Rochester addresses inequality and economic oppression
Shawn Rochester, an author, financial coach and CEO of Good Steward LLC, visited Hofstra on Thursday, Oct. 25, to discuss his new book, “The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America.” Rochester was hosted by the Xi Psi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Hofstra Cultural Center.
Rochester’s book is a culmination of his effort to explain the financial cost of discrimination against black people in America. His writing is uniquely supported solely by facts and research. “I don’t talk about things that I can’t substantiate with research,” Rochester said.
Rochester writes to combat the startling statistics surrounding the perception of black poverty. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, in 2012, 63 percent of white Americans believed that, “Blacks not trying hard enough was more to blame for their not getting ahead than any racial discrimination.”
Rochester, however, supplied statistics to contradict the belief that black poverty is not a systematic problem. Throughout his research, he calculated that the black community in America is missing 6 million jobs, 1.4 million businesses and $8 trillion in net worth. Beginning with slavery, Rochester went through every economic stage of the black community in America.
Rochester argued that the Homestead Act, Contract-Enforcement, Convict Leasing and Jim Crow laws kept black people economically enslaved to white farmers even after the Emancipation Proclamation. In the 20th century, predominantly white schools received more funding per student than black schools and racist housing practices forced many African Americans to live in ghettos. “Ghettos,” noted Rochester, “means involuntary, by the way.”
Rochester asked the same question at every historical checkpoint: “How do people accumulate wealth under these circumstances?” His proposed solution is Purchase, Hire and Deposit (PHD). PHD is built upon the idea that, “when possible, wherever possible, use black talent.” Rochester said, “If you want to show alliance and support, do it with your money.”
For Xi Psi Chapter President Wilbert Davis, a junior journalism and political science double major, Rochester’s approach to explaining economic disparity was riveting. “I was in awe by the numbers,” Davis said, who had first seen Rochester’s speak when “The Black Tax” was published.
Xi Psi was the only student group to receive a grant from the Hofstra Cultural Center for the semester. According to Athelene Collins, the executive director of the Cultural Center, Xi Psi was chosen through a series of applications and a board, consisting of faculty, administration and students alike. “We always like to support the student group,” Collins said. “We just thought that it was important.”
One of the many Xi Psi alumni in attendance was Allen Best, from the Hofstra class of 1995. He expressed pride at the current chapter’s work to bring in speakers like Rochester.
“It’s a great thing to happen,” Best said. “We always threw events that were consciously aware and informative. We educated the community.”
Other members of the Hofstra community also found Rochester’s speech important and topical.
“Racism is very rampant now,” said Rowel James, a junior early childhood and childhood education and English major. “Not that [racism] went away, but people are more explicit about it.”
Rochester emphasized the importance of knowing about issues such as black economic disparity. “What kind of conversation are you going to have when the uneducated are talking with the uninformed?” he said.
The goal of his book is to increase the discourse on the Black Tax and ultimately bring about change through what he called the two most effective solutions: empathy and understanding.
Rochester is also collecting personal stories about discrimination through economic oppression on his website www.blacktaxed.com.