Racism and the Economy - Transcript - October 7, 2020


Raphael Bostic: Good afternoon, or for those of you in the West, good morning. My name is Raphael Bostic, and I'm president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. I'm pleased to welcome you to the Racism and the Economy webinar series, which is a program jointly conceived of and sponsored by the Federal Reserve Banks of Minneapolis, Boston, and Atlanta. Each of our cities has had spotlights placed on race and racism in recent months.

On February 23, near Brunswick, Georgia—which is about four and a half hours from where I sit here in Atlanta—an unarmed African American man, Ahmaud Arbery, was pursued and killed while jogging.

On May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, millions of people watched nine minutes of horror as George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

And a few weeks later in June, Torii Hunter, a professional baseball player, shared that his baseball contract had a no-trade clause regarding playing in Boston, in part because he heard more racist remarks in Boston than any other city.

In their own ways, each of these speaks to the reality that racism exists in the United States and, as I wrote a few months back, continues to be a yoke that is a major drag on our economy. Our banks decided to take the lead in standing up a program that takes on these issues directly.

Almost immediately, we realized that this was a subject that couldn't be adequately covered in a single day, as it's so multidimensional. So we decided to break this up into a series of seven webinar convenings to be held over the next several months with each one focused on a specific topic. Given our institutional mandate, we decided to emphasize topics with clear links to broader economic performance. We settled on the following sessions: education, housing, criminal justice, health, wealth and financial services, and employment.

Our intention for these sessions is decidedly solution-oriented and focused on actions that might be taken to reduce the effects of racism. Much of our time will be spent over the next several months hearing from speakers who have concrete ideas on ways to move the dial in reducing the effects of racism, as well as from practitioners and others who will consider the barriers and opportunities that exist for pursuing these ideas.

Our goal is to focus on root causes rather than the symptoms and spark conversations that hopefully spur leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to take actions to increase racial equity and justice.

I also want you to know that we at the Fed intend to do a lot of listening through this series. We know there is much to learn, and it is my hope that through this series, we are able to build some muscle of our own to ensure that we are good partners in spotlighting problems and disrupting flawed systems, so that ultimately race is no longer a predictor of life outcomes.

Today is the kickoff, so we will be a bit different from the topic-specific sessions. Our goal here is to look at this from a higher level and ask how we should think about racism and what might the world look like with racism eliminated or significantly reduced.

Let me briefly review the agenda for today. We'll start with Angela Glover Blackwell, who will provide context of racism's impact on our economy, and if there's time, she and I will discuss what it means for this series. I will then turn it over to Kai Ryssdal, who is from American Public Media's Marketplace, who will facilitate a discussion with thought leaders to discuss racism's impact on the economy and their own work.

Next, President Neel Kashkari of the Minneapolis Fed, will have a conversation with Ursula Burns, the former chair of the board and CEO of Xerox.

We'll close by bringing back Kai to moderate a discussion with Eric Rosengren, Neel, and myself about how we see racism influencing the economy, and how this shapes our work.

So let's get into the program. I have to say, it's my great pleasure to be able to introduce Angela Glover Blackwell. Angela Glover Blackwell founded PolicyLink in 1999 with a mission of advancing racial and economic equity for all. Through her work, Blackwell has helped to grow and define a national equity movement focused on innovating and improving public policy, with a wide range of partners to ensure access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color.

As a leading voice in the movement for equity in America, Blackwell is a frequent commentator for some of the nation's top news publications and programs, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR's Marketplace, and PBS' News Hour. She is also the host of the Radical Imagination podcast.

Blackwell serves on numerous boards, including the Children's Defense Fund, the W. Haywood Burns Institute, the U.S. Water Alliance, Pitzer College, and FSG, a mission-driven consultancy. She is also a former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System—that's the Fed—their Community Advisory Council.

She earned her bachelor's degree from Howard University and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Angela Glover Blackwell.

Angela Glover Blackwell: Thank you. It is such a pleasure to have an opportunity to talk about the most important topic that we could be talking about these days. We are at an exciting moment and it is so actually thrilling—I'm going to use the word thrilling—to have the Fed offer up a series on racism and the economy, because they are tied together. That racism really has been about the economy, and the economy has fueled racism.

We often think of them as separate. Putting them together is the only way to actually get at the issues and the challenges associated with racism. As we've already heard, we're at a moment in which racism is front and center. We've talked about it in terms of state-sponsored violence against black men. We've been seeing that happen. But it's more than that right now. There's the combination of COVID and the health impacts.

The impacts of COVID-19 on the economy combined with a conversation about racism really is quite unprecedented. What COVID has done, is it has caused the American people to have to really see the consequences of the inequality and inequity in America, particularly as it has to do with health. We've been hearing about this for a long time, but it wasn't until COVID when the American people saw the death rates, saw the suffering, saw the hospitalizations, they saw who was on the ventilators, and they couldn't deny that while this was hitting across the country, it was disproportionately hitting the very people who were vulnerable to bad outcomes because of COVID, because they also were the ones suffering from obesity, and high blood pressure, and diabetes. That was a wake-up call for a lot of people who hadn't focused on it.

But then to have that bleed into the economy and for people to realize that if the same people who were suffering disproportionately from the impact of COVID could not go to work, America could not go to work. We shut the economy down because frontline workers and others kept being forced to stay home, kept getting reinfected, and were having great difficulty, even as states are trying to reopen to open.

We're seeing for the first time as a nation the interconnectedness between suffering that happens in the Black community, in the Latinx community, in the indigenous community, because of racism and its impact on the health and well-being, including the health and well-being of the economy.

It was in the middle of that, that the American people—because they were home watching cable television, because they didn't have anything else to do—that more people saw the murder of George Floyd than would have ever seen it under any other circumstances. That combination really put race on the front burner and it's caused some people to get curious about, How did we get here? How does a nation that has such fine ideals about itself exist where police can murder Black people on the street in front of everyone, where the economy shuts down because some people cannot get to the circumstances that will allow them to overcome the disease, and a disease that profoundly, disproportionately is hurting the very people who can least withstand the assault of the pandemic.

It's because this nation has a history that we like to ignore. It is a history of a nation that was founded on genocide, stolen land, human bondage, enslaved labor. They're all ugly words. We hate to hear them. But that's just the truth of how the nation was founded. Those four things don't exist independent of each other. The genocide was to steal the land. The human bondage was to have slave labor. And they both represent the foundations of this nation's economy, built on stolen land and slave labor.

Now slavery ended, but the narrative that allowed the American people to be comfortable with it for so long, continued. And that narrative was based on a hierarchy of human value, a hierarchy in which some lives are valued more than others; white lives are valued more than black and native lives. This hierarchy of human value actually allowed people to justify genocide, stolen land, and human bondage.

When slavery ended, the narrative continued to justify lynching, to justify segregation, to justify not allowing the people who clearly had the most skill in the nation to be able to translate those skills of carpentry, of all kinds of things that could have allowed them to build successful businesses. The narrative kept them from being able to use those skills to do exactly what they needed to do.

We have to understand and accept that the beginning of the nation has defined the history of the nation and has been all tied up with the economy. And it has produced a lot of misery.

One of the things I often do when I give speeches— recite data and I talk about who's being left behind, what their health status is, what their education status is, what their incomes are. We look at the wealth gap, but very often that data I am getting from the Federal Reserve. So since I am talking to the Federal Reserve, I see no reason to put the data there again, but I want you all to hold the data in your minds.

Because you know, because of COVID if you didn't know before, that Black and Latinx and indigenous people are more likely to suffer from disease, to die at an early age, and to be a cause of so much of the ranking of the nation when it looks at where it stands in terms of health and well-being.

You know that we have a wealth gap in this country of which the wealth of white people is 10 times that of Black people. That wealth gap has been like that for a very long time. We know that the people who hit first and worst by an economy that when it goes into a recession, the people who hit first and worst are people of color. They are the first to lose their jobs. They are the last to get their jobs.

We know that the situation for people who are poor and homeless is disproportionately of color. So knowing all of that, we have to be able to think about how are we going to take advantage of this moment to begin to solve the problem that is the heart of inequality in America, and that is the people who are being left behind. They're being left behind because they are not valued, because racism, which people have become so concerned about, is baked into every system in America, so that even as people let racism go from their hearts, it does not go from our systems. Our systems of education, our economic system, our health systems, all have racism baked into it.

