By Sophia Leswing, Law Center Summer 2019 Intern
What does it mean to invest with a reparations lens?
As a UC Berkeley undergraduate student minoring in Public Policy and passionate about racial justice, I frequently peruse the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society website for the latest research on inequity and policies. Last year, I stumbled upon Richard Rothstein’s book: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which outlines a history of both de facto and de jure government-sponsored racial disenfranchisement in the United States that has resulted in the staggering wealth gap between whites and blacks today. I found the book to be extremely compelling and deeply disturbing. I felt that if politicians [*cough cough* Mitch McConnell] today would only read this book in tandem with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations”, they’d without a doubt understand the need for reparations.
I’ve become frustrated with the inaction to explore reparations at the national political scale, so I was very energized to hear about people pursuing reparations through their own personal investing habits.
Last week I had the opportunity to listen in on Chordata Capital’s webinar “Investing with a Reparations Lens”. Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole founded Chordata Capital with the intention of creating an investment advisory firm committed to engaging in racial and economic justice through investment portfolios of people with inherited wealth. The firm encourages investors to move their money from extractive investing opportunities such as conventional Wall Street stocks and into alternative regenerative assets such as: community loan funds, individual businesses, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
The two founders led the webinar for an audience of around twelve women (most with inherited wealth backgrounds). One participant commented that she “doesn’t feel entitled to returns [on her investments].” This statement seems shocking and counterintuitive to the conventional and current pro-Wall Street investment mindset, which is to maximize your individual short term monetary rate of return. But, to quote Kate Poole, if we consider that “anyone that’s managed to have accumulated wealth in this country has benefited from racist systems”, then we can reframe our relationship to wealth from a possessive ownership mindset (“My money is mine. I earned it alone. I must protect, hoard, and grow it to secure my financial future”) to a collaborative, shared ownership mindset (“My money was accumulated over time through interactions with others - including people and the environment”).
Many corporations and individuals built wealth by extracting wealth from their workers, the environment, and the community. Investing with a reparations lens means repairing the harm of this extraction. It means shifting away from transactional investments aimed at short-term monetary returns, and building long-term relationships with our communities, understanding what makes our communities thrive, and dedicating patient capital to the projects and enterprises that advance equity and redistribute wealth.