'Defund the police' calls grow amid protests. Reallocations could fund minority entrepreneurship instead
The doctrine of qualified immunity has been used to protect police from civil lawsuits and trials. Here's why it was put in place. USA TODAY
My millennial daughters were tear-gassed this week and I couldn’t be prouder.
My wife and I, while both at high risk of COVID-19, also joined a march in our town, but in a less confrontational, safer way.
So, while my family is, like so many millions of us are, sympathetic and supportive of the history we see unfolding before our eyes, and outraged at the murder of yet another black man by an unfeeling white policeman, the solution of how to get to the promised land remains elusive.
My youngest daughter, far more radical than I, has fallen into the “defund the police” camp. Our friendly debate quickly devolved into a shouting match, until we decided to try, as one of my heroes – Mahatma Gandhi – suggested, “to be the change we want to see.”
We calmed down. We talked. We listened. And I learned something.
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What does 'defund the police' mean?
Defunding the police, at least as I now understand it, certainly does not mean not having any police. That would of course be folly. But it does mean that some of the money used to fund police forces can likely be better spent if the goal is long-term safety, and to begin to eradicate the poverty gap and racial disparity between white and black America that fosters crime.
Defunding the police means that we begin to look at where crime and a lack of opportunity begins and then reallocate more resources there instead. More money for interdiction, for social services, for better education, and, relevant for this column, for minority grants and loans to start small businesses.
Funding changes could benefit small businesses
To me, there are few things we as a society can do better to equal the playing field than to increase funding and education for disadvantaged, would-be entrepreneurs generally, and African American entrepreneurs specifically.
Small business ownership creates wealth. It fosters pride. It enhances and stabilizes communities. It creates a tax base, and that in turn helps fund better schools.
The ripples that result from small business ownership positively affect the entire community. Small business ripples create jobs. There are ripples of hope and pride as once-blighted neighborhoods are revitalized. Money flows. Opportunity grows.
So yes, one answer is money, specifically, increased funding for grants and loans to minority small-business owners. It is much needed.
Racial wealth gap needs narrowing
According to The Aspen Institute, “Hispanic and black Americans have levels of net worth that are only one-tenth of those held by white Americans, and fewer of their assets are in the form of business assets. Specifically, while white and Asian Americans hold one-third of their assets in business and financial assets, Hispanics and blacks hold only 15% and 8%, respectively, of their wealth in these forms.” (emphasis added.)
Just consider the name of the report this quote comes from: “BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: How Business Ownership Can Help Close the Racial Wealth Gap.”
The stats from the report speak for themselves:
- “In 2004, families in which the head of the household was self-employed had a median net worth five times that of households in which the head worked for someone else.”
- “While black entrepreneurs have levels of wealth mobility equal to those of white entrepreneurs, white workers have greater wealth mobility than black workers.”
The answer then is clear: Black workers need to become black entrepreneurs.
But how do they do that? If you come from poverty, if your neighborhood was redlined, if your school was underfunded if you have had few entrepreneurial role models, how do you go from worker to entrepreneur?
It takes a community effort of mentors, funding, education, and inspiration. Some great organizations are already doing this. But it also takes money, and where does the money come from?
Right, a smaller, smarter police budget, with funds retargeted to entrepreneurship education.
Steve Strauss is an attorney, popular speaker and the best-selling of 17 books, including "The Small Business Bible." You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed, and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.