Three years after Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, the world saw shockingly on a viral video that triggered racial-justice uprisings nationwide, there have been a lot of promises for change but very little actual substance, according to Gary Cunningham. He is the outgoing president and CEO of Prosperity Now, a nonprofit organization that advocates for racial and ethnic economic justice.
Although there have been some local changes made, and some cities have done a lot to ensure they are not mistreating one group while treating others differently, Cunningham says this issue goes beyond local solutions; it needs a national solution. He adds that “we haven’t seen a whole lot on the national scale at this point,” referring to police violence.
Many corporations pledged to work toward economic equality after Floyd’s murder. However, Cunningham believes that “the impact of that has been marginal at best.” According to McKinsey & Company, nearly 1,400 Fortune 1000 companies collectively pledged about $340 billion between May 2020 and October 2022. Local, state, and federal lawmakers also expressed support for racial economic equality, police reform, and more.
However, whether these efforts have had a positive impact on the lives of Black Americans is debatable. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of over 1,200 Black Americans released last week showed that almost half of them believed that President Joe Biden’s policies had made no difference, while about a third found them helpful. On Thursday, marking the anniversary of Floyd’s murder, Biden called on Congress to pass “meaningful police reform.”
Cunningham also points out that organizations that primarily serve people of color or are run by executives of color continue to face financial challenges despite promises of more resources. The 2022 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund found that nonprofits led by people of color experienced a greater increase in demand for their services in the first two years of the pandemic. But compared to their white-led peers, they were less likely to receive corporate donations in 2021.
Prosperity Now hasn’t received many additional resources in terms of addressing these issues, Cunningham says. As for government aid, some of the most successful measures to advance economic equality in the past few years were not directly related to promises made after Floyd’s murder. For instance, the temporary expansion of the child tax credit in 2021, part of the American Rescue Plan, significantly reduced child poverty and had considerable mental-health benefits for Black and Hispanic adults. However, it was allowed to lapse when Biden’s Build Back Agenda fell apart after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia withdrew his support in December 2021.
“When they had a chance to reauthorize that child-care tax credit, they didn’t,” Cunningham said of Congress. “So we’re spending more on war and the military industrial complex than we are on our people in America, and that’s shameful.” Cunningham believes that the country needs to invest in its people to thrive and remain globally competitive, and that begins with giving Black and brown children throughout the country opportunities to participate fully in the American dream.