And so one of the really exciting things about right now is that we're having a conversation in which we are centering blackness. It has come out of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and it has been reinforced by the things that we're seeing as we begin to study the history and see how the history of the way Black people have been treated in America has determined how so many people have been treated in America.

When I talk about centering blackness, and when people say that we need to focus on the racism that is driven by anti-blackness, that to talk about blackness and Black people is not to ignore the plight of anyone else, but rather to understand that the relationship between Black and white people is the one that has been defining for oppression in America.

If you think about it, because of the genocide of indigenous people and the living together in the most horrific system of slavery of Black and white people, the black/white paradigm define the protocols and the standards of oppression in America.

If you are a person who, you are a white woman say, and you enter a city very low income, and you have to go on a welfare system there to be able to get support. You enter a system that was defined on the imagery of a Black woman with a lot of children who was irresponsible. That was part of the black/white paradigm, trying to degrade the image of Black people, but it creates a system that impacts everybody.

Whether you are a transgender or a person with disabilities or a poor person or a Latinx person who's a recent immigrant, you enter a system defined by the black/white paradigm. Which is why this focus on blackness has become so important.

But the point is to focus on it, to figure out how to become a truly anti-racist nation or anti-racist institution of higher education or anti-racist bank. The goal has to be anti-racism, and the only way to get there is to understand that black/white paradigm.

When I've talked about all of the economic things that define the country, banks have been totally complicit. Banks were underwriters of slavery. All those plantations that were built in the South, people just didn't have all that wealth, they had to borrow it from banks. Banks were underwriters of slavery. Banks repossessed human beings when people defaulted on their loans.

During the Great Migration—after slavery had ended, after black people had tried to be able to make a way in the South, and lynchings and discrimination and harassment made it so clear that they weren't going to get their stronghold there—people tried to migrate to other places where they thought they'd find opportunity—in the East, in the Midwest, in the West. What did they find? They found discrimination. They found that the two paths to the middle-class—homeownership and business ownership—were locked. They were locked out of it because of banking policy.

Banks not only were underwriters of slavery, they actually contributed to every major city in America being desegregated and people who were Black being in positions of poverty, without wealth and without access to what they needed, and no ability to get loans to be able to build the businesses if they were perfectly capable of building.

When we think about this situation, I want to make it clear how long it has taken to bake in racism into systems that deny people access to the essentials for being able to go forward. I want to underscore it and underscore it and underscore it because we're not going to solve this with reforms. We're not going to solve this with pilot programs. We're not going to solve it by just deciding to pay a little more attention to people of color in our midst. It is going to require our radical imaginations to be able to actually bring our imaginations to, What would it look like to have a fully inclusive society? What huge steps could we take in order to have that society?

Just think about ... thinking about the Fed. I know a little bit about what the Fed does and what it can do and what it might do. But when I think about the problem of deep, toxic inequality in America that is racialized and how we're at a moment we want to deal with it, we've got to think in big ways. One of the problems for people who are of color in this country and locked into poverty is they don't have access to bank accounts.

We've done a lot at the Fed to try to encourage bank accounts. But no one should have to wait five days to cash their paycheck. What about having federal accounts so that anybody who wants an account can get an account through the federal government.

We know that one of the problems that has built up over generations is that people of color—Black people, Latinx people, indigenous people, poor people—often have terrible credit scores because of their poverty, because of their circumstances, because of where they live. And without access to credit in this country, it is very hard to go forward. How can we allow something as essential as credit to be given out, to be withheld, to be racialized? We need to have a federal credit standard. We need to federalize credit scores. We need to really do what the federal government should do when the private sector is not acting responsibly.

I talked about banks underwriting slavery, being complicit in the discrimination that is going on right up to this day, the forcing people to live in communities of concentrated poverty. We need to start thinking about how banks repair the harm. I know that sometimes the word "reparations" causes people to go in a defensive mode and say, "I wasn't there during the time of slavery." Well, you may not have been there during the time of slavery, bank, but you have been part of an industry that has allowed the inequalities, the degradations that started in slavery to continue right up to this moment. How do we repair the harm? How do we have repair harm plans that are required of every bank in America, to be able to think about how we deal with the issues that I have been talking about? This is urgent.

The good news is that if we get it right, not only will we finally be able to put a big part of that is the stain of the nation behind us, but we actually help the nation during my lifetime.

One of the wonderful things about living for a good long time, is you get to see a lot. During my lifetime, for most of that time, being able to deal with racism and this toxic inequality that is too associated with it, it's been the right thing to do. The moral thing to do. It has become an imperative for the nation. Because over the years, the demographics have changed. We now are rapidly becoming a nation of which the majority will be people of color by 2044 or so. But by 2030, the majority of the young workforce will be of color.

Right now! I used to say by the middle of 2020, but we're there, right now—the majority of all children 18 and under in this nation are of color. We are at a point where the fate of the nation is dependent on the very people who are being left behind.

By getting it right, creating pathways by which people can reach their full potential, we not only are doing the right thing by people who have suffered way too much, but we are doing the only thing that will allow the economy and the democracy to thrive. The fate of the nation is dependent on the very people who are left behind. If we get it right for them, we get it right for America. Thank you.

Bostic: Thank you very much, Angela, for those inspiring words. There was a lot there, I have to tell you. We have about 10 minutes or so, I'd love to unpack some of that. You talked about things like a U.S. government account for everybody, federalized credit scores. Those seem like really big things to me. I don't know; maybe I've been in government a little too long. Do we think there are some quick wins or some simple things that we might be able to do to advance the ball on this?

Blackwell: I'm sure there are. I'm sure that you and your colleagues in Boston and in Minneapolis know about them. What I really, really want people to understand is that the moment we're in has not existed before.

We're in an unprecedented moment where I think a majority, but a near majority of the American people want to do something to really, both make up for the past wrongs that have to do with racism and create a path that allows the nation to be different.

It has been too many decades to tinker, to try to get there. We have to do something big. It's why I talk about radical imagination in every aspect of society.

I'm sure that you all can come up with pilots and small things to do. What I want you to do is push yourselves. I want you to find your edges. I want you to know that never before have we had a nation that is so ready.

I can't tell you how many talks like this I'm giving to corporate leaders, to university leaders, to civic leaders, to state government. People are ready to do something different.

We have to at least have where we're going as our North Star. I'd have no expectation that we'll do the big programs and leap to the star. But I do know that if we don't have a North Star, that we will allow ourselves to think too small and for the increments to be too few.

We need to take advantage of the unprecedented moment, when this nation is prepared to deal with racism, and do something that actually deals with it.

Bostic: Well, Angela, I have to say, I've actually been in a whole host of conversations, very similar to the ones that you've had. I agree with you, that there is an appetite for trying to do something on this. That's actually why we're having this discussion today.

I guess one of the things that you said that I really appreciated was, you appealed to the history and the reality that the systems that have held back Black people in America and other racial minorities have been in place for decades and that success and solutions and progress here is likely not going to be something that you see in two days, or a month, or two months.

I've been getting a question a lot recently about ... even though there's a lot of energy now, we're not sure, people aren't sure that it's going to be that kind of energy six, 12, 18 months from now. Do you have advice for us on how we might think about preserving and maintaining the momentum that we have in this space?

Blackwell: Yeah. The media has been an amazing partner in this. If it had not been for media coverage, both of the problems that we have, but of the pushback that's coming from young people, we wouldn't be here. We need to really encourage the media to keep it up, but we also have to encourage these conversations.

I must say that during this seven-month period when I have been on lockdown, I have had so many conversations with people. Many of those people are forming committees and new organizations and strategies.

I think that we have to really get into corporate America because the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative is too little, too late, and too isolated within most companies.

We have to get CEOs to really understand that advancing equity and dealing with these issues has to be the business—the business of business—not just something to do on the side.

The Business Roundtable has been inviting PolicyLink and others to come and talk to them about that. So I think keeping these conversations going, pushing people to do things that are really big, highlighting when things happen.

