Business

CEOs address Miami’s racial wealth gap

CEOs were asked: A study was recently published showing a persistent racial wealth gap in Miami, showing that even if they are from a different country, blacks living in South Florida face hurdles not faced by whites. What can or should be done to address this?
CEOs were asked: A study was recently published showing a persistent racial wealth gap in Miami, showing that even if they are from a different country, blacks living in South Florida face hurdles not faced by whites. What can or should be done to address this? .

CEOs were asked: A study was recently published showing a persistent racial wealth gap in Miami, showing that even if they are from a different country, blacks living in South Florida face hurdles not faced by whites. What can or should be done to address this?

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We believe the education system and cultural differences need to come together. The divide experienced in our community stems from lack of proper education, guidance and mentoring. We need to address internships, familial interaction, responsibility, and helping one another. This is not easy to accomplish and has been a sore subject for as long as I can remember. It is time that the ‘divide’ is addressed and implemented. Many wonderful minds and potentials are being wasted and not realized.

Jim Angleton, CEO for Aegis FinServ Corp.

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Better access to education and job opportunities can help improve income. But wealth is accumulated over time, and it will take a much broader approach to deconstruct the barriers to wealth building, promulgated by a long history of racist policies which have impacted minority communities. The path to home-ownership is one example where the wealth gap is clearly evident and an opportunity for South Florida stakeholders to take action, in terms of equitable lending practices, access to affordable housing, and other avenues of support.

Wael Barsoum, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida

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The issue of race and discrimination is a societal problem with no easy solution. One method, of course, is community reinvestment, which all banks provide by our very nature. Another is for employers to hire the best qualified people regardless of race, nationality or other factors.

Agostinho Alfonso Macedo, president and CEO of Ocean Bank

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The results of the study on racial wealth gap are not surprising. Having worked in the nonprofit sector in Miami for 15 years, primarily serving women and children, I have seen this disparity and lack of access play out in the lives of so many families. I believe the first and more important step in addressing this issue is to have open and candid discussions about this reality. As a community, we cannot fix something if we don’t talk about it in specific and clear terms. The nonprofit sector can play a critical role in addressing these obstacles — by providing grassroots support to those impacted, bridging gaps across communities, facilitating critical conversations, and building capacity for a community-wide approach to addressing this wealth gap.

Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts Tropical Florida

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As an African-American, female CEO living in Miami, I get this question quite frequently from black young adults pursuing their college degrees and looking to plan their future. Honestly, my answer is usually not to pursue Miami as a permanent home unless they are prepared to deal with several hurdles, like the persistent racial wealth gap. While there are other cities, like Atlanta or Charlotte, that reward African-Americans for the skills they bring to the table, Miami is not one at this time. The only way to adequately address this is to vote people into office who see this injustice and have decision-making authority over state funding and contracts to demand more positions for blacks that will help close the racial wealth gap.

Dorcas L. Wilcox, CEO of Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services

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As a society, we need to continue to invest in the fundamentals that create opportunities for every member of our community. We need to ensure that everyone has access to education and training programs that plant the seeds for a sustainable future — regardless of race, sex or national origin. This extends beyond the public sector. The private sector also has an important role in funding programs that bridge these gaps. That’s one reason we focus our charitable work in part on funding groups that create opportunity and support children, believing that these are investments in a better future for all of us.

Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO, City National Bank

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One word: Education. I am the child of an immigrant family, where it was instilled in me and my sisters that education was the ticket to elevate ourselves out of a low-income cycle. In addition, education is absolutely necessary to erase intrinsic racial bias that exists between people of different color, race and heritage. Otherwise, nothing will ever change.

Louis Hernandez Jr., CEO, of Black Dragon Capital

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I have not seen that study so I am not bale to opine on same. However, I can show you plenty of hard working African Americans, hardworking Haitians and/or other people of color who have not allowed their skin color to be an obstacle. They are incredibly smart, they implore strong work ethics, they are hungry, they are focused and they are relatively successful. My point being, if certain people are not working perhaps we need to study why they aren’t working instead of automatically assuming their skin color is the issue. I can show you plenty of white men who don’t work.

James “Jimmy” Tate, co-owner and president of TKA-Evolution Apparel and of Tate Capital; co-founder of Tate Development Corp.

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There are many ways to address this. One way to handle the gap issue is to increase economic mobility. Despite the promise of the American dream, the United States has lower levels of economic mobility than other developed countries. A second way to address this hurdle is by passing progressive taxation that will help close the inequality gap in U.S. income. Poor families spend a larger share of their income on the cost of living. They need all the money they earn to afford basics like shelter, food, and transportation. A tax cut will allow them to afford a decent standard of living. It will also allow them to start saving and increase their wealth.

Rashad D. Thomas, vice president of business connect and community outreach for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

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▪ DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR THE NEXT CLASS OF CEO ROUNDTABLE IS Tuesday, April 23. Click on this link for details. (After that, the next round will be chosen in October-November.) Send nomination to businesseditor@miamiherald.com.

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