Black History Month—a time where we pay tribute to the African-American men and women who have made significant contributions to America and the rest of the world.
Although 28 days is not nearly enough time to fit generations worth of social, economic and political impact in our country, we are proud to celebrate the rich and influential history of the African-American community.
Historically, people of color have been underrepresented in positions of influence and occupied fewer and less powerful roles in the financial services industry. In order to move forward, it’s critical that we take a hard look at our less-than-inclusive history and take daily strides to ensure credit union policies, practices and systems are propelling us forward to obtain even greater diversity and inclusion.
The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), CUNA, and credit unions across the country are committed to serving people of color by offering safe and affordable products to underserved communities across the country through financial institutions that reflect those very communities.
AACUC is committed to facilitating an environment for people of diverse thought and background to thrive, which ultimately fosters innovation and propels the credit union movement forward.
Having a more diverse and inclusive culture within the credit union movement prepares us to be more equipped to respond to the needs of members in the African-American community and other minority groups.
At AACUC, we stand with our collaborative partner, Inclusiv, recognizing that the credit union movement has a legacy of African-Americans organizing and operating financial cooperatives to provide access to financial services, savings and loans. These institutions have provided a responsible alternative to bank redlining, serving as economic engines for individuals, families and communities.
Furthermore, as payday lenders flood poor and underinvested communities with high-cost loans designed to entrap people in spiraling debt, these niche community development credit unions are vital to providing trustworthy, reliable financial solutions in times of need.
But in the movement, the number of these institutions have declined by more than 1/3 in just the last 5 years.
While consolidation is a trend in the credit union industry, it must not jeopardize our rich legacy of diversity and inclusion. The credit union movement must continue to recognize and serve communities of all needs and backgrounds while striving to align with our everchanging financial services industry.
AACUC defines diversity in our mission to express the inclusion, advocacy and support of African-Americans throughout the credit union community and at-large. We support programs that offer benefits for African-American credit union professionals and volunteers, credit unions and our credit union vendor partners.
In recognizing that credit unions have a responsibility to bring people of color to various roles and levels of leadership, we are committed to expanding the interests and increasing the number of minorities in the credit union movement.
Valuing diversity and inclusion in credit union culture empowers African-Americans to bring their unique perspectives to bear in engaging both with individual credit unions and our industry as a whole. This is especially important as we look to provide unmatched service and quality financial products to minority communities in need of greater opportunity.
AACUC promotes personal and professional growth of our members while collectively articulating concerns and providing resources that improve economic development in communities that are often underserved by majority financial institutions. We are committed to helping decision-makers connect the dots to fulfilling the unmet financial needs of underrepresented communities.
Diversity and inclusion help us build authentic relationships across gender, economic and racial lines — and our efforts must embody a 360-degree approach, starting from the inside out.
RENEE SATTIEWHITE is the executive director of the African-American Credit Union Coalition.