For example, in California, I'm on Governor Newsom's recovery task force. One of the things that they just issued this week was an equity metrics. And what it does, is it provides for the standards for reopening to now be tied to, How are you doing in the communities that are hardest hit?

So, while there probably is some pushback from businesses who say, "You're just adding another layer," what it's actually doing is it's creating the possibility to get off of this recovery rollercoaster and to get open and stay open because you're actually focusing where there is the most harm.

Being able to highlight those kinds of things and do more of them, the good news is, that if we get it right, it really will make for a better economy. It really will make for a more prepared workforce. It really will bring the innovation from the most innovative quarters of the nation, into the business of, What's the next economy going to look like?

We just have to tell that story. We've got to change the narrative. This hierarchy of human value narrative is so dangerous. We need a new one. And it has to be one that when we get it right for those who we have been leaving behind, we get it right for everyone.

Bostic: I totally agree with that. I have to say, one of the things when I talk to business leaders is, you have to really know your own space. You have to be purposeful and attentive on this. You have to be willing to talk about this and create different kinds of communities, so that everyone can come along and be supportive of the change that I think we really need to have, because this diversity, it does make us stronger. It makes our economy better. It makes all of us much more resilient and able to weather things.

We only have a couple minutes left. So, I wanted to just close with a question for you. We have so much going on. People are feeling tension. COVID is hitting us and really exacerbating many of the disparities that we've had in this country for a long time.

Yet, I heard in your talk this morning, or this afternoon, a bit of hopefulness. Can you talk a bit about why you're hopeful and what makes you so sure that this time is going to be the time where we start to see real change?

Blackwell: I am hopeful because so many people are struggling to deal head-on with racism at a time when we have more infrastructure than we ever could have dreamed of having.

When Dr. King and his colleagues were trying to lead and start the civil rights movement, they had a few organizations that were barely funded.

Now, we have organizations led by people of color, people who are Black, who have millions and millions and hundreds of millions of dollars to work with. We have people who are Black and Latino who are heading foundations. We have people in government positions who can make a difference. So, we have an infrastructure of powerful people who know what needs to happen, well-positioned.

The next thing that we have is a lot of knowledge. The tagline for PolicyLink is Lifting Up What Works. Because we have been working on this creatively in local communities for so many years now, we have a strong sense of what works.

There is another mantra that I have, which is, Where you live in America is a proxy for opportunity. That used to be an isolated foreign notion. It is mainstream now. That we understand that geography and race are so tied up, that we have to really think about places in creative ways.

So, the combination of people who want to do the right thing, in power, with resources, a deep wealth of knowledge about what makes a difference, unions, and others all critiquing their history and moving forward in ways that are powerful, and state governments and others realizing that the agenda of inclusion is really the agenda that they need to be advancing in order to untap the assets in every state in the nation.

Bostic: Well, Angela, thank you so much. I think those words actually describe the Federal Reserve in many regards and is a partial impetus for why we're having this discussion today.

Your discussion and your thoughts have been so provocative. They're going to push us there. You've raised the bar on what we're going to look for from others moving forward. So I just want to thank you again for joining us and kicking off our webinar series.

For now, I will turn this over to Kai Ryssdal for our next portion. Kai.

Kai Ryssdal: Dr. Bostic, thanks very much. Ms. Blackwell, thank you so much. Lots of fodder in there for us to talk about with this next panel.

The panel this morning was going to include Glenn Loury from Brown University. He's not able to make it, so there will be three of us in this conversation. It will be myself, Dr. Carmen Rojas from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and also Geoffrey Canada from the Harlem Children's Zone and also, as you can see there, the William Julius Wilson Institute.

Thank you both for coming on. We'll wait for Dr. Rojas's camera to get turned on. There she is. And let me make sure you can all hear me. Yes?

Geoffrey Canada: Absolutely.

Ryssdal: Very good. So, that was quite a 20 minutes from Angela Glover Blackwell. I want to take apart part of it. But I want to start, first of all, with you, Dr. Rojas, and this admittedly personal question: When did you realize that racism was systemic in this economy and what it meant?

Dr. Rojas, can you hear me? Maybe it's mine that's frozen. I don't think so.

Canada: No, I hear you. I'm just trying to—

Ryssdal: I'll tell you what, Geoffrey Canada, you answer the question. We're going to see if we can get—

Dr. Carmen Rojas: Sorry. I had a little bit of ... with mine.

Ryssdal: It's all right. Wi-Fi is a tricky thing these days. Let me throw you this question one more time.

Rojas: [inaudible]

Ryssdal: I'll tell you what. We're going to let you figure out your connection. Geoffrey Canada, I'll go to you with the same question. When did you come to understand what racism was in this economy?

Canada: It's a great question Kai, because I think one of the challenges we face in this country is when we began to talk about race, there's so much shame that gets placed on folks. There's so much guilt. There's so much, I think accusation, that many times, we can't have an honest conversation.

But I'm going to tell you, I didn't recognize this issue of race until I was about eight or nine years old. It's something I'm deeply ashamed of.

I grew up like most American boys at that time, playing cowboys and Indians. In the South Bronx, all these little Black and brown boys running around, no one wanted to be the Indians because the Indians were considered to be the bad people.

I am so ashamed of how I thought about Native Americans, having been essentially brainwashed in this country about the issues of race. It began to open my eyes about what people thought about Black people.

Our reality was designed so you saw no positive images of Black people whatsoever. Now, I'm talking late '50s, early '60s. We were not on TV. You could not see us in the movies. We were servants and basically maids at that point in time.

There was no expectation in the South Bronx that we were going to grow up and have anything that looked like professional jobs. Maybe we would be directed into a trade because there was a fundamental belief that we just didn't have the academic and intellectual aptitude. That was brainwashed into us very deeply as children.

There was a system in education of tracking children. When I went to middle school, there was special progress classes. And then it went from 7-1 to 7-22, with each class being designed to indicate the likelihood that you would graduate from high school. No one thought anyone after 7-3 or 7-4 was going to graduate high school.

This system was designed so huge numbers of children just learned by their instructor that, "You are not going to make it. You don't have the right stuff." You could see the end result of that with the kids dropping out of high school, not going on to college. And that was my understanding.

By high school, I realized, you know what, there's some structures in this country that have to be changed. And that's what I spent the rest of my life trying to figure out, what they were and what we could do about them.

Ryssdal: Excellent. Hang on to that thought about structures, because that's where I want to go next. But Carmen Rojas, the same question for you. I'm sorry for making you jump back and forth to different [crosstalk].

Rojas: Oh, no. Honestly, I've developed like a sprinter's feet.

Ryssdal: Good. That's right. When did you realize that race was systemic in this economy and what it meant?

Rojas: Oh, always. There was never a moment in my lifetime where I didn't see the proximity to the people in my family, the people in my community, their struggles tied to their place, not sort of broadly in the economy, but specifically in the labor market.

I was really lucky to directly have an academic career that helped me situate sort of the provenance of the U.S. economy and how it's deeply tied to our founders' relationship to race. And, specifically, to what Angela was talking about, to white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and Native genocide.

I think in the last couple of years, we've seen a really rich body of research describing how everything from how we securitize debt to the ways we've privatized public goods were conceived and maintained, really in response to a set of strategic racist beliefs by generations of corporate and policy leaders.

I think oftentimes, to Dr. Canada's point, we narrate the ties between race in our economy as one that exists because of individual choice, leading many in the Black, Latinx, and Native community to believe that they are making irrational choices in a rational system and making them, by default, irresponsible actors and not victims in our economy and choices to the powerful.

For me, the danger as I look back at my career and as I sit in this position today, is really twofold. One is that people in my community come to believe that they're poor because of a choice that they made, making them really the sole arbiters of the power and resources to determine their economic well-being.

Second, and frankly, the thing that I find more pernicious, is it makes absolutely invisible those people who have benefited from racialized capitalism.

So as I think back, there's not a moment in my lifetime that I can disentangle being Latina and the place that Latinos are in the economy. Living and spending the vast majority of my life in a place like Oakland and seeing my Black brothers and sisters struggle in the economy and not, it never felt accidental. It felt like something that was a seed that had been planted and that we are trying, at this moment, to make visible to everybody.

