Pressley Challenges Big Banks on Their Racial Equity Promises

In the aftermath of the tragic murder of George Floyd, many corporations, including some major banks, found themselves at the center of a racial justice awakening. And like clockwork, pledges came pouring in. But as we’ve all seen time and time again, flashy promises are one thing, and follow-through is quite another. Enter Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who’s not here for empty words.

Three years ago, the world watched as protests erupted across America, calling for an end to racial injustice. Big banks were quick to make grand commitments to racial equity, promising tens of billions. But now, Ayanna Pressley is asking the million-dollar question: Where’s the money, and how’s it been used?

Pressley has dispatched letters to some of the biggest players in the banking scene – think Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. And she’s not asking for vague updates. No, she’s demanding clear, detailed descriptions of what’s been done with the funds. Her message is straightforward – banks have long benefitted from systems steeped in racism, and it’s about time they did something to change that narrative.

Now, the numbers we’re talking about aren’t chump change. Chase pledged a massive $30 billion, with Citi and Bank of America each promising roughly $1 billion. These funds were supposedly earmarked for expanding housing programs, bolstering community financial institutions, and enhancing banking access in communities that have been historically left behind.

However, we have to question these commitments, especially when they come from institutions with a track record of, let’s say, not being super transparent. Remember when Chase vowed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and then cozied up with a coal mining company a few weeks later? Classic.

Thankfully, Pressley’s call hasn’t gone unnoticed. Advocates like Jessica Church from Take on Wall Street are singing her praises. After all, Wall Street and racism go way back, with the financial industry profiting off racism since its inception.

While Chase claims to have dished out $13 billion of their commitment for projects like affordable housing, skeptics might note that this isn’t exactly new ground for banks. And the kicker? While they’re out here making public pledges about combating racism, these same banks are backing a massive legal effort to, well, perpetuate discrimination. These institutions, via their trade groups, took on the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), challenging their decision to mark racism as an unfair or abusive practice.

So, in the wise words of Revolving Door Project’s Max Moran, it seems that some groups are more concerned with their “rights to discriminate” than with the rights of those facing discrimination.

Pressley’s move is a reminder that while pledges and promises make for good PR, what we really need is transparency and action. And until these banks can prove they’re doing more than just talking the talk, we’ll be watching, waiting, and demanding more.