2022 provided us with countless, often conflicting, insights into the state of the global economy. There was room for optimism in the economic justice movement as organizations and individuals saw progress in critical areas such as wages and entrepreneurship. On the other hand, inflation and hateful rhetoric ran rampant and provided cause for concern. As we set expectations for the new year, let’s evaluate some of the areas where we saw progress – and others where we saw setbacks – in 2022.
What Went Well in 2022
- A wave of direct and unrestricted philanthropic funding to organizations led by Black leaders and focused on the Black community. The financial freedom of unrestricted grants allows leaders of Black community organizations to direct financing on their own terms. It removes the inherent sense of paternalism that sometimes creates a negative stigma around philanthropy–a “donor knows best” mentality–and instead puts members of the community who know it best in control.
- The rise of the worker. Despite rising inflation in the United States, Black workers experienced wage growth of 7.8 percent. Meanwhile, victories for unions empowered many to strike for improved working conditions. These gains reaffirmed the collective power of workers and–and reminds us of what’s possible when we wield our power.
- The global expansion of Black entrepreneurship. In the United States, the number of Black businesses grew 30 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels—with most gains attributed to the increase in Black women-owned businesses. Meanwhile, across continental Africa, entrepreneurs received a record $3.5 billion in venture capital investment in the first half of 2022 alone.
What Didn’t Go Well in 2022
- The global impact of inflation. Inflation’s widespread impact reduced global progress in addressing poverty. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, inflation has significantly increased food prices, threatening food security. Inflation has only furthered the systemic disparities Black communities face regarding economic empowerment and wealth creation. In the United States, the homeownership gap between Black and white households is wider today than it was in 1960.
- Despite a higher number of Black businesses in the United States, investment in Black American Founders and Startups is rapidly decreasing. Black startup founders raised just $187 million in the third quarter–less than 0.5 percent of total investments made, and a decline from nearly $1.1 billion in the comparable 2021 period. In comparison, the controversial founder of We Work, Adam Neumann, raised $350 million in Q3–more than all Black American startups combined for the quarter. As the availability of venture capital contracts amid economic uncertainty, it’s clear that Black founders are first on the chopping block.
- Hateful rhetoric has skyrocketed, breaking coalitions and distracting from the fight for equity. Twitter showed an evident rise in hateful rhetoric in 2022. Meanwhile, many organizations that made bold commitments in support of racial equity after the murder of George Floyd are expressing movement fatigue after less than three years. Human nature has left many looking for a quick solution to pronounce their efforts a job well done. Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to 400 years of oppression, a fact we must drive home to keep up flagging momentum.
Traditionally, we witness divestment in economic justice initiatives during times of economic insecurity. As we start the new year, can we maintain the collective strength to reaffirm our support for the economic justice movement?