The economy, reset

August 14, 2020 Marketplace

The following is an edited transcript of “The Economy, Reset”, a Marketplace special series.

Kai Ryssdal: There’s a part of an interview I did a couple of months ago with Raphael Bostic, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, that I keep thinking about:

Raphael Bostic: For many people, the systemic racism is so ingrained in everything that we do on a basic level that they don’t even see it. They don’t think about it as a structured inhibitor of African Americans’ ability to do the things that other people get to do with no questions.

Ryssdal: A “structured inhibitor.” And systemic racism that the rest of us “don’t even see.”

George Floyd was killed by police on Memorial Day. And since then, we’ve been asking people on “Marketplace,” people who study and teach and live the Black experience in this economy, what it means to them:

Isabel Wilkerson: It will take all of us to come together to heal from a caste system, a hierarchy that has been in effect for hundreds of years.

Gary Hoover: My mother was the hardest-working person I had ever seen. And she said, “Hey, you know what? If you just work hard, you’re going to get ahead in life.” And that never happened for us. We always were struggling.

Dorothy Brown: If you want an inclusive economy, you have to deal with racial equality, and you have to start new.

Ryssdal: That was Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, economist Gary Hoover and lawyer and professor Dorothy Brown, getting us to this hour.

After 400 years, what’ll it take to start to end the systemic racism that’s so ingrained in this economy? A conversation about the path forward to create an economy that works for everybody: The economy, reset.

Ryssdal: The net worth of a typical white family in America is nearly 10 times more than that of a typical Black family. The pandemic has only continued to widen this racial economic gap, and Black-owned businesses are almost twice as likely to shutter than small businesses overall.

Beny Ashburn and Teo Hunter, the co-founders of Crowns & Hops Brewing Co., are trying to fix this systemic economic racism in the field of craft beer. I met them on Market Street in Inglewood, California, a predominately Black and Latinx city in Los Angeles. They’re planning on building Inglewood’s first Black-owned brewery as part of their broader mission to bring more Black people into the world of craft beer.

Ryssdal: So first thing we have to do is I need you guys to introduce yourselves. Tell me who you are and what we’re doing here.

Teo Hunter: Yes, my name is Teo Hunter. I’m the head of brewing operations and COO for Crowns & Hops Brewing Co.

Beny Ashburn: Hello, my name is Beny Ashburn. I’m the CEO of Crowns & Hops Brewing Co.

Ryssdal: How did you guys decide who gets to be CEO and who gets to be COO?

Hunter: She did.

Ashburn: I mean, kind of. My skill set, just what I’ve done in business, lends itself more to sort of that organization, behind the scenes, keep things moving kind of pace, and Teo really is the heart and soul and the beer of the brand.

Hunter: Yeah, without a doubt she is the momentum. And I think, again, to the point of her background, and just I think the fact that not that many people in craft beer have seen such a strong Black woman lead, it made for a perfect opportunity not only to highlight what she’s always done, but what, you know, she’ll continue to do in this industry.

Ryssdal: Yeah. We have to say here that I mean, the reason we’re here is that not too many people in craft brewing have seen strong Black people, full stop. That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Ashburn: Yes. 100%.

Ryssdal: Say more.

Hunter: I mean, this is about — for us and what we’ve been able to really dial in on is — this absolutely is about racial equity. You know, I think in a craft beer industry with over 7,500 breweries, you know, less than 1% are Black owned. A lot of what we did initially was just fighting to ensure that our reflection was present in breweries that were for the most part located in Black and brown neighborhoods. And, you know, as we continued our journey, we realized that there was another opportunity, which was to become owners in this space.

Ryssdal: I want to talk about that location thing, because you guys are deliberate about wanting to be in Inglewood for people who live in Inglewood. Not the way it usually works is that craft brews go to a distressed place or an underserved place and white people come.

Hunter and Ashburn: Black or brown places.

Ryssdal: Yeah.

Ashburn: I think the great thing about Inglewood is right now you still feel the culture of what Inglewood has always been, which has been a very brown and Black community. And I think coming here specifically as Inglewood is changing, we wanted to come back in and buy back the block, so they say. That’s sort of the term that they’re using, and —

Hunter: Nipsey Hussle shoutout.

Ashburn: Nipsey Hussle. And represent the culture that is here and show faces, show owners speaking to racial equity like Teo mentioned, and really just be here to represent for us.

