The Black Tax — defined as the financial cost of discrimination against Black people in the American economic industry deserves its time in the spotlight. This theory developed by Shawn Rochester, author of “The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America,” (available at www.blacktaxed.com), is based on research from the finest universities in the country that Americans and American institutions have significant levels of conscious and unconscious bias against Black people in America. This bias often manifests itself in the form of discrimination which makes it more difficult to access the resources that could otherwise lessen the gaping wealth gap.
At AfroTech 2019, J.P. Morgan brought together Rochester and Isa Watson, founder and CEO of Squad (withyoursquad.com), to openly discuss The Black Tax, how they have worked to overcome it in their own careers, and what actions need to be taken to address it in order to create a more equitable ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs.
The discussion was led by Leyonna Barba, Executive Director of Technology and Disruptive Commerce at J.P. Morgan at J.P. Morgan.
“I urge people to do what I call getting your PHD: Purchase, Hire, and Deposit black,” Rochester said. “The majority of impact happens through payrolls and supply chains. And then, if you put deposits in a Black financial institution, you’re directly investing in Black enterprise, which is starved of capital.”
Panelists engaged the 180 guests composed of founders, funders, and other techies in a lively discussion about the challenges Black-owned startups and small businesses face in tech. The Black Tax is a serious impediment to the long-term financial health of Black entrepreneurs. Barba, Rochester, and Watson all reflected on their own journeys of facing biases, and what they are doing in their professions to bring more attention and eventual resources to support Black business owners.
“Being a woman and a minority, I faced twice as many challenges to secure funding for my business as my white male counterparts,” Watson said. “I see it as a privilege and duty to help others navigate the startup ecosystem.”
The topic was important for J.P. Morgan, a company that continually marshals its resources to address challenges that are particularly persistent in the Black community. Through their Advancing Black Pathways initiative, J.P. Morgan works with employees and key stakeholders to address three major aspects hindering Black’s economic prosper: wealth, education, and careers.
“In order to achieve equity for all, we need to start with the Black community, our brothers and sisters, to put their own differences aside and come together for good,” Barba said. “I’m proud to help continue that open dialogue to greater change.”