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Waters at Racial Equity Hearing: Institutional Racism Has Led to the Exclusion of Communities of Color From Housing and Financial Services

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following opening statement at a full Committee virtual hearing entitled, “Justice for All: Achieving Racial Equity Through Fair Access to Housing and Financial Services.”

Today we are here to discuss steps that this Committee can take to create justice and achieve racial equity through access to fair housing and financial services. But for us to even begin this discussion, it’s very important to recognize that our nation’s history is marked by grave injustices against people of color, from the enslavement of people of African descent, to the displacement and subjugation of native people, to the internment of Japanese-Americans, to the exploitation and mistreatment of immigrants and migrant workers, to name some examples. And no matter where you are—and who you are--in America or around the world, institutional racism based on skin color creates barriers that impact social and economic outcomes.  

It is an unfortunate truth that such injustices persist today, including in the form of barriers that systematically exclude people and communities of color from fair access to housing and homeownership; from access to credit, capital and other financial services; and from opportunities to lead and direct economic policy at the highest levels of the United States government and major corporations.  

All of these barriers have drastically curtailed opportunities for communities of color to build wealth and thrive in our society.  

For example, a 2018 report by Reveal News found that “modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants’ income.” Just last month, the media reported that after a Black couple restaged their house to look like a White family lived there, the appraisal value of their home increased by 50%. A 2019 FDIC report revealed that even though unbanked rates are at the lowest since they started their survey in 2009, unbanked rates remain the highest for Black and Latinx households. Without action to address these and other disparities, the racial wealth gap will continue to widen.  

Communities of color have seen these barriers grow stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data shows that minority-owned businesses have shuttered more than their White-owned counterparts and have experienced more challenges accessing federal financial relief. Racist hate crimes against our Asian neighbors have also skyrocketed during the pandemic.  

It is also unacceptable that the government leadership who oversee economic policy and financial regulation and corporate leaders are not reflective of America’s racial and ethnic diversity, which may exclude perspectives from people of color who have historically been disadvantaged. There has still never been a Black Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission or a Black Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. And in the early months of this year, two Black women have been placed at the helm as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—the only two Black women among 40 women running America’s largest corporations. 

So, I am very pleased that Members of the Committee are putting forth legislation that taken together would make our housing and financial systems fairer and more equitable, including by providing down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers; strengthening minority lending institutions; and requiring diverse candidate slates for senior positions. I look forward to discussing these and other measures today.

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