Being Black and walking away from a person who legally owned you became reality on June 19, 1865, when Texas became the last state to implement the Emancipation Proclamation. The day, now known as Juneteenth, has become one of celebration for Black Americans.
It was a start. As Black Americans, however, we continually must ask the question: “Are we truly emancipated?”
While important to celebrate a day that freed our ancestors from the physical bondages and the inhumane capacity of slave owners to treat them as less than human beings, we must also look to the day as a reminder we have yet to successfully free the Black community, from the vestiges of restraints, controls and power structures that bond us far beyond the physical realm of being enslaved.
Participating in capitalism through business ownership is one of them. Many people were then, and still remain reluctant to accept our access of all that our country offers. The quest for equity, fairness and impartiality –at the least from the federal government – has been attempted through years of court rulings and reforms. Still, equity in America, even after 157 years, is a work in progress.
According to an analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, differences in business ownership account for 20 percent of the wealth gap between average white and Black households. The analysis noted that people of color, women, and those from rural areas are underrepresented in their share of total Federal procurement dollars, even relative to their low rates of ownership in the general economy.
Seeing that a whole government corrective action was needed, the Biden/Harris Administration instructed by executive action more than 90 federal agencies to scour their agencies for changes they could make to provide more equity in services and programs to the underserved – a group which includes Black Americans and other communities disproportionately impacted by poverty and inequity over the years. In response, agencies released a combined total of 300 new actions to address barriers to equity in federal services.
The federal government procures 90% of its goods and services in America each year, and is the largest purchaser in the world, so access to the federal marketplace is an obvious key to economic equity.
The Biden/Harris Administration has set an agency goal of increasing federal spending to small, disadvantaged businesses by 50% by fiscal year 2025. Acting on that goal, the U.S. Small Business Administration made several changes to give disadvantaged small businesses more access to federal contracting dollars.
The SBA worked with federal agencies to set up measures so they could accurately track spending and publicly report progress. That awareness has already raised government wide spending with Small Disadvantaged Businesses to 11% this year, from 5% the previous year.
Additionally, the SBA has allocated more funding to resource partners who counsel and train small businesses to enter not only the contracting world but to start and grow their businesses. This funding added 24 new Women’s Business Centers in 2021, thus tripling of the number of centers located on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and continues the expansion of largest WBC network in the history of the SBA. With these new additions, the complete listing of WBCs housed on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) now include:
In an effort to increase the number of Black Americans participating in the SBA 8(a) contracting program by 12,000 nationwide, the SBA is also increasing its outreach to the National Urban League, specific sororities and fraternities for Black Americans, and business students at HBCUs to expand their knowledge about business ownership and federal contracting.