The way that the government built the PPP is just the latest version of ensuring that those who will be killed by COVID-19 or deep poverty will be BIPOC.
By Lara Witt
It shouldn’t have been surprising that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) rollout was and is a goddamn mess. At least $500 million of the $350 billion federal government aid bill went to Fortune 500 companies because large banks like JPMorgan and Wells Fargo prioritized multi-million dollar companies and clients who dried up the funds with a quickness and left millions of small businesses (seeking far less in funding) in peril.
Created to provide emergency funding for small businesses without access to investors or other sources of capital, over 245 public companies applied for $905 million from the PPP according to CNBC. After the fallout from the news made waves across the country, the Small Business Administration created new guidelines for the second round of funding to close the loophole which allowed for the mega-wealthy to apply for the loans.
Throughout April, reports of who was most affected by the PPP loopholes and corporate greed came to light and it became increasingly clear that those who were and will continue to be harmed by wealth inequity and a devastating recession are Black, Indigenous, and people of color-owned businesses and communities.
According to a report by CBS News, 90 percent of BIPOC-owned businesses stood almost no chance of receiving loans from the PPP through mainstream banks or credit unions which were prioritizing larger loan applications in order to “maximize their loan-origination fees and their own profits, according to several class-action lawsuits representing small businesses still waiting for their approved funding.”
An investigation by the non-profit Center for Responsible Lending detailed how 95 percent of Black-owned and Latinx-owned businesses had fewer chances of receiving PPP loans because they had less access to mainstream banks.
This is neither accidental nor unintentional.
It should not be surprising that the settler-colonial government would ensure that wealth accumulation for the mega-wealthy and primarily white-owned businesses would continue despite the complete devastation caused by COVID-19 and reinforced by decades—centuries—of inherent inequities and policies which disenfranchise BIPOC, the poor, and the working classes.
The U.S. is a settler-colonial, imperialist, capitalist patriarchy. It relies upon a continued genocide of Black and Indigenous peoples. Any attempts at wealth accumulation by BIPOC throughout U.S. history have been met with government-sanctioned (and encouraged) violence, systemic oppression in the form of both state and federal policies, and government and social fascism. Economic disenfranchisement of BIPOC is foundational to ensuring that wealth accumulation for whites remains the cornerstone of white supremacy.
It is important and essential to make this clear: white supremacy and the economic disenfranchisement of BIPOC, like many other issues faced by marginalized peoples in the U.S., did not begin with the election of Donald Trump. The outwardly fascist president is inherently representative of the underbelly of the nation. What we are witnessing today is what BIPOC have witnessed on these lands for generations.
In their piece about the white supremacist attacks on Black Wall Street and the systemic disenfranchisement of Black people in the U.S., Sherronda J. Brown states:
“It is shameful that this history has been obscured and that whiteness continues to be sanitized. Everyone should know about what happened to Black Wall Street. To Black Wall Streets, in fact, as there have been more than Greenwood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which ended in bloodshed. The others—like Boley, Oklahoma, The Hayti Community of Durham, North Carolina, Jackson Ward of Richmond, Virginia, The Fourth Avenue District of Birmingham, Alabama—all saw their thriving Black economies decline due to the greed and racial anxiety of white Americans, who used intimidation and sabotage to thwart Black prosperity and maintain the widening of the racial wealth gap—a direct consequence of chattel slavery, antebellum inequities, Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, and more state-sanctioned tactics to ensure Black immobility.”
Banks are not pushing through BIPOC’s applications for PPP because their legacy is that of maintaining wealth inequities through redlining, rejecting loan applications, or accepting loan applications with disproportionately higher interest rates than whites, ensuring that wealth accumulation and financial stability for Black and brown people remain almost impossible. This isn’t just the reality of the 1900s, but it remains the reality today.
Settler-colonial nations can only continue to exist in their current form by brutal forms of oppression and repressing resistance. This means that the U.S. continues to actively harm and kill BIPOC either directly (police brutality, eugenics), or indirectly (environmental racism, medical racism, food apartheid) to ensure that mass inequity persists to the benefit of the white and the wealthy.
The way that the government built the PPP is just the latest version of ensuring that those who will be killed by COVID-19 or deep poverty will be BIPOC. Our history tells us this. Our present tells us this. Our future will too.
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