systemic racism

Systemic racism has cost the U.S. a whopping $16 trillion, A new study by Citigroup released last week finds out. That’s right, the U.S. could have been $16 trillion richer if it not for racial inequality which has economically impacted Black Americans for over the past 20 years.

systemic racism
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Systemic racism is costing the U.S. trillions

In recent months we as a society have become much more aware of the injustices that Black Americans face in our country. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought many of the issues caused by systemic racism to the fore with recent protests and rallies pushing back against these injustices and crimes against Black Americans. From the killing of innocent unarmed Black men and women such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the mass incarceration of people of color (POC) to economic inequality such as POC receiving lower wages from their white co-workers, recent months have shone a light on the effects of systemic racism in the U.S.

When people talk of racism, many white people will claim it’s a thing of the past. “Racism is over,” they’ll say. “It ended long ago,” as if the Civil Right movement was centuries ago and not merely 70 years, with many who fought in the movement still alive today. The system wants you to forget. They want you to believe that it “was so long ago, but we’re past that now” so you won’t go take a closer look at the issue and the world around you today.

But a closer look reveals that racism is far from over and its effects have deep and lasting consequences for Black Americans and their quality of life.

The effects of systemic racism on Black Americans

The future if we close the economic gap today (Source: Citi Research)

“The 400 years of enslavement of Black populations in the Americas has residual effects that persist to this day despite tomes of legislation providing equal access to various aspects of American life under the law,” says the study conducted by Citigroup. “Attitudes and policies undermining equal access are at the root of the racial gaps plaguing U.S. society.”

Citigroup’s study attempts to quantify the economic impact of systemic racism. Its findings have estimated that:

  • Black workers have lost $113 billion in potential wages over the past two decades because they could not get a college degree.
  • The housing market has lost $218 billion in sales because Black applicants could not get home loans.
  • And about $13 trillion in business revenue never flowed into the economy because Black entrepreneurs could not access bank loans.

If we were to close the gap of economic inequality due to systemic racism and discrimination, then the U.S. could have close to $5 trillion in gross domestic product over the next five years, the study indicates.

What can we do to close the economic gap?

Since systemic racism is a huge part of the issue, the first step to closing the gap of economic inequality is to address factors of systemic racism. Incarceration rates among Black Americans, voter suppression efforts and conscious bias in hiring all play a role in hindering the U.S. from making strides in closing this gap, Citigroup said.

systemic racism
Attitudes and policies that undermine equal access are the root of the racial gaps plaguing U.S. society (Source: Citi Research).

Our efforts need to be directed toward dismantling these systems and biases that are limiting and oppressing Black Americans. One way to do this is to put pressure on government officials to implement change such as promote financial inclusion, implement tax reform and housing incentives, invest in wealth building, invest in protections against discrimination, provide guaranteed wages and implement salary history bans.

On a corporate level, we need to urge corporations to support diversity and inclusion initiatives from the top, address racial gaps in hiring, retention, and firing, recruit more Black board members and dismantle structural barriers to hiring black talent.

economic inequality
A path toward equality (Source: Citi Research)

Citigroup has taken initiative and said they will be directing $1 billion toward helping to close the racial wealth gap, investing $550 million over the next three years in encouraging home-ownership for people of color, and another 50 million will go toward capital investments for Black entrepreneurs.

On a personal level, we as individuals can utilize our political power by voting in the upcoming 2020 election and putting leaders in power who will prioritize issues of equality. It is our duty as citizens and members of a society to look out for those in our communities.

How we can close the gap of racial inequality (Source: Citi Research)

A society is a community first and foremost and members of a productive and just society cannot only think of their individual selves but they must think of every member. If members of a society are not being treated fairly and given the same equal rights and opportunities, than the entire society will suffer.

The economic inequality caused by centuries of systemic racism has cost the U.S. trillions of dollars and severely impacted the livelihood of Black Americans. If we come together as a country and fight for rights of our fellow citizens, then we all will prosper


  • Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. She holds an Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, and a Bachelor's in English Literature from Montclair State University.

By Victoria Arena

Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. She holds an Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, and a Bachelor's in English Literature from Montclair State University.

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