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Chicago Urban League Statement on WBEZ Report “Where Banks Don’t Lend”

Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson released the following statement in reaction to the recent report from WBEZ, “Where Banks Don’t Lend”:

As staunch advocates of racial equity and justice, the Chicago Urban League shares the concern expressed by others about the findings outlined in WBEZ’s June 3rd report “Where Banks Don’t Lend.”  The report details redlining by Chicago banks in an analysis akin to the determinations in the League’s 2016 report, 100 Years and Counting: The Enduring Legacy of Racial Residential Segregation in Chicago in the Post-Civil Rights Era.  This report and the League’s research address the challenges associated with disinvestment in the Black community. From contract buying, to redlining, to predatory lending, Black families and communities have been impacted by decades of policies that prevent asset-building and wealth generation. A racial wealth gap in which White families in the U.S. average a net worth of $171,000 and Black families average a net worth of $17,500 (according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution) is wholly unacceptable.

These challenges are longstanding and were the impetus for the federally regulated Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), under which banks have undertaken efforts to enhance mortgage, business and personal lending in historically underinvested communities. But we know these efforts have not been enough.

In this moment when a national movement is calling for an end to structural racism in institutions from education to commerce and law enforcement, it is imperative that we closely examine existing policies and practices that impede racial equity and commit to implementing new policies that will actually create institutional change.

It is no secret that banking industry practices have adversely affected Black residents and communities in Chicago. The Chicago Urban League has long advocated for policy changes that will increase homeownership and business ownership in Black communities and, thereby, help to advance economic equity. We are committed to continuing this fight. We look forward to working with local bank leaders, government officials and other community leaders and organizations to develop actionable goals to address access to capital in the Black community.