Ryssdal: So, Geoffrey Canada, let me pick up on that answer and also something that Ms. Blackwell said. This idea of centering blackness, centering race in this economy.

Your chosen field, as everybody who's read your biography knows and through your work, is education and its centrality in economic advancement. How do we center blackness and race to be mutually advantageous in that field?

Canada: Yeah. I think part of the problem is that we have not followed the science. If you don't follow the science, you end up jumping to conclusions about the causes that you see around you.

If you grew up in the '60s, when I did, our neighborhood was called a slum. It was literally falling down. People came up with rational reasons of why. People didn't take care of their places. Folks didn't care about how things looked.

The truth of the matter is, you overcrowded buildings, you pulled away the superintendents who take care of places. No one was taking care of stuff as it was falling down. And yet you begin to blame the people for the conditions that they ended up living with, saying there was something wrong with their behaviors or their family structure, when really what was happening was it was huge disinvestment.

The real estate people found it better to burn the buildings, which they did in the South Bronx, and collect the insurance, then fix them up. And yet people kept looking at the people there, saying, "What was wrong with those people?"

A part of the challenge, I think, is when you don't follow the science, you end up doing things that don't make things better. I'll just take education for one example.

We have spent a huge amount of time and energy trying to figure out why certain children don't learn in school. The truth of the matter is, we now have science that shows if we change the circumstances in those schools—if we increase the time on task, if we make sure that the summers have a useful experience for kids, if we're using after school and Saturdays to enrich the services and get quality teachers—you can absolutely eliminate the achievement gap.

We've done it with our kids in Harlem. It's all public, the state scores are public. There's nothing that says, "Oh, you guys are so wonderful. No one else can do this." But why haven't the other schools changed? Because we don't follow the science.

It's easier for us to continue to say, "These kids come from single-family homes, there are gangs, there are drugs. And therefore, that's why they're not accomplishing," than say, "We need significant investments and certain strategies in these communities if we care about these children." And if you don't do that, these children are not going to have a fair chance.

We raised the money privately to do so. This should be a public benefit. We should be thinking about public investments that really take the science that exists, places that are actually delivering on outcomes for children, and say, "How do we scale those things across this country and make that part of our national effort?"

Ryssdal: Let me take a quick moment here, before we go on, for the obligatory social media shoutout. The hashtag is #racismandtheeconomy. Send your questions there. We'll plug some good ones and ask them of the panel here, and then this afternoon with the Fed presidents. Once again, it's #racismandtheconomy. Tweet us your questions.

So, Carmen Rojas ... Geoffrey Canada is like all good New Yorkers, really proud of his city, talks about it a lot, has worked and invested his life there.

You are a specialist in city and regional planning. I want you to talk to me about the geography of race and how it affects the economic opportunities that minorities in this economy have.

Rojas: Yeah. I think Angela did an amazing job at weaving together the ways in which a set of systems and institutions have made it so that people of color in this country are really constrained to specific geographies, both by how we finance, but also the public investment into communities that are overwhelmingly of color.

I think that there's a two-sided challenge that people in communities of color are really confronting, in ways that I think that we ... our policymakers ... can make a different set of choices.

I think Dr. Canada's point about needing to have true public investments in ways that are universal, so that we can truly make sure that those who are benefiting are ... that we're all benefiting from a truly robust public system and not need to privatize public systems.

When we talk about or think about the racialized geography of capitalism, for lack of a better or a simpler word, I think we have seen ... we have the case of Breonna Taylor.

If you take apart that case, there was a whole attempt to actually move people out of her neighborhood because there was a desire to build more upscale housing, and the over-policing of her community led to her eventual death.

I don't think that that's an accident. I think that, to be honest with you, Kai, many city planners often lose sight of these social dynamics in service of building beautiful buildings and don't think about the societal consequences or the long-term history of how race has been embedded in our geographies, so that we could actually have a more equitable set of cities.

I'll just say, as somebody born and raised in the Bay Area, I recently moved to Seattle, and what has been so striking to me is twofold. One, how people often narrate Seattle as a very white city. So all of my friends of color are like, "Hey, how are you doing? How's it going for you up there?"

Ryssdal: I mean, so what do you say? Wait. Wait. What do you say when they ask?

Rojas: I say there are a ton of people of color here. There are a ton of people of color here. I think white leaders in this city have made a concerted effort to actually narrate it as a white city to actually undo themselves with the burden of needing to find candidates of color for positions of power. That's one thing, Kai.

The second thing that's striking to me is how, in this very white city, everything works. So what struck me most is the bus. I lived in New York City, I've lived in the Bay Area, but you come to the city of Seattle, there's a bus stop every three blocks. It's an amazing bus. It's what it looks like when there is true public investment into the core infrastructure necessary for people to live in places.

Seattle, for me, has become this really interesting experiment to understand what that looks like. So, it's not that it's impossible. It's just that we have to make a set of choices about the places that we want people to live in, in order to have the type of opportunity and dignity we believe we should have.

Ryssdal: Geoffrey Canada, you've been doing this a long time. I want to know what your markers of success have been as you've been pursuing this work for decades now.

Canada: Yeah, that's a great question. I couldn't agree with Carmen more and her analysis of what happens in place. For us, I talk about education, but at the Harlem Children's Zone, it's not just education it is the whole community.

We took 97 blocks wide because place really matters. And in the places that we've had this systematic disinvestment for 50, 60 years, that you can't figure out one thing to make a difference.

Everybody tries to come up with a single solution—teenage pregnancy, it's the gang, it's the early education. You know what it is? It's all of that. You've got to work on all of that.

But let me tell you, what has, I think, stopped and prevented folks from taking this next logical step. It is complicated and it takes scale, which means this is not a single sort of service, and folks are afraid.

I'm worried that the Fed is going to do what I see public schools have done and this is it: They have had a system that they've had in place in these communities for—

I went to the schools in the South Bronx; it was more than 60 years ago. Those schools were failing then. They are failing right now. And what are they doing? Exactly the same thing.

Now, the strategies the Fed's using when it thinks about the Community Reinvestment Act and other things, is it actually accomplishing the goal or are you doing what public schools are doing? The same thing that is not delivering on the outcomes you have in mind.

I think that when we look at the work we're doing, it's not just what we're doing here in Harlem. People are doing this work, this comprehensive cradle-to-career work saying, "We've got to do these complicated strategies if we're really going to move people out of poverty."

They're doing that all around the country. They're doing that in rural America, in Berea, if you look at Kentucky. They're doing it in different cities. In Memphis, in Oakland, people are coming together and saying, "We've got to figure out how, as a community, we target and solve our own problems."

Let me tell you the missing equation. It's a public investment. They're doing this with private investment. We know that there are private folks putting up huge amounts of money to try and solve these problems in communities, but we don't have a significant public investment and we need that.

I think that one of the things that I would encourage, if we follow the science, if we see places that are really delivering results and we say, "What is it we can learn about those activities to scale them around the country?" I think we'll begin to tackle some of these places.

Raj Chetty's work—the economist from Harvard—he talked about place. He showed these places, these ZIP codes, these communities that you just haven't seen the same social and economic mobility that you've seen in the rest of America. We need targeted strategies for those places that will actually produce results in our country.

Ryssdal: Raj Chetty, of course, the economist who's done a lot of work on mobility and how fragile it can be. Carmen, I heard you nodding there. Is there something you wanted to add before I go to another question with you?

Rojas: No, I mean, I think that Geoffrey's focus on public investment is really important and somehow that has moved entirely off of the table. I understand the irony of being somebody who runs a national foundation and is often asked to make grants and to support initiatives in the education space or in the healthcare space, investments in things that I think should be a part of our core government fabric.

Somehow, philanthropy and individual donors with high incomes or with a lot of wealth are seen as the counter or as a substitute for a robust taxation system and then a robust social safety net, a robust democracy.

It strikes me. It's so funny. This is the first time that I get to be in conversation with Geoffrey and I'm really excited about it. I'm really moved and inspired by the tethering of what he has been able to build into a call for a need to actually use our public dollars in service of a universal public good.

Oftentimes, I think people can live just at the outcome, at the product that they've built, as opposed to looking at the context in which that product or service or good is delivered.