Ryssdal: Let’s talk about the physical space and buying back the block. Here we are on Market Street in Inglewood in front of the Miracle Theater. You guys took publicity stills sitting on top of the marquee up here, which I kind of love.

Hunter: Shoutout to Owen.

Ryssdal: It’s great. Those are great shots. But let’s look around, and so let’s play this out. Let’s say you get that space right there, right? Michael’s School Uniforms says we’re looking to close up and you get that space. What does it look like if Crowns & Hops actually puts its taproom right there? What happens here?

Ashburn: I think everything that happens around here just grows and kind of elevates. There’s a lot of Black-owned businesses, I think, on this block right now. And I think what it could show is, we are here and able to buy into our community. It’s an example of what other people could do that a lot of people don’t understand, that ownership is an option for them.

Hunter: And also I think what we bring in terms of bringing a brewery to this community is we also showcase that we can have the same businesses in our own neighborhoods that typically are not currently on Market [Street]. There aren’t many places where you can sit down with your family and enjoy a meal. There are not very many places where you can have a business meeting outside of the newer businesses that are coming. So what you’re experiencing right now, specifically with the businesses that are coming here, is we’re not only bringing new business, we’re bringing new types of business. And I think it’s really important, you know, for people to understand that Black business doesn’t need to look like just one thing. It can look like a brewery, it can look like a coffeehouse. It can look like a lounge, it can look like a co-working space. You know, I think these are the things that we’re pushing in terms of helping people understand that we can have a successful Black ecosystem economically.

Ryssdal: That’s so interesting. The idea of Black business can be any business. It just seems so obvious.

Hunter: It does. But I think people would rather only see us as one type of business. A hair salon —

Ashburn: A clothing store or barber shop.

Hunter: Yeah, and no offense to any of those businesses, but I think what we’re starting to see is, you know, Beny and I both attended HBCUs, and you know, going to a [historically black college or university], you are challenged with pushing the envelope, with being innovative. And I think you’re going to start seeing over the course of the next year to two years is a lot of that innovation coming back to these Black and brown neighborhoods where we came from.

Ryssdal: You’re counting also on Black money. You want Black funders for this. Why?

Ashburn: I think it was important to, as part of what Teo was saying, create that ecosystem of Black ownership, Black investors, Black money and buying back into your community.

Hunter: And let’s be honest, there’s a ton of white equity holders.

Ashburn: Yeah.

Hunter: You know, we thought that it would be incredible to make sure that equity stay within Black families, Black owners. You know, I do think there is a common theme with regards to specifically owners that are from this area — I was born in Centinela Hospital right around the corner — to ensure that that ownership stays in that community is also, you know, confirmation that the money will return and be circulated versus it being taken to an area that the investors or stakeholder, equity stakeholders might not live in. You know that that is the thing.

Ryssdal: The thing we haven’t talked about: Why beer?

Hunter: Because it’s delicious. Are you serious?

Ryssdal: Look, you’re talking to a convert here. You don’t have to sell me. Anyone listening to this program knows that. What was it that made beer the thing that gave you guys this mission? That’s the thing.

Hunter: Yeah, I mean, well, think about it. Beer is an affordable luxury. And when you have a beverage or a product that can strip down all of the pretentiousness, all of the the BS that you might deal with, everything in your respective life, family, whatever the case, and have this moment to where you can celebrate life and the things that make you happy. That’s like a super good PSA for beer right?

Ashburn: It is a good PSA for beer.

Hunter: But you know, it’s phenomenal. And again, what we didn’t see was the contribution of people of color in craft beer. You know, I mean, if you think about this thing being one of the oldest beverages on the planet, and I just find out, you know, about a year ago that my great-great-great-grandmother — three, right?

Ashburn: Yes, three.

Hunter: — was a brewer. You know why beer? Because we think that there’s a huge opportunity for Black culture, for brown culture to be represented in it. And it stands the test of time. And it’s delicious.

Ryssdal: Thanks, you two. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. Best of luck with this whole thing. I think it’s cool.

Ashburn: Thank you. We’re excited.

Ryssdal: We started this hour with a question: What’s it gonna take to start to end the systemic racism that’s so ingrained in this economy?

Michelle Holder: So I’m a native New Yorker, I grew up in New York City.

Janelle Jones: The way I experienced the economy, how I came to study economics is rooted in, you know, seeing my mom and my aunts and my grandmothers and how their experience with the economy really had effects that rippled through our family, through our community, through our society.

