The Race and Wealth Podcast Network

FHRJ 5: Asymmetrical Access - Jesse Van Tol on power imbalances that lead to wealth inequality

March 10, 2020 The Race & Wealth Team on how to close the racial wealth divide through art, media, policy, literacy, and action
The Race and Wealth Podcast Network
FHRJ 5: Asymmetrical Access - Jesse Van Tol on power imbalances that lead to wealth inequality
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The Race and Wealth Podcast Network
FHRJ 5: Asymmetrical Access - Jesse Van Tol on power imbalances that lead to wealth inequality
Mar 10, 2020
The Race & Wealth Team on how to close the racial wealth divide through art, media, policy, literacy, and action

Rose Ramirez and Mr. Jesse Van Toll a CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) discuss the racial wealth divide, power imbalances and bridging the gap. Rose: Awesome. So, Jesse could you tell us a little bit about NCRC?Jesse: Sure, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition is a membership organization of more than 600 groups around the country who have an economic justice mission and we fulfill that mission by championing fairness in banking housing and in business. Jesse: The racial wealth gap can be understood in a number of ways. I think that you have historic discrimination, you've ongoing discrimination. I really think about it in terms of power. We have an economic system, capitalism, which produces more wealth than any other system we've ever known but it doesn't distribute it equally. And if you think about the theory of capitalism this notion that Adam Smith had that when two parties engage in a transaction, you know, it's mutually beneficial. Jesse: So when we look at the history of capitalism, we see that power imbalances lead to more power imbalances over time. And so you might think of physical and coercive force as being part of the original power imbalance, but on an ongoing basis, part of what we see today. So thinking about Europeans engaging in the slave trade, right? That was a power imbalance that was physical and coercive. Well it led over time to an accumulation of wealth by slave traders, by people engaging the slave trade, by farmer capitalists in the United States. And that wealth and balanced led to an accumulation of power.Jesse: So we're very focused on this sort of power imbalance that we see wealth inequality is the result of an economic system that many times has been based on coercive power. that this led to wealth accumulation in the hands of the very few and that that in and of itself tends to lead to even more wealth accumulation in the hands of the very few. Both because wealthy people have a lot of political power, they have a lot of economic power. There's a lot of ways in which power gets expressed through our system of economics. I think many people would argue that when you look at rates of incarceration among black people in this country, that that you have sort of a criminalization of poverty that exists to express some physical power in many cases over a certain part of the population and that also impacts people's ability to build wealth, to hold a job, to make an income and in turn to invest in things that might help them secure their wealth assets over time. Jesse: Our theory is that we need significant relationships with a significant number of, in our case our members are community-based organizations around the country. Because we understand that in order to correct things like the racial wealth gap, to work on inequality in this country, it's going to take people making sacrifices. Its going to take people doing hard things to overcome what is an incredibly powerful system of capitalism. Our capitalist economy has produced more wealth than any other system in the history of the world; it just doesn't share it very equally.Rose: What does economic justice mean to you?Jesse: Well economic justice to me is not an act charity. It's not about doing something that makes us feel good. Economic justice is about ensuring that in terms of the systems that we have, the policies that we have, that everybody has an opportunity to provide for themselves and their family. That they don't start life at a disadvantage just because of where they were born, their race, what family they were born into. That people have this kind of opportunity to do well and I don't think we have that kind of system.

Show Notes

Rose Ramirez and Mr. Jesse Van Toll a CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) discuss the racial wealth divide, power imbalances and bridging the gap. Rose: Awesome. So, Jesse could you tell us a little bit about NCRC?Jesse: Sure, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition is a membership organization of more than 600 groups around the country who have an economic justice mission and we fulfill that mission by championing fairness in banking housing and in business. Jesse: The racial wealth gap can be understood in a number of ways. I think that you have historic discrimination, you've ongoing discrimination. I really think about it in terms of power. We have an economic system, capitalism, which produces more wealth than any other system we've ever known but it doesn't distribute it equally. And if you think about the theory of capitalism this notion that Adam Smith had that when two parties engage in a transaction, you know, it's mutually beneficial. Jesse: So when we look at the history of capitalism, we see that power imbalances lead to more power imbalances over time. And so you might think of physical and coercive force as being part of the original power imbalance, but on an ongoing basis, part of what we see today. So thinking about Europeans engaging in the slave trade, right? That was a power imbalance that was physical and coercive. Well it led over time to an accumulation of wealth by slave traders, by people engaging the slave trade, by farmer capitalists in the United States. And that wealth and balanced led to an accumulation of power.Jesse: So we're very focused on this sort of power imbalance that we see wealth inequality is the result of an economic system that many times has been based on coercive power. that this led to wealth accumulation in the hands of the very few and that that in and of itself tends to lead to even more wealth accumulation in the hands of the very few. Both because wealthy people have a lot of political power, they have a lot of economic power. There's a lot of ways in which power gets expressed through our system of economics. I think many people would argue that when you look at rates of incarceration among black people in this country, that that you have sort of a criminalization of poverty that exists to express some physical power in many cases over a certain part of the population and that also impacts people's ability to build wealth, to hold a job, to make an income and in turn to invest in things that might help them secure their wealth assets over time. Jesse: Our theory is that we need significant relationships with a significant number of, in our case our members are community-based organizations around the country. Because we understand that in order to correct things like the racial wealth gap, to work on inequality in this country, it's going to take people making sacrifices. Its going to take people doing hard things to overcome what is an incredibly powerful system of capitalism. Our capitalist economy has produced more wealth than any other system in the history of the world; it just doesn't share it very equally.Rose: What does economic justice mean to you?Jesse: Well economic justice to me is not an act charity. It's not about doing something that makes us feel good. Economic justice is about ensuring that in terms of the systems that we have, the policies that we have, that everybody has an opportunity to provide for themselves and their family. That they don't start life at a disadvantage just because of where they were born, their race, what family they were born into. That people have this kind of opportunity to do well and I don't think we have that kind of system.