Ryssdal: Well, so look, I do not, repeat, not want to get political about this, but you cannot ignore the politics of this moment. And I have to ask you both, as you look at the politics of the moment, the fact that we're in a pandemic, the fact that relief talks have broken down, do you despair? How do you maintain hope in the face of that? And then Carmen, let's go to you first.

Rojas: Yeah, I'm going to go back to something that Angela said. I have been struck that in this moment we've had a healthcare crisis, environmental crisis if you live on the West Coast of the United States, we've had an economic crisis where upwards of 30 percent of Americans are no longer in the labor market or are struggling to make ends meet in this moment. And the animating force has been the fight for racial justice.

And so the thing that has actually gotten people onto the streets, that has made people want to protest that, again, on the West Coast of the United States and frankly, throughout the country, if the reporting is correct, the drive, the gasoline in this moment for social change was the collective belief that we have actually done a disservice to people of color, and specifically to Black people in this country, and that they deserve better and that it's our job, not only to witness the doing better, but to actually fight for them to have better lives in order for us to have a robust democracy.

And so, for me, I am excited, and I think this is a long fight. This is a very long fight. And I think we have the energy for it.

Ryssdal: Geoffrey, same question to you. As you look at this environment, if we need public dollars to do what has to be done in race in this economy, how do you look at that and not go, "Help!"?

Canada: Look, look, I'm angry about this, Kai. I think this is an absolute disgrace. We've seen the data or we know who didn't get the PPE. It was minority companies. We know the folks who are being laid off and not going back—and we saw, yes, some folks are going back into the employment market. But when you look at women, when you look at folks at the bottom end of the wage scale, they have not gotten their jobs. They are still unemployed. There's no way for them to pay their rent. We know the food lines across America rival what was going on in the Great Depression. It's not in the headlines anymore.

That's an absolute disgrace. The fact that we are prepared to allow huge numbers of our citizens to have no way to figure out if they're going to be able to pay their rent, if they're going to be able to get a job, and we're not taking that as an emergency in the midst of COVID, to me is an absolute disgrace.

So I'm angry about this. I think that the Congress and the president need to really act and take thing seriously. I don't believe that's happening right now. And I think the communities of color are being decimated. First of all, they were already decimated by COVID. They're the ones who are dying. When we hear these numbers of the additional people who are dying, those are going to be Black and brown folks by the hundreds of thousands that we're planning on their deaths in America, while folks are over there ignoring the plight of Americans who want to work, but can't figure out how to find childcare for their kids so they can get back in the labor market.

And most of their jobs are disappearing in front of their face. But I think this is a disgusting thing. This country has had plenty of investments in law and order. When you look at the criminal justice budgets of the federal government, they were totally prepared to spend hundreds of billions of dollars making sure there were jail cells for folks. We need to make sure that schools work and communities work so that we can rebuild the community infrastructure in this country. And I think right now this is a crisis and we're not taking it serious enough.

Ryssdal: Let me stay with you Geoffrey and ask you this question. How do you, as you're out and about in your community—and if we need public dollars to do this, which we all three of us agree that has to happen—how do you convince people to trust the government again to fight racism and to do what has to be done?

Canada: You know what, I think Angela, whom I've known for many years and just think she's one of the smartest people I know, I have so much respect for her. I think she said it. I think there is a new appreciation now about this issue of race. I think people are having conversations right now, but I think the disconnect is the private sector, the business communities having a set of conversation. I think they're disconnected from the public sector. I think businesses are saying, "What can we do?" But not like what can we do together with government to really make a difference?

And we know that all politicians respond to the business sector. They need money to run their campaigns. And so there's a different level of access folks in the business community have versus folks like me, who are out—and Carmen—we're out trying to do good in the world. And I think it's time for the business sector to start to demand a different kind of partnership, or that actually invest in solving problems and not just think that they're going to figure this all out on their own and we're going to do it with just corporate dollars or philanthropic dollars. We actually need to start talking about the kinds of investments at the scale that this country needs. No one has that kind of money except our federal government.

Ryssdal: Carmen, let me ask you [crosstalk]. Yeah, go ahead please. No, go ahead.

Rojas: Yeah, no, I want to actually take it to the next point, is that I actually think we need to have a true conversation about taxation. I think oftentimes we talk about the need for corporate leaders to step up in moments like this and use their bully pulpit, but really the one antidote to poverty is money. And the one that I feel like we have failed at as, I'll speak for myself, as a progressive movement, is actually to put taxation on the table truly and articulate taxes, not solely as sort of a bureaucratic system of somebody calling you and saying, "Hey, give me that money," but actually thinking more broadly.

And there are a set of economists today that have, I think, done a wonderful job in talking about how taxation should be thought about the ways that we collectively pool our resources together in service of a collective action and a collective good to pay for the types of schools that Geoffrey is describing, to pay for the type of infrastructure that Angela has described.

I think that right now we are asking for people in this country to imagine—with a whole host of services and products—to imagine a world where they can be better off, but where money is never ... and the redistribution of money ... is never on the table to address poverty. And I think it's a fool's errand that we ask people to do.

Taxation feels like the most robust and important conversation that we can be having. And to Angela's earlier point, this is a long time in the making. The dismantling, the hollowing out of our government. The suspicion that has been seeded in our government's ability to deliver on the public good is a long time in the making. But if we started today, we imagine a world today where we actually have taxes on the table as the thing that tethers us together, I feel like we start to have the type of country that both Geoffrey and I are working towards every day.

Ryssdal: I wonder though, and Carmen, let's stay with you, whether in this conversation where we say we need public money, or you say we need public money, whether or not letting corporate America off the hook. I imagine you go out there and you talk to CEOs and you can get in and see whoever you like running your foundation. What's the message you give them?

Rojas: Pay more taxes. I don't care about the statements, if I'm honest with you. I don't care about the hiring practices. All of that feels really symbolic and not like we're truly asking people to make a truly material commitment or investment into all of us. And you know, how does the saying go? You put your money where your mouth is. Put your money with your mouth is. If we believe in us, put your money where your mouth is and there's no, again, I realize the contradiction of running a private foundation who was seeded by UPS dollars in saying something like this.

And I'm animated by the idea that using this position, my using this position to actually put taxes on the table, you're right. People do take my calls. People do invite me to panels like this. And I think it's incumbent upon me to actually put on the table the things that are actually going to work to redistribute wealth to address poverty.

Canada: Can I just say one thing about what I think for corporate leaders? We've reached a point in time where I think we should be challenging them to use the data. Do they have the right representation at the highest levels? And I think when people look at the data, they look at the data. How many folks do we have at the lower levels in our business, but not how many folks we have at the decision-making levels, where the critical decisions are being made.

In this country, we have this long history of saying, "We can't find people for certain kinds of high-level jobs." I grew up—I'm old enough to remember when there were no Black quarterbacks. There was just a belief you couldn't find anybody who was smart enough to learn all the plays. There were no Black coaches. There were all these excuses. This is ... I'm talking recent history.

Now what happened? We turned out to find out was totally false. We could've found folks. We didn't have the desire to go out and say, "I demand. I demand that you fill those positions with a more diverse group of folks." And I think when businesses look at their corporate structure, they look at their boards, they look at their leadership. When you don't find the diversity that matches the America that Angela was talking about, you need to hold somebody accountable.

And the fact that they say, "I can't find somebody," I say replace that person with someone who can find somebody and you'll see that diversity really happen. I think there've been too many excuses for the lackluster performance of making our corporations in this country more diverse.

Ryssdal: All right. So we've got 8 or 10 minutes left, couple more. Carmen, I want you to think about what Angela Blackwell said. This idea of engaging our radical imaginations. You have the ear this morning, or this afternoon, depending on where you are, of three presidents of Federal Reserve Banks. Engage in radical imagination here. And tell me what you would like to see happen. An action step, a crazy idea. Take your pick. But not tax policy. We did that one already.

Rojas: I squeezed the juice. I squeezed the grain of sand ... squeezed the juice out of a grain of sand of tax policy. Look at me. I, like Angela, have been really fortunate to be on the Federal Reserve's Community Advisory Council, and we actually recently had a meeting. And I think the thing that is always striking to me is that there is a rich amount of data. That the Federal Reserve is the home of some of the key information necessary—to citizens in our economy, citizens in our democracy—to understand how people are living day to day in the labor market.