Holder: At the time that I was growing up, the only white folks you saw in the community were police officers, or teachers, or social workers. That was it.

Jones: My mom worked at McDonald’s, she had low wages, she had no benefits, no health insurance, she had trouble, you know, securing child care for me.

Holder: And frankly, that’s what led me into the discipline of economics. I was trying to understand —

Jones: What is it about the way Black women are treated in an economy that means that they are separate and often last in a lot of indicators?

Holder: — why the country was so racially segregated.

Ryssdal: That was Janelle Jones, the managing director of policy and research at the Groundwork Collaborative, and Michelle Holder, an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College at the City University of New York.

We’re gonna come back to them later in the hour, but first, we’re going to go back to 2016 to a reporting trip we took to the Mississippi Delta for a project about race, poverty and economic mobility, to a little town called Cleveland, Mississippi, where we met Chiquikta Fountain and her son Maurice.

Cleveland is one of those towns in the South where money gets funneled into certain places and not others, and where opportunity exists for some, but not for others.

Fountain saw that every day in her work for a youth services group:

Ryssdal: What do they tell you about their opportunities here?

Chiquikta Fountain: Basically, that there are none. That if they stay here, they feel trapped. That if they do choose to go to school and purse a college degree that there is no guarantee that they’ll get a job once they graduate, so they opt to leave.

Ryssdal: That stuck in Chiquikta’s mind. So much so that she wanted to leave and find her opportunity someplace else. And so did Maurice.

Ryssdal: Where do you see yourself in like 10 years?

Maurice: Just anywhere besides here. Like, there are a lot of places that are way better than Cleveland. They have like the little bumper stickers like, “Keep Cleveland Boring.”

Ryssdal: Yeah, I’ve seen it. You don’t want boring.

Maurice: I want something that grabs my attention.

Ryssdal: Well, here we are, four years later. Chiquikta is now the executive director of a community nonprofit organization called Delta Hands for Hope. And as we were putting this hour together, about Black people in this economy and their opportunities, we thought we ought to get her back on the phone.

Ryssdal: Chiquikta Fountain, it is so good to talk to you again.

Chiquikta Fountain: Likewise, thank you so much for having me again.

Ryssdal: Talk to me about you for a minute. You have now a different job than you did four years ago. You’re working in a nonprofit about community. And that’s part of why I wanted to get you back on the phone. How much of an impact has the pandemic had on you? I mean, you’re pushing forward, we’re all trying, but, come on, brass tacks how you doing?

Fountain: Yes, this situation has only exacerbated a problem that was already prevalent in our community to begin with, and that’s poverty, and the mindset of poverty. And to see how this pandemic has, first of all taking children out of school, it has altered their way of life, how they go about receiving education. And a lot of our families rely heavily on schools, not just for education, but for food. So, it’s been really challenging when you’re working with a community that is so used to not receiving love and support. So, that’s a really loaded question Kai. And I hope that I’ve given you a pretty decent answer. But, it’s been a lot. It’s been a lot.

Ryssdal: Yeah. So look, you have given me a good answer. But I’m going to come back at you with another loaded question. And it’s a little bit bigger picture, but your community is, I would guess, overwhelmingly Black, right? It is overwhelmingly poor. It is, as you said, unused to having love and attention. Does this moment with Black Lives Matter — and the attention that the Black community in this country is getting — do your clients and the people you help, do they feel that in a positive way? Or is it a thing that’s happening and they have to get through everyday man and just leave me alone?

Fountain: Absolutely. That’s absolutely it. Because we live in a region of Mississippi that is, you know, where the wealth is held by a certain sector of people. And it’s something that we see on the on the daily, you know, when you walk out your homes you see that the majority of our landscape is devoted to agriculture. But the majority of our farmers, large farmers, that own the land are white. When it comes to businesses that are being owned and how easily someone can get access to a home. You see that from another community that doesn’t necessarily look like yours. So, this is something that we’re constantly fighting for, for, you know, even as it relates to being seen, to being heard. And that’s something that we are taking – and when I say we, I mean myself and this organization – that we take to heart, that we’re really focused on giving our children a voice.

Ryssdal: So let’s talk about the youth and let’s talk about your youth. Your son Maurice, who is clearly just your joy, you can hear it in your voice. Last time, last time we were there, he was 13 or something. He’s going to be a senior in high school now. Apparently, he’s athletic and smart and wants to go places. When we were there in 2016, you two said you had been talking about leaving the Delta for better opportunities. And he said, “yeah, I want to get out of here.” And it sounds like now what’s happened is that you have become reinvested in your community where you are. And I guess what I want to know is what’s Maurice thinking? Because he’s at a decision point now, or will be real soon.

