education services compared to their white peers” and the panorama in terms of education for the Black community in current-day society requires dire attention. It has done so systematically for ages.
How fintech can help human rights
In How fintechs can improve bias in machine learning, we furthermore covered how different “Algorithms can have a disparate impact on sensitive populations,” which, for example, results in “white homebuyers hav[ing] an average credit score 57 points higher than Black homebuyers” as much as “Black defendants [being] almost twice as likely to be misclassified because of the models and datasets being used” in Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions.
Specifically tied to this month’s main theme, and as The Fintech Times puts it, we also know that “being in control of one’s finances and enjoying a degree of financial freedom, is a key component of mental health.” And while the same news acknowledges that “Financial services cannot solve the social, political and economic issues that cause financial insecurity, [..] they can and must do more to help.”
In the end, we’re hoping to leverage what Fortune is deeming a “lack of inclusion for Black Americans [that] exists at every level of the financial system.”
Opening up financial access for marginalized sectors
Innovative (and Black) minds have already come up with practical measures to counterfeit this common disparity. Cashless, contactless services of fair financial access are opening up to traditionally marginalized sectors. And they’re doing so in ways that are still revenue-driving, profitable actions for new fintech companies. CapWay is an example thereof as a startup led by one of the top 5 Black female leaders we’ll be highlighting in an upcoming blog post this month.
TechCrunch’s article in late 2021 already shed light on the “growing number of startups [that] are now leveraging the fintech playbook to solve a key part of the healthcare problem,” too. According to that source, “providers are now facing a monumental shift to new billing and engagement models, requiring new technologies and platforms to help with the change”.
The beauty with technology are the diverse and new kinds of implementations it allows. It’s also how we can make innovative impacts in fields where our actions matter most. All to positive results in business, too.
New technologies in finance & education
In terms of education, we recently touched on the impact the internet of things is having in it. In short, “educational experiences are changing thanks to [IoT] around the world”. We’re speaking of blockchain technology as much as SensorBoards, Virtual Reality, and machine learning (ML). IoT is capable of bringing tons of flexibility, accessibility, and scalability to the learning table as much as any business. All of these new forms and uses of tech have the power of innovatively combatting alarming inequality rates.
The Brookings Institution’s report on How Fintech Companies Can Mitigate the Racial Wealth Gap calls for a cost and price reduction in financial product offerings for Black and Hispanic communities “through technology and automation […] [to] speed up delivery and increase convenience for underserved populations.” The concise steps they give include a mandatory financial health curriculum for middle and high schoolers tied to incentivizing “private sector investments in BIPOC founders.” Moreover, the fintech industry has been capable of “transforming the education financing scenario” in its attempt to democratize education in India is what The Times of India tells us, for example.
Regardless of the routes we take for implementation, a few main aspects are crucial in these processes. We need to take biases, financial, health, and education disparities for historically marginalized consumers into account. This should be done especially as we develop competitive new technologies for our sectors.
Celebrate Black History Month looking back to affect our future
Being able to go back in history is essential for us to comprehend our current context. It is furthermore relevant so we can make better-informed decisions about our present. And, given our current stance in terms of Black rights, celebrating the Black race becomes imperative.
Black History Month is important as it acknowledges the Black community’s contributions to our world heritage. This culture legendarily brings forth an enormous and wide array of them. And this keeps being the case contrary to mainstream recognition and equal opportunities in a number of fields.
We hope this brief piece can speak of the relevance of integrating all possible human rights measures in development. And that it does so especially to anyone in the fintech, edtech, and banking sectors. In the end, the encouragement is placed on financially-sound, urgent, and new innovative technological implementations.