Black Livelihoods Matter: Access to Credit as a Civil Right and Striving for a More Perfect Capitalism Through Inclusive Economics

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Information

22 Houston Business and Tax Law Journal 1 (2021)


Following the murder of an unarmed African-American male by a white police officer, in 2020 the nation erupted in protest, rallying to the call of Black Lives Matter, shining a light on the systemic racism engendered in American society. While the dialogue on racial inequality often focuses on police brutality and the political rights of African-Americans, one of the best illustrations of racial disparity can be found in the stark difference in access to credit. In the past century, capitalism has been blamed for countless ills in the United States. From the Great Depression to the Great Recession to the ever-growing disparity of income, the scapegoat has been capitalism--a reasonable reaction to today's economy that is so unfettered it resembles a multi-national financial oligarchy. But a more careful analysis of today's growing inequality reveals a different conclusion--that the disparity of income between the Anglo-Saxon majority and the historically disenfranchised is a result of discrimination by race rather than any inherent feature of capitalism. Rather, a more perfect capitalism would mean greater access to capital for all, based on merit and not race. Thus, a nation with as diverse a population of the U.S. would thrive with a more diverse set of financial products than what is readily available today. Currently, most lending mechanisms are sized to maximize the greatest opportunity per single transaction, using a criterion that is ineffective at gauging risk, and instead, primarily serves the wealthy and historically privileged, regardless of their likelihood to repay. More effective and more inclusive financial products would help the historically disenfranchised to acclimate to the code and culture buried in the mysteries of credit underwriting. If effectively and efficiently deployed, such tools would remove barriers to access and result in a smaller disparity in income and thus, serve to equalize political power. The concept of access to capital as a civil right has roots in several activist thinkers throughout history, including civil rights leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Concrete solutions have manifested themselves in market-based pilot projects experimented with through a variety of mechanisms during the New Deal, and even more recently via the Americans Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and afterward. Some of these solutions include financial literacy programming, fintech tools, and more inclusive underwriting implementation, to name a few, and are discussed as part of an overarching strategy towards achieving an inclusive economic capitalist system.