What's often missing is a historical context. And my hunch is always that that historical context might feel too political. So, a clear example: We just looked at a bunch of COVID data and the place of low-wage workers in the economy data. And at no point did we actually make the connection and say, "Low-wage workers of color are suffering in this economy because of a set of decisions, both on the corporate side and on the policy side," to Geoffrey's point.

Our political leaders have essentially abdicated their responsibility to provide the resources necessary for people to make it in this moment. And we have seen a set of billionaires get richer in this moment on the backs of low-wage working people. I think that the context of this data is really important. And when there is no context, Kai, what I think happens, it creates a little bit too much space for people to make conjecture where there isn't any so that we don't have to ask ourselves the hard questions about, for example, we have deemed a whole set of workers—overwhelmingly workers of color—as essential in this moment.

And they are the poorest workers, the workers with the least amount of benefits and protections, they have the least amount of opportunity and mobility in the labor market. I would love to see the Federal Reserve System tie a tighter knot with the data, both in the current context, but also in the historical making of both our labor market and our economy.

Ryssdal: Geoffrey Canada, your turn. Radical imagination. You're talking to the Fed. Go.

Canada: The first thing I would say is that the tools that the Fed has, are they really using them in the most creative way? You think about the Community Reinvestment Act; why aren't we encouraging banks to invest in things that might pay off in five or 10 years? That increasing the high school graduation rates, the college-going rates, where we know you're more likely to get a job. Why aren't we really incentivizing folks to think about these more complicated, comprehensives strategies in communities.

So that's one area that I would think: Let's follow the science! If it's not accomplishing what you thought, are there better ways of doing it? And should that be written into the way banks are evaluated when it comes to them meeting their CRA obligations? So that's the first thing. Here's the second thing.

Now I'm going to get in trouble with this. The Fed does interest rates. Great. They're keeping the economy booming, but guess who that's hurting? That's hurting my mother, who put her money in a savings account, thinking that she was going to make enough interest to live on. She cannot. She cannot. Now, what, is she going to go invest in stocks? She doesn't know about how to do that!

What's happening to the poorest people in this country? And if we are going to just say, "You know what, we've got one tool, it's a hammer, and we're going to hammer everything," and we don't think about the impact this is having on folks who are on the margins and living off of small amounts of money, what are we teaching younger people about investing their money if you don't go into the stock market?

You think it's a waste of time to put your money in a bank. Why would you do that? You're not getting anything for that money, and it's going on and on. Now, I'm not saying the Fed should change its plan for the whole country, but I'm saying can't we think more creatively about how banks handle things in savings for communities that have been underserved so that we encourage saving versus discouraging savings?

Now I'm not an economist, so don't ask me for what the answer to that is. I'm just saying, have we really thought about it? Did we really think that this was going to be a great thing for all of those poor people that we're trying to encourage the open banking accounts when they realize they're going to get nothing for saving money? Are we teaching them to risk their money in more risky things that they really don't have the sophistication to understand? Are we actually teaching them?

If we're going to force them into the market, are we actually teaching them about the market so they can make wise decisions? Are we prepared to sacrifice all of those people for the larger good, knowing that the poorest people are going to be the ones who are going to be hurt the most? So, no, I'm not an expert on interest rates or any of the rest of it. I just know the reality of what's happening in poor communities.

So many people are unbanked. They don't understand how this whole banking system works. And right now, we're teaching them that you're going to get nothing from putting your money in the bank because that's not really made to help you and sustain your life. So those are some of the areas I think we can do something about. And the one I think I do have an answer, we could be more creative in the CRA approach. The other, I don't have an answer. I just know what we're doing to a whole bunch of people in this country who don't have a savings plan that they believe is going to work for them over the long haul.

Ryssdal: I'll ask him in about a half an hour. In the three minutes we have left super quick answer from both of you. I want to pick up on what Raphael Bostic was noticing about Angela Blackwell's remarks, which is that she is amazingly optimistic in this moment. And Geoffrey Canada, first to you. You optimistic right now?

Canada: I am not optimistic in this moment. I am not. I think what I see coming in the communities I care about is a second wave of COVID that could kill hundreds of thousands of people. I'm seeing folks who don't understand where their jobs are coming from. I see a federal government, which despite what the Fed Chair said yesterday or the day before about needing another stimulus investment, there seems to be no indication that that's going to happen. And these folks are going to be basically allowed to starve and get evicted from their places.

So, do I believe there's a new awareness in this country about the issues of race? Yes. Do I see over the course of the next year anything that makes me feel optimistic, while kids are home, not in schools, really not learning, lots of kids still don't have devices or connectivity? I see us sowing the seeds of the next generation's inequality.

And I think with the country, look, we can act. It's not like we're hoping to. Tomorrow, we could decide to fix some of this stuff if we took it seriously and if we understood that this system right now, there's a certain portion of America that's about to be devastated unless we do something quickly and dramatically.

Ryssdal: Carmen Rojas, last word to you. You optimistic right now in this moment?

Rojas: I'm a natural optimist, Kai, and I'm holding everything that Geoffrey just said really close to my heart. Mostly because it's entirely true that people of color are, in the short term—if we continue on this path, if our policy leaders and corporate leaders continue to make the set of choices where wealth concentration is put above collective well-being—that our communities are going to suffer the most.

And I see this as a generational fight. I see ... my parents are immigrants that had middle school educations, came to this country, had a daughter who got a PhD from Berkeley. These fights and these moments invite us to think not just of the things that I am going to be able to build so that I can enjoy, but to think about the ways that we plant seeds for social movements, the way that we plant seeds for organizing, the way that we plant seeds for a new set of leaders who truly see all of us and our collective well-being as the core driving force for the things that they do.

So I hear Geoffrey, and I'm scared. I would be lying if I didn't say that the next five weeks are just really scary. It's a scary time for me and for us as a country. It won't be my motivation. It's thinking about the future that I know is possible for us and working towards that.

Ryssdal: Carmen Rojas is the president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Geoffrey Canada at the William Julius Wilson Foundation at the Harlem Children's Zone. Thank you both very much for your time. It was great. It was good conversation. I enjoyed it.

Canada: Thank you.

Rojas: Thank you.

Ryssdal: Okay, so I'm done for now. Over to Neel Kashkari at the Minneapolis Fed and conversation with Ursula Burns. Neel, you ready?

Neel Kashkari: I am. That was a great conversation Kai and Carmen and Jeffrey. Thank you so much. That was fantastic. Great to see all of you. It's my pleasure to introduce our next speaker, who I'm going to have a wonderful, I know, robust conversation with, Ursula Burns. The former chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation. Ursula has extensive international experience in large companies. One of my favorite things about Ursula's story is that she started at Xerox as an intern, and she literally worked her way up until she became CEO and chairman in 2009 and 2010 until 2017.

She also, for President Obama, she led the White House National Program on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. She provides a lot of leadership and council to community and education and nonprofit organizations. She's on numerous corporate boards, has won numerous awards. And my favorite, Ursula, which I discovered after you and I spoke when we were preparing for this, is that you have a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering, as do I.

Ursula Burns: Ah!

Kashkari: It's very good, very good to talk to a fellow engineer from time to time. Mostly I talked to economists. It's great to talk to engineers. Thank you for being with us this morning.

Burns: Very pleased to be here. Very pleased to be here, Neel.

Kashkari: Well, let me start by asking you a question, which is, the Federal Reserve was created by Congress in 1913. And I think it's safe to say that for 107 years, the Federal Reserve's basic posture was these issues of disparities, these issues of racism—not our job.

We're tasked with the U.S. economy as a whole. We look at the median. We look at the median for wage growth. We look at the median for the labor market. We look at the median for the economy. Why should the Fed care about racism in the economy and these disparate outcomes?

Burns: When I think about the statement that you just made, I actually gasped. I gasped with fear and a little bit of anger. And the fear is that if there is a belief that a large segment of the population living in the country that the Federal Reserve is charged to actually stimulate economically or to look over, that that large segment of the population is something that they cannot be interested in or it's not their job.

