Robert F. Smith, the private equity billionaire who is the nation’s richest Black person, said on Thursday that large corporations should use 2% of their annual net income for the next decade to empower minority communities. Smith made the comments after circulating a plan among CEOs that first calls on big banks to capitalize the financial institutions that service Black-owned businesses and minority-run entrepreneurial ventures.
In a keynote address he gave at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy, Smith, 57, said Black and minority communities have been abandoned by large banks and are starved of the capital needed to build businesses and local institutions. Smith argued that pumping in what he described as “reparative” capital and investing directly in financial architecture would be a fast way to advance economic justice for Black Americans.
“Nowhere is structural racism more apparent than in corporate America,” Smith said. “If you think about structural racism and access to capital, 70% of African American communities don’t even have a branch, bank of any type.”
In recent days, Smith, whose net worth is estimated to be $5 billion, has been sharing a concrete plan with the nation’s business leaders that argues that an investment equal to 2% of net income over the next decade would be a small step toward restoring equity and mobility in America. He has implied that America’s big corporations should feel compelled to support such a plan given the exclusionary practices of many industries over several decades. Smith made the case that the average American household charitably donates 2% of its income annually and is asking corporate America to do the same.