Social Justice Must Be Accompanied By Economic Justice

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MoCaFi founder Coaxum

Across our nation, people are engaging in a growing and much needed conversation about social justice.

This is an issue that doesn’t apply to any one particular group of people, but broadly to all Americans who seek to live productive and purposeful lives. These conversations are important and the people leading them are working hard to bring about real change.

Yet, the social justice journey cannot occur in a vacuum; equal time and attention needs to be paid to economic justice. The reality is that financial inequality continues to permeate our society. And much of the political dialogue this year reflects both the challenges and opportunities related to the social justice agenda.

The uneven economic playing field is emblematic of the significant number of households that lack access to mainstream financial services as their primary resource for financial products. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, nearly 30 percent of households in the New York City region have no or only a limited relationship with a traditional financial institution. In the African-American and Hispanic communities, this percentage grows to 53 percent and nearly 49 percent, respectively.

In its report, "Rewrite the Racial Rules", the Roosevelt Institute noted, “Black workers today face a dual crisis of high unemployment rates and low wages, which intersect and reinforce one another. The black American unemployment rate is twice that of white workers at nearly every level of education, and as of 2011 black households earn only 59 cents for every dollar of white median household income.”

Too many American families rely on non-bank institutions to meet their financial needs. This includes costly, inefficient options, such as pawn shops and payday lenders. The fees and interest associated with these services can put low- to moderate-income families on a path toward debt and economic hardship. But it does not have to be this way.

Financial technologies, such as electronic payments, have the power to help create economic justice and equality, and trigger a movement toward greater financial inclusion. For instance, prepaid cards offer access to the financial mainstream for families that do not have a bank account. Instead of purchasing a money order or paying a bill in person, a prepaid cardholder can pay their bill online. In addition, online services and apps provide budgeting and money management tools that can help families chart a path toward financial success and, ultimately, economic justice.

All my life, the maker culture has inspired me. I see people who take their skills and experiences, and apply them to do something for the greater good. I take to heart the spirit of this culture. And I’ve seen firsthand the power of technology and its potential to lift up our nation’s financially underserved families. I want to help and empower them to change their trajectory and chart a course to a brighter financial future.

That’s why we founded Mobility Capital Finance, Inc. (MoCaFi), a financial technology company that is working to empower financially underserved communities. Our goal is to reimagine the financial lives of underserved families and help them pivot toward healthier and more productive money-related habits. We offer financial literacy programs; access to responsible savings, prepaid and credit products; and make referrals to mainstream financial services. We work with city and state officials, and labor unions to get these resources in the hands of those who need them.

Conversations about social justice are important to bring about greater equality. But economic justice also needs to be part of those conversations to bring about greater financial equality. Fortunately, today’s financial technologies offer a real opportunity to ensure that all families have the resources to achieve greater prosperity.

Now that’s economic justice!

Wole C. Coaxum is a founder and chief executive officer of Mobility Capital Finance, Inc. (MoCaFi).

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