The panelists for this year's Conversation on Race focused our attention on the racial wealth gap with expert information and personal experience. Attendees heard about the stark disparities in home ownership, income levels, wealth assets, and more from panelists Laura Sullivan, Director, Economic Justice Program at NJISJ, Catherine Connelly, Director of Research Engagement, United for ALICE, United Way NJ, and Darrell W Gunter, adjunct professor in the W. Paul Stillman School of Business & host of the radio program "Leadership with Darrell W Gunter" at Seton Hall University. The panel was moderated by Rhea Mokund-Beck, Director of People and Culture, ACLU New Jersey, who challenged the panel and the audience with questions about the systems that perpetuate the wealth gap, the ongoing barriers to solutions, and how to bring about change.
The event drew about 70 people into roundtable conversations in which they shared their personal experiences in building wealth assets, the obstacles they faced, and then they considered what areas they could work on as individuals and in the community that would support reducing the gap. Many noted that they were surprised at the extent of the racial wealth gap and that many more factors contribute beyond lack of home ownership. Some of the solutions discussed included pushing NJ to establish a reparations task force, creating baby bonds, instituting no-debt student loans, eradicating bias in home appraisals and mortgage lending, equity in education and reducing the racial achievement gap. Participants also expressed interest in learning more (through small group discussions or book groups) about the specific structural issues that perpetuate the wealth gap today; in finding out ways to advocate for policy change in local and state governments and institutions; and in learning if and how racially integrated communities have an impact on the wealth gap and other racial disparities.
See the panelists' presentations below.