Fountain: Absolutely. And to be honest with you, as it relates to college, he still wants to leave. But when I talked to you in 2016, I was so – I wasn’t happy with a lot of the things that were going on, in regards to my career and where I felt I should be, and where I wanted to go in my life. So, I had to come to terms with myself and either see where I was as an obstacle, or as an opportunity. So, I decided to start seeing it as an opportunity. And from that point, I made it my mission to empower every young mother that had a young child, that wanted to go back to school, that wanted to change jobs, or wanted to find ways to volunteer and become more engaged in their community. And I started taking Maurice with me when I started going out and doing community engagements, getting him more involved in his community and what’s going on. And not to say that those things altered or changed, you know, his wishes, or you know, desires to leave. But I do, you know, just emphasize to him the importance of finding who he is and what he wants to do with his life, but never forget about how he can use those experiences and who he is, that journey, to help someone else.

Ryssdal: As we get into this next segment, I want to come back to something Chiquikta Fountain said a minute ago.

Fountain: I had to come to terms with myself and either see where I was as an obstacle or as an opportunity. So I decided to see it as an opportunity.

Ryssdal: We heard real briefly earlier, from two people who’ve been thinking about obstacles and opportunities in this economy for a long time. And we’re gonna come back to them now to explain something complicated, but important. First up?

Jones: Janell Jones, the managing director of policy and research at [The] Groundwork Collaborative.

Ryssdal: And Professor Michelle Holder at John Jay College at the City University of New York.

Michelle Holder: Please call me Michelle, only my students have to call me Professor Holder.

Ryssdal: Noted. But having a Michelle, and a Janelle in one radio story could get tricky, so we’re gonna stick with Professor Holder.

Holder: Ah OK.

Ryssdal: Thanks for understanding.

Holder: Sure.

Ryssdal: These two women know each other, by the way. In fact, they recently published a paper together on Black women and COVID-19.

But as you heard earlier, how Black women get by in this economy isn’t just something these two study, it’s something they live.

Holder: I’m a Black woman. I’m a Black woman and I actually did face a wage gap issue.

Ryssdal: Professor Holder was working at a nonprofit, years ago.

Holder: And had a white male colleague and a white female colleague, and I noticed that I was being paid five to ten thousand dollars less.

Ryssdal: She negotiated a raise and did wind up staying at the company for a while, but she also knows she’s not the only Black woman with a story about making less than her white male colleagues.

In 2019, Black women earned around 62 cents on the dollar compared to white men.

That’s in part because of the kinds of jobs Black women tend to do, and the education they tend to have, and the discrimination and bias they tend to face.

And in recessions, Black women have been among the hardest hit and the last to benefit when the recovery starts. They’re also far more likely to be the main breadwinner in their families, when compared to other groups of women.

So, obstacles, right? The idea we started the segment with?

But, obstacles that Janelle Jones, at the Groundwork Collaborative, sees as an opportunity …

Jones: … for making better, more inclusive economic policy that I think really will make everyone else better off.

Ryssdal: And she’s got these three little words, this catch-phrase that she’s been saying for a while now, to sum it up.

Jones: Black Women Best.

Ryssdal: Black Women Best.

Jones: Black women best is a framework and ideology that says we should shift the economic worldview to center and elevate Black women in ways that will benefit the rest of us.

Ryssdal: In other words, if we set up the economy in a way that makes sure Black women are doing well, the rest of us benefit.

Jones: The pushback I often get is, oh, well, you just want Black women to do well, while everyone else lives in poverty. And it’s like, no, that’s, that’s not true at all, the idea of Black Women Best is incredibly inclusionary because it means listening to folks who, have ideas for solutions, who think about the economy differently, who experience it differently, who also, because of the makeup of our society are often breadwinners, who often are leading households. Centering this group of workers is important at any moment but particularly now as we think about, ways to rebuild the economy in a way that is more fair and equitable and inclusive given our current economic recession.

Ryssdal: Well say more about what happens if Black women are prioritized? What happens in the rest of the economy?

