I came to Arabella in 2020 resolute in my belief that philanthropy has a critical role to play in advancing racial justice and economic mobility for the Black community. Simply put, I wanted to do more, faster, to accelerate long-stalled progress in advancing Black wealth and opportunity.
Why Black wealth? Why now? Race has shaped the fortunes of individuals and communities since America’s inception, and systemic racial inequality has caused Black Americans to unduly bear the burden of limited opportunity. The wealth gap is a problem of staggering magnitude: Black households in the United States own only 12 cents in wealth for every dollar owned by white households. The 400 richest American billionaires have more total wealth than all 10 million Black American households combined. And this problem spans generations: one in five Black Americans is experiencing poverty for the third generation in a row, compared to just one in 100 white Americans. COVID-19 further weaponized this racial wealth gap, as households of color experienced disproportionate economic and social harms related to the pandemic. Combined with ongoing wage inequality and rising inflation, the wealth gap is growing exponentially bigger by the day.
Building wealth in Black communities—which goes well beyond merely increasing income—is vital to ensure sustained economic development and prosperity for all Black Americans. Research tells us that the wealth gap is six to eight times larger than the income gap, and it drives far more intergenerational inequity. Most crucially, we know that generational wealth is a key determinant of political power. Without that power, Black Americans will continue to remain at the margins. Further, making strategic investments in Black Americans will absolutely help other marginalized communities and our entire nation. With people of color set to comprise a majority of the US population within the next few decades, our nation simply cannot afford to continue restricting these communities from building wealth and prosperity.
I’m thrilled to announce that, today, Arabella is officially launching the Future of Black Wealth, a content series that aims to redefine the wealth gap problem and shift mindsets. Through articles, webinars, and events, we will explore the idea that wealth is more than money—and advance understanding of the fact that generational wealth comes from and is reinforced by political power, leadership, social mobility, home ownership, business capital, savings, equity in health and education, and more. Thus, to truly close the racial wealth gap that exists in America, we need to tackle the problem from all of these angles collectively. Doing so is the only way to create the deep, systems-level change that is required and that cannot be achieved via one approach alone.
The Future of Black Wealth series is part of Arabella’s larger Racial Wealth Gap practice, which I co-lead to center Arabella’s work—with greater intentionality and sense of urgency—on race and the systemic inequalities that prevent Black and other communities of color from accessing economic opportunity. Our Racial Wealth Gap practice helps to advance solutions for all communities of color, with a special emphasis on Black households, by leveraging the assets Arabella brings to the field: our depth and breadth of philanthropic expertise, our keen understanding of grant making and impact investing as catalytic capital, and our commitment to bringing a bold, entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy.
We seek always to come to this work and community as learners and with humility and respect for the deep expertise others bring to the table. Our hope is by engaging with you, other thought leaders, and experts in the field, we can expand upon and bring to life our capacious vision for shared prosperity and opportunity for all.
While we certainly don’t have all the answers, we know at least these six things for sure:
- America’s legacy is complicated. The systems that got us to this point will not be fixed with simple, one-sided solutions.
- Knowledge is power. We must amplify and continue to educate partners and donors about the racial wealth gap.
- A bold vision is essential. We have to begin with an encompassing end goal in mind.
- Complex issues need a big-tent approach. We must seek to attract partners and allies with different ideological and political beliefs.
- Government must work alongside philanthropy to create sustainable change. Public-private partnerships are key.
- Time is not on our side. As Dr. King said, we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
These truths underpin our approach and serve as our guiding principles as we gather ideas, engage partners, and design solutions. We invite you to join us in our commitment to closing the racial wealth gap, first of all by envisioning what the Future of Black Wealth in this country can and should look like. Our upcoming content series will include opportunities to learn and engage throughout the year, including via blog posts, webinars, podcasts, and donor briefings. We welcome your partnership—click here to learn more about Arabella’s Racial Wealth Gap practice and to keep connected!
Sharyn Church, Arabella’s Los Angeles-based managing director, co-leads the firm’s racial wealth gap practice. She partners with philanthropists, impact investors, and social entrepreneurs across a broad range of issues—from education to health care to the environment to social justice–to help them achieve their ambitious goals.