The nonprofit organization Prosperity Now recently released its yearly economic “scorecard”—a report detailing the economic wellbeing of populations across the U.S. The report said there is a racial divide when it comes to economic security and in areas like Utah, minority groups tend to fare worse than white populations.
In a ballroom at Weber State University, people chatter and sit together at tables. The aroma of hot food fills the space, and two men dressed in vibrant African garb playing drums and a thumb piano set the mood.
Betty Sawyer is the chairperson of the Utah Black Roundtable—an advocacy group seeking equity for black communities in Utah. At an event to celebrate Juneteenth, Sawyer spoke about goals for her organization.
Sawyer said being a black woman in Utah comes with experiences the majority population might not ever know.
"Often times we do have to prove ourselves over and over again," she said. "And so we’re questioned often or even overlooked in conversations. I could say, 'Oh yes we need to do A' and they move onto the next person. A white person sitting next to me can say, 'We need to do A' the exact same thing I said, and, 'Oh, wow that’s a great idea I really like that'… And it’s like excuse me, I just said that."
According to Prosperity Now, the average black household in America makes about seven times less than the average white household. There are multiple factors that contribute to this difference. Sawyer says one of those factors is wage inequality between black and white workers doing the same job.
"If you’re not making enough money, if you’re making a dollar, two dollars less than your counterpart that’s doing the same job, then that’s going to promote wealth inequality and wage inequality and it’s going to impact prosperity," Sawyer said.
The Utah Black Roundtable is working with Utah’s Intergenerational Poverty Initiative to address income inequality and other economic issues that face Utah’s minorities.