It's hard for me to understand whose job it would be therefore, right? Who is going to watch out for the citizens of this country? Not only the wealthy, but the poor? The median means absolutely nothing. There is no life there. There's not a life called the median. There are all these individuals that are added up to make America, and the Federal Reserve—as the economic policy instrument in this country— absolutely has to know, be passionate about, be interested in not just the wealthiest or the median, but all of the people.

And so when I heard that, I was like, "Wow, how can that be?" And then to actually believe that race is not an interesting part or a core part of the conversation of the Fed's policies, actually it embarrasses me because it denies history. It actually wipes history away. It doesn't incorporate into our lives every day, the history of Black people in this country. How we got here, how we even have a Federal Reserve, how we even have a country.

It is a requirement of all of the servants of the people, which Federal Reserves are the servants of the people, to actually understand the people, understand the history, and to actually serve the people. So I'm hoping that this idea that, "We're at the median and we're not into this race, we're not into this whole poverty thing. We're policy guys...."

I'm hoping that in this time—pandemic, George Floyd, Me Too, all of this stuff that's happening—that the Federal Reserve presidents actually realize that there are humans who live under the rule of their theories. And these humans have to be served; that they're there to serve these humans. And these humans are Black. They're women. They're rich. They're poor. They're all of us. And it's not an average. It's not a theory. It's not a piece of paper. It is ... there are lives. Three hundred and fifty million of us that you guys have to help.

Kashkari: Well, I think we have thousands of people watching this now and hundreds, if not more, from within the Federal Reserve System watching this. I think some people might say, "Well, that's really Congress's job. That's fiscal policy. Congress can tax. Congress can spend. The Fed should stay out of it. We just move interest rates up and down and we regulate banks." That's what they would say to you.

Burns: And I would say that I'm sure that you can live a life this way. I'm sure that it is possible to run an organization this way. You've been doing it for 107 years. I just think it is not appropriate at all. And I actually will go as far as it's not serving the people of this country. And that's what we need all of the congressmen, the president, the senators, all them, the judiciary, the Federal Reserve to look at the people of the country.

And I'm not only talking about the Black people or the poor people. I'm talking about all of the people and to actually have everywhere you go. So here you have a poor person. They go knock on the door of the president. The president's, "Not my job." Go talk to the Congress, knock on the door of the Congress, "That's not my job." Go talk to the Federal Reserve, knock on the door. Basically you go around and everyone is passing this big load of misery from one organization to the other.

And actually, at the end of the day, very little service. If what we have to do with the Federal Reserve and at Congress and at the executive branch and the judicial branch is to change the way it works, let's do that to make this a better nation. But to sit back and say, "Well, not my job. I was never asked to do this before," I think is ducking under a very ... the bar is really high. You don't even have to duck. You could just walk under it. I think it's important that we now think about really where we are as a country and where we are as a world.

And the pandemic has made it, I mean, it's taken all the clothes off. We are standing in the streets, bare and naked. And literally we have what we call essential workers. People that we call essential workers, which stuns me. These are essential workers that literally six months ago, nine months ago, we were fighting to not pay them a fair wage. We would say, "Ah, can't pay them that much money because it's going to unbalance the economy," or ....

I just think we have to actually rethink what we're doing. Totally. I don't believe—I've read a little bit about the Federal Reserve—I don't believe that you are as boxed in as you guys would say you are. You have a lot of freedom in thinking about how your economic policies, interest rates as well, would drive growth, more equity, and more inclusion.

That's what we need. I don't want you to become a senator. I don't want you to become a Congressman. I want you to use the tools at your hand to actually build and develop a more inclusive society. That's what it is. By the way, I am at the tip of this iceberg. I'm the 1 percent guy. I'm the guy that everybody says, the "they," but I will tell you without help, undeniably without help, that some of the policies the Federal Reserve put in place 60 years ago that helped to trickle down to reach me, I wouldn't be here.

So being creative about the tools that you have to build a more inclusive society is what we need the Federal Reserve to do. One of the things, it's not the only thing, but it's one of the things that we need the Federal Reserve, governors, president to do. Otherwise, I just say really, let's open up the book and we'll start reading passages from the book of what to do. We have this, read the passage; tighten money. We are no longer in that space. We are no longer here. We have 350 million people. We have seven and a half billion people in the world, and we are clearly cruising in a not so great direction. And so we need everybody to look hard at all the tools in their basket and use them to help to improve business, to help to improve commerce, to help to improve people's lives. That's what it's all about.

Kashkari: So let me shift, and I appreciate those comments. Let me shift, because you touched on your own career and the success that you've earned and enjoyed throughout your career. When you look at your success, as an African American woman, starting at Xerox in 1980 as an intern ... you know, The Wall Street Journal had an article a week or two ago about the lack of progress in black CEOs in Fortune 500, they profiled you as one of the few success stories. Looking back at your career, why haven't we made more progress in African Americans taking these senior leadership positions, and how were you able to, and what do we need to do now?

Burns: So I'm going to be really blunt.

Kashkari: Please.

Burns: And I'm going to kind of cut to the chase: racism and supremacy. There is no doubt that we have more than four African American people in the country who can run one of the Fortune 500 companies. There's no doubt about that. There's no doubt that we have more than 30 people who are women who can do it. But I just gave you the numbers of 500—the largest companies in the America, it's not even in the world—and we can only find four. What we've done is we've built a system, I say this a lot, where the field.... Here's the way that we compete: the playing field is defined by a whole bunch of white guys. The referees are the white guys. The rules of the game are written by a whole bunch of white guys.

The reward system and the judges, for every step, is a whole bunch of white guys. We then say to the rest of the world, women and African Americans and Latinos, "Come into this place. Don't worry, it's fair, it's equal. We've designed it for everyone. Come in and play in this field where I define the rules, I define the field of play, I define everything, I even judge your success." And we contort—Blacks and women contort ourselves, to fit here, we do. And we just can't continually contort enough to be a white guy. We try as best as we can, but we can't quite get there. And the reason why we have so little.... You know, in the earlier part, I listened to a little bit of Geoff Canada say that for a long time, the NFL said, "No black quarterbacks, because the talent is not there. No black coaches, because the talent is not there."

I heard a long time in California—no Black board, no women board members, because they got a lot in Europe, no women board members. Guess what happens? When you force people to actually do what they should be doing all along, which is to look and to open up their aperture, you find talent. The reason why we haven't been able to do that right now, so far, is because there has been no driving, compelling reason for people who have the power to give it up. They don't own it. They act like they own it, but they don't, but they have it. So they fight like hell to keep it, right? And there's not an individual CEO I know, most of them, who would say that they're fighting to keep it. They're not racist. They're not outwardly saying, "Let's keep these guys out." But they're building a system that structurally keeps them out and then says, "Oh, we can't find them."

We have to be, I say this a lot, affirmative. The Fed has to be affirmative when they think about inclusion and equity in their policies of the people who are not represented. Companies have to be affirmative when they think about how they're going to attract, retain, and develop African Americans and women to be in leadership positions. We have to be affirmative when we actually try to hire board members. Another thing, look at the board members of, forget the CEOs, the boards of a lot of these companies have zero diversity. So we have to think differently about what we consider to be fair. Racism and supremacy is built structurally into the United States of America, by the way, sexism as well. And we have to literally be active about thinking about ways to undo it. I don't mean that we have to go around and wipe out all the white guys, that's not what we're talking about. What I'm talking about is being fair and being inclusive, and being balanced. And we have to actually think about that, and it's not just going to happen. We have to be affirmative in our approach.

Kashkari: That's very powerful and persuasive, one of the things that makes me think of, you're not saying, I've had people say to me, "We need to end racism." And I say to them, "I don't know how to end racism." Right? There's been racism in this country for hundreds of years. There's probably going to be racism in this country at some level for the foreseeable future. But I think you're saying there are policies that can close the gaps, while we try to end racism. Is that right?

