(NEW YORK) – While June 19, 1865 is widely considered a day of liberation, its celebration, for some, simultaneously calls into question just how far that freedom goes.
For real estate entrepreneur Jude Bernard, Juneteenth is a reminder of private generational wealth.
“The whole story behind Juneteenth was that we were technically free, but we didn’t know it and it was years before we actually got our freedom,” Bernard told ABC News.
Bernard said Juneteenth can be used to highlight financial equality, which is the kind of freedom that many, like him, have fought for.
He used student loan funds to buy his first property 25 years ago with the aim of earning extra income on the side. Now with an expansive portfolio, the investor is the founder and CEO of The Brooklyn Bank, a nonprofit focused on financial literacy and the development of people of color.
“My mission is equality,” he said. “Brooklyn Bank’s goal is to bring information to those who don’t have it. So many times we as a people miss out on opportunities. Not because we don’t want to learn, but because we don’t even know what we don’t know.
Reflecting on his upbringing as a first-generation Haitian-American in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Bernard said he felt “lucky” to have discovered the information that led him to where he is today. He said not having received a “formal financial education” as a child has encouraged him to share with others what may not be readily available in their communities.
Bernard said education is key to solving economic inequality.
On June 19, Brooklyn Bank will host its first annual Dark Money Forum in conjunction with personal finance app Stash. The free event will focus on “financial freedom, financial education, financial empowerment, and most importantly, changing the financial mindset,” Bernard said.
“A lack of information keeps people on a treadmill,” he said. “A lack of education causes people not to save and pass on wealth to the next generation.”
According to Wealth of Two Nations: The US Racial Wealth Gap, 1860-2020, the per capita wealth ratio between whites and blacks is six to one. The article, written by researchers Ellora Derenoncourt, Chi Hyun Kim, Moritz Kuhn, and Moritz Schularick, drew insights from census data and tax records to analyze racial economic disparities over time and what steps can be taken to address them. equalize.
“So the average white American has six times the wealth of the average black American. This equates to black Americans holding about 17 cents for every white dollar of wealth,” said co-author Derenoncourt, a historian of economics and assistant professor of economics at Princeton University, ABC News.
She said that while much of the work on the racial wealth gap focuses on the later years — starting in the 1980s — she sought to show how the gap has evolved since the Civil War. to examine “the importance of American history in knowing where the wealth gap lies”. today.”
In 1860, the per capita wealth ratio between whites and blacks was 56:1, meaning the average black American owned less than 2 cents on every white American’s dollar. The legal impediment of enslaved peoples from accumulating wealth has exacerbated this gap and continues to severely limit the ability to close it, she said.
On the contrary, by opening up the possibility for black Americans to own and bequeath capital, “emancipation was the greatest bridging of the racial wealth gap.” Subsequent policies, however, have not gone far enough to further address this disparity, according to Derenoncourt.
“One major thing that was missing was any sort of reparations or provision of some form of capital to former slaves,” she said. “WEB DuBois called it a reckless experiment in emancipation, an experiment you have never seen in the history of mankind – emancipating a people, but providing them with no means of supporting themselves while the he other group had the opportunity to accumulate wealth and pass that wealth on to future generations.
“…I like to think of Juneteenth as not just a day off, but a day of freedom,” Bernard said. “A day of financial freedom, where it’s an opportunity to learn a little more about the things you need to achieve the equality we’re supposed to be entitled to.”
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