The omittance underlines a painful reality: that Native Americans are often the invisible minority. And this oversight is a detriment to Native communities, which tend to face far greater economic, social and infrastructural deficiencies than most underserved groups.
JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon acknowledged in a statement that “systemic racism is a tragic part of America’s history.” Yet the firm’s commitment, by mere omission of reference to Native Americans, seems to overlook that the country was founded on genocide and systemic racism against the original inhabitants of this land. The fact that JPMorgan’s announcement came Thursday, just days ahead of Indigenous Peoples’ Day — still observed nationally as Columbus Day and a federal holiday, meaning most banks are closed — makes the oversight that much more glaring.
“We can do more and do better to break down systems that have propagated racism and widespread economic inequality, especially for Black and Latinx people. It’s long past time that society addresses racial inequities in a more tangible, meaningful way,” Dimon stated.
His firm’s move to bolster the well-being of Black and Latinx people, and in turn help to repair the national economy, is absolutely critical and celebratory. But the commitment’s specificity, and by default, exclusion of Native Americans, is an example of the way Indian Country is far too often treated as an afterthought, if paid mind at all — lumped into the all-encompassing moniker “underserved communities.”
The $30 billion pledge, a combination of loans, investments and philanthropy, will benefit Black and Latinx communities by increasing access to mortgages and mortgage refinancing, expanding affordable housing, opening new bank branches in underserved neighborhoods, boosting small businesses owned by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, and improving diversity and inclusion within the firm.
The financial institution will provide 15,000 loans worth $2 billion to small businesses owned by Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, while investing millions into minority-owned banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions. JPMorgan will launch a new program designed to help entrepreneurs in historically underserved areas access coaching, technical assistance and capital.
The financial institution highlights the barriers to growth for Black and Latinx-owned small businesses. “Black people represent nearly 13% of the U.S. population but only 4% of small business owners,” JPMorgan’s commitment states.
In comparison, Native Americans represent less than 2% of the population, and figures are hard to come by for Native entrepreneurship in the United States. It’s important to remember that 90% of the indigenous population in the present-day United States — nearly 55 million people — were killed off after the arrival of colonists, and the ongoing war to “Kill the Indian” persisted for centuries. The plight of Indigenous peoples is largely overshadowed by other atrocities in history, and the modern-day education system does little to teach the hard truths about the country’s origins.
Today, Native American small business owners face unique and systemic challenges to launching and growing businesses. Beyond the health disparities and socioeconomic factors that disproportionately plague Tribal communities, Native entrepreneurs endure the added challenge of limited access to investment capital and financial education. Traditional banks won’t accept reservation-based assets as collateral for loans. Businesses located within Native communities also tend to encounter a lack of technical infrastructure and support. Economic disparities and equity challenges have only been amplified amid the current COVID-19 crisis.
Supplier & Workforce Diversity
JPMorgan Chase has additionally committed to spending another $750 million with Black and Latinx suppliers. Beyond increasing diversity in its supply chain, JPMorgan will work to build a more equitable and representative workforce.
Following a December 2019 New York Times article alleging racism within the firm, JPMorgan announced it would make diversity training mandatory for all employees. Now, through its $5 billion commitment, JPMorgan is taking that a step further. The bank will hold executives accountable toward achieving firmwide diversity representation goals, and also provide financial coaching services to its employees.
And, by establishing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), JPMorgan aims to increase the pipeline of Black students entering the financial planning profession.
Whereas the $5 billion commitment fails to reference Native Americans, JPMorgan’s separate “Launching Leaders” initiative on its website does expressly benefit Native Americans. A description of the scholarship opportunity states it’s “exclusively for undergraduates who identify as Black, Hispanic and Native American.”
Advancing Native Representation
The road to creating a more equitable world is long, and it may take as much time to repair the injustices as it did to inflict them. But turning the tide the other direction begins with inclusion. The reality remains that Native Americans are still fighting for mention alongside Black and Latinx and other minority groups. Meanwhile, Indigenous movements are too often treated as an addendum to more prominent campaigns like Black Lives Matter. Native American awareness and fair representation merits both inclusion and unique respect — a seat at the table, and attention paid to our history, socioeconomic disparities, resilience, achievements and opportunities.
The journey begins with major corporations like JPMorgan Chase including Native Americans, who have been structurally excluded for generations.