Black Americans are not free without economic freedom

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  • Isaac Yao Addae, Ph.D. is a first-generation Ghanaian American, author of Black Boy Fly, and Chief Strategy Officer at Pivot Technology School.

This is part of a series of opinions examining Juneteenth. The USA TODAY Network Tennessee invited black leaders and influencers to share their thoughts on lessons learned and lessons to be learned.

Freedom is not free after all. Truth be told, it’s a lot more expensive than we could have ever imagined. Let me explain.

This year we commemorate 156 years of the liberation of black Americans from legalized slavery, an achievement worthy of celebration and recognition as a federal holiday. However, I argue that we have traded one form of servitude for another.

In 2022, black Americans are subject to economic slavery. Suffice it to say that we are far from free.

According to reports from the Center for American Progress, black Americans continue to lag behind other ethnic groups in overall wealth accumulation, home ownership, retirement savings and many other national economic indicators.

The all-too-familiar racial wealth gap is real and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, a cursory examination of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the unemployment rate for black Americans, although historically low, is higher than that of all other ethnic groups. Suffice it to say that we are far from free.

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In Middle Tennessee, one of the growing markets in the United States, the plight of black Americans is similar to what is happening nationally.

Despite making up about 27% of Davidson County’s population, black Americans maintain higher rates of unemployment and incarceration, and lower rates of home ownership and college graduation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when Nashville ranked No. 1 for economic growth nationwide, black American communities regressed in many categories. Suffice it to say that we are far from free.

To underscore the words of black billionaire Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, “financial freedom is our only hope.” June 19 marks a time when black Americans broke free from the fierce oppression and violence associated with slavery.

Unfortunately, our quest for liberation from physical bondage has shifted to find us on the losing side of economic warfare.

Today, I yearn for freedom in the form of financial empowerment and economic advancement. In the meantime, let’s just say that we are far from free.

Isaac Yao Addae, Ph.D. is a first-generation Ghanaian American, author of Black Boy Fly, and Chief Strategy Officer at Pivot Technology School. Learn more at www.isaacaddae.com.

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