Burns: Absolutely. See, there is this soulful thing that, I so agree with what you just said. This idea about you can't end racism. We have to get these guys to agree that it's a bad.... Here's what I said when I was running Xerox, and when I was running VEON after that: "Your beliefs, you can check them at the door." When you walk into the company that has a set of values that we espouse to—diverse, equity, inclusion, fairness, sustainability, all of these things that every company says—check your beliefs at the door, if they are contrary to the way that we run this company. And if you hate it that much, leave. Because here's the deal: I can't get into your brain and kind of reprogram it. I would like to be able to do that. That's like, you can't get into mine and reprogram it. But I can't do that. I want your behaviors and your acts, when you get paid by my shareholder dollars, to act the way that the company that is paying you says that you should act.

And so, I don't want you to believe that women are equal to men. I think that they are, but if you don't want to believe it, fine. But when you walk in, you're going to act it. That's kind of hard to do, right? And then what has happened a lot, is that we have to put in place things like quotas. We did that in Europe, we're doing it now in California, to actually overcome the dissonance between what you believe and what you are told you have to do, what you're told is right to do. And so I think if we have to get there, that's what we have to get. I'm not asking to change everybody's mind, is too hard a journey. I think over time, we may get there, but right now I just want to alter your behaviors. I want to alter your selection process. I want you to act the way we pay you to act when you walk inside this company.

Kashkari: But where do shareholders fit into this? Because shareholders may say, "Hey, your job as CEO, your job as the board of directors, is to maximize shareholder value for us this quarter, next quarter, next year. And these other things sound good, but they may not maximize my shareholder value in the short term." What about that potential disconnect?

Burns: By the way, for years that has been a very loud and clear disconnect. Not as verbally against things, but for one thing. It wasn't against everything else, but it was very clear that there was one thing, and one thing only that counted. The top one, two, three, to 10, was maximizing shareholder value. I think that this started with the environment where we started to realize, shareholders started to realize, that that mantra alone was not a good guiding post for business leaders. That you could actually have great shareholder value and destroy the planet. And literally we started to realize that, right? So you get all of the stuff, you get all the plastics in the ocean, and all the pollutants in the air, got it. So shareholders have now started to realize that there are more than just them in this cadre of things that companies have to worry about, that CEOs have to worry about. It's called stakeholders, right?

You have to have employees that are reasonable. Social media and technology makes this easy now, to start checking on whether things are actually working well. You know, here's my policy here's what the employees feel? It's really important that we take advantage of the time that we're in, which is a reckoning by shareholders, by CEOs, that this marriage of these two, alone, is not a marriage that's going to be sustainable for business. And so we're starting to see—the BRT did it last year, came out with their, no we have this stakeholder thing, not the shareholder thing. Employees are saying it. I'm choosing to work for companies that have more to do with not just the shareholder, but with stakeholders as well, but communities and consumers are doing it. It's going to be hard to turn this tide.

The tide is moving towards, "We have to do business, do good business, well." Right? We have to do both things. We can't tear down the forest and build a whole bunch of houses and leave ourselves barren. So we have to literally be able to nurture all of the cycles, right? All of the interested parties in this equation, for the world to be better for business to do really good business. It turns out, Neel, it's not hard. You know, and this is a great thing. Companies realize, it may take us a while to get there. You may not be able to get to zero carbon emissions in one day, but we're on a clear path, where if you put your mind to it and apply technology to it, apply good, smart people to it, good practices to it, you can actually make progress.

And that's what we're asking all companies to do now. More and more stakeholders are watching business leaders, CEOs, and boards, and saying, "You have more responsibility than just giving me a dollar." Vanguard, the rating agencies, all of them are now starting to include ESG metrics into what is a good business. And we still have a long way to go. I mean, long way to go. And we could very easily slide back, very easily. Because we're at the bottom of a very steep hill, so a little bit will push us way back. But I think that we're at a time now, particularly because we're all kind of so reflective right about now, not only about national politics, but global politics, about this pandemic, about just people in general. I think this is a time that we're starting to see a huge amount of wind at people's backs, who've been screaming for a long time, "We have to have a better equation here." Be more inclusive.

Kashkari: Speaking of that, Kai asked Carmen and Geoffrey if they were optimistic or pessimistic. I'm going to ask you the same thing, but with this context: George Floyd was killed here in Minneapolis, that's actually what triggered me reaching out to Raphael and Eric at the Atlanta and Boston Feds, to work together on this series, to see what contribution we could play. On one hand, I feel optimistic because there are so many people now saying we have to confront this, we have to take this on. At the same time, I remember when Rodney King was beaten and the whole nation was up in arms watching the terrible beating of Rodney King, and the riots that followed, and then nothing happened. And I'm curious as you think about your life and your career and everything you've seen, where are we, and are you optimistic or pessimistic?

Burns: I am a naturally near-term pessimist, long-term optimist. But I will say that this is my life. I always wake up in the morning and think that something bad is going to happen today and I work like hell to make sure it doesn't happen. I mean, even when it comes to my family, I'm like, "Oh my God, is everybody okay?" I am very optimistic for the long term. And let me tell you what I mean by this. If my optimism turns out to not be true, not be merited, not be warranted, then I think that we're in unbelievable trouble, as a nation and as a world. I always say that I don't believe that we're stupid as creatures, right? Think about what we have in the world; we're not stupid as creatures.

We generally course-correct. Sometimes it takes us a while, but we generally course-correct. We have 7 billion of us, more than 7 billion of us, alive and living. We have 300 million, 350 million, in this country alone. And we don't every day go out in the streets fighting each other. I am generally optimistic that we figure out a way to do better, to do better every day, and I know that's one. Number two, this is not a zero-sum world or country. I say this all the time. The politics of today is preaching the zero-sum mentality. If somebody else gets something, if somebody who's brown or Black gets something, somebody who's white and poor lost something. We know that that's not the case. I mean, we're living in a time that proves every single day that it's not zero-sum, right?

That we're smart, that we are adaptable and adjustable, that fundamentally we care about each other, reasonably well enough to at least live, and that fundamentally we have good sense. So I think that we are at a point different than when Rodney King was killed, because right now we have technology that allows you to manipulate negatively. If you want to do that, which we found that, but also communicate broadly and widely and build coalitions. And just as many negative coalitions as you can build, we build positive ones and show good stories. We have technology that's helping us to cure disease, get food places, we have all the things that are there. We have this pandemic that has caused even the roughest of us to step back and go, "Wow, we need the guy who's on the bike, who delivers food. We need the person who's checking us out, who we didn't pay any attention to. I need a janitor in my building. I need a frigging doorman. I need everything."

So I think we're at a time where if we let this escape us, then we have no chance for the future. And I don't think that we have proven, ever in our past, that we as humans—definitely not as Americans—are willing to chuck everything when we don't have to. And so I'm very optimistic that we'll act again like smart humans—inclusive, equitable, reasonable humans. And I'm hoping like hell that happens. I'm not going to get into politics, because it's not my job here. But I think it's really important that we actually think about that when we elect a leader for the future, what do we need in that leader. And economic policy—you guys do it.

What is it? International approach, do it. We need to build a nation back together, which we have absolutely fractured pretty dramatically. Not only all our doing, not all of our doing, some of it, external forces. But we absolutely have to build a nation together. I have never been in a place, my 60 years on the earth, where I've seen even, even when I was a kid, when racism was blatant, I've never seen as much negative discourse about each other. About each other. Literally, states against states, Democrats against Republicans. We are American first, and we better get back to that, acting like that. We can fight, like my mother used to say, "You can fight with your family inside your house. When you walk outside your house, you band together and take on the enemy." We have to do that.

And the enemy is not us. Inside of our house, we're not the enemy. We are the coalition for the greatness of America, the coalition for the progress of the world, we're the coalition for good. And we have to actually act like that. And the Fed has to help—can't sit back and look at your books, can't sit back and write these little theory papers. By the way, I know you have to do all of that, because that's what we think of you doing. Spend at least 50 percent of your time looking at the people. Fifty percent of your time looking at, not only the rich guys who live in your neighborhoods, but look at the poor guys. Don't turn right when you leave your building and go to the nice neighborhood, turn left and walk a little bit and see how the rest of the world is living. I don't want you to necessarily live here, but I want you to actually understand that there are people who do live there and need help. And that you have to think about that when you run your organizations and you set monetary policy for this country.

Kashkari: Ursula, this was a fantastic discussion, as I knew it would be. We could go for another 30 minