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VOL. 46 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 28, 2022

‘White Wall’ exposes banking racial inequities

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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The big, red-brick building down the road is where you get your groceries.

You have to drive there, past the shiny chrome car dealership, left by the green gas station. The yellow fast-food place in the same block is your children’s favorite. And that large brown building? That’s where you do your banking and keep your money.

But, as in the new book “The White Wall” by Emily Flitter, can you get that money out?

A number of years ago, when she was a banking reporter for The New York Times, Flitter tried to follow a lead on a Black man who’d been fired from his job at a major financial company. It turned out to be a weak lead, but during the probe she met a lawyer who turned her toward a much bigger issue: racism in the financial industry.

Recent polls show most Americans have no idea that there’s a racial wealth gap. They don’t know about the gap in family wealth. They have no clue that Black families fared much worse in the 2008 financial crisis than did whites, or that they’re struggling again in this post-Pandemic time.

The truth is racism thrives in banking institutions where, Flitter says, Black consumers are often profiled as “suspicious” by white bank employees, even if they have a paper trail of proof for their own money, Black borrowers are often given less service and more wrong information.

“The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America”
by Emily Flitter
c.2022, One Signal Publishers / Atria
$28.99
336 pages

Flitter also found instances where skin color determined interest rates. Bank customers who are Black aren’t always offered the valuable perks white customers get. Insurance companies are not servicing Black homeowners the same as they do white homeowners. Not even Black business owners escape racism within the financial industry.

That isn’t even mentioning the proportionately low number of Black employees in those institutions, or the insufficient number of high-level leaders.

Clearly, Flitter says, “corporate America has a long way to go.”

Pick up your copy of “The White Wall,” hold it tight and make room on your lap for your jaw. It may be dropping a lot while you’re reading this shocking book.

Or maybe not. What’s in here might not come as much of a surprise to some readers who live this reality every day – and for that, author Emily Flitter has some words for you, starting with this: what you’ve experienced is no anomaly.

For Wall Street and for every large business in the nation, she offers more in an entire chapter devoted to ideas on how to do better by making financial services more accessible for Black Americans. On that, there’s good news in Flitter’s final words and that’s a happy start but, judging by the many, many stories she shares, readers could absolutely be forgiven for any lingering pessimism...

Still, this informative book is easy for even the busiest executive to read and use, and its essential message shouts to be heard. This book could create new consciousness, or “The White Wall” may also leave you blue.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.

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