Jones: Yeah. So something I’ve been saying is that, in the history of this country, it is impossible for Black women to be doing well, when everyone else is not doing well. When we say that our economy is not recovered until Black workers have full employment, what that means is that a ton of other demographic groups have already gotten there, because Black unemployment has been so high. And I think centering Black women is a perfect way to do that because they are at the intersection of systemic racism and, misogyny that that really flows through and is embedded through our economy in a ton of ways and that different groups definitely experience, but it’s you know, it’s that intersection that that really does matter.

Ryssdal: That intersection where racial bias meets the gender bias that Janelle Jones is talking about? It’s not just anecdotal. It’s something that economists study and something that Michelle Holder has quantified.

Holder: It’s pretty enormous.

Ryssdal: Just how enormous? After a quick break.

Ryssdal: We were talking a minute ago … about the obstacles Black women face in this economy. Specifically, the place where racial bias meets gender bias.

Holder: I’ve written about this topic and I call it the double gap.

Ryssdal: That’s Professor Michelle Holder again at John Jay College at the City University of New York.

Holder: Black women not only face the gender wage gap, as [do] most women in the American economy, but Black women also face a racial wage gap.

Ryssdal: One that, remember, she’s experienced first hand.

Holder: I noticed that I was being paid $5,000-$10,000 less.

Ryssdal: But she wanted a way to look at all of those experiences Black women have, all those stories they tell about making less than their white male colleagues make, in the aggregate.

Holder: So I quantified it. And the estimate that I came up with — and I have to say, it’s a conservative estimate — is about $50 billion a year.

Ryssdal: $50 billion.

That’s how much income Black women are losing every single year compared to white men with the same level of education doing the same kinds of jobs.

Holder: One should bear in mind, that this is a reoccurring, involuntary loss not just to Black women, but the Black community writ large in the United States.

Ryssdal: But that money, the $50 billion a year, it isn’t just about the Black community.

Jones: There is this idea that like a rising tide lifts all boats.

Ryssdal: Janelle Jones again from The Groundwork Collaborative.

Jones: The rising tide of I guess, capitalism? Which I think, you know, there’s some evidence to say, not quite. But there is a lot of evidence that shows that when we center workers who are usually left behind those who are usually last to recover from recession, that it means that everyone else does well. It’s a little bit like the minimum wage debate in that, you know, when you raise the minimum wage, to $7.25, the folks who are making $7.50, $8.00, $8.50 also receive an increase. It kind of like, spills up the effects. And I think that’s the same thing that we see with Black Women Best.

Ryssdal: You know, it’s interesting, you say “center” and I said “prioritize” and obviously yours is much more useful and germain to what needs to happen but —

Jones: Yeah well, you know, the idea with “prioritizing” is that there’s always something else that happens. [In] the current world that we live in, we have a million priorities at this point right? We have a global pandemic, we have an upcoming election, we have an economic recession, we have racial uprisings. Like, the idea that there’s some priority that’s bigger than the other one? I don’t know. I think that “centering” for me makes sense because it’s like keeping that thing core as all this other stuff rages around.

Ryssdal: What do you suppose, what actually has to happen though? Like, policy-wise for Black women to be “centered” in this economy. What is that?

Jones: That is a great question that I honestly think people are afraid to answer because it’s not easy. The system of like, systemic racism and just embedded discrimination in our economy is — it is multi-facited it is like, self-reinforcing. I imagine that if somehow we could break it down it would like, recreate itself. It’s so many things at once. You know, often when people ask that they want, they want me to say one thing, it’s like, “oh, well, if we close the racial income gap, and Black women make as much as white men, it will be perfect.” And I don’t think that’s true, because we have a huge racial wealth gap, we know that Black women are less likely to get hired, they’re less likely to get promoted. It’s all of these interacting things, which means that there’s not a silver bullet, and that means that it’s real work.

Ryssdal: So what does that work look like? It’s some of the stuff we’ve been talking about this hour — trying to build an economy that works for everybody.

It’s the work Janelle Jones and Michelle Holder are doing, trying to change the conversation about marginalized workers, the work Teo Hunter and Beny Ashburn are doing, breaking into the craft brew scene, and the work Chiquikta Fountain’s doing in the Mississippi Delta, turning obstacles into opportunities for the next generation.

But Janelle Jones says that ultimately, it’s going to take more than just their work to make lasting change.

Jones: It really does have to be a true conversation about power. I think it’s a lot of people who are holding positions of power really just like being willing to share that being, being willing to share that.

Ryssdal: Power — and access to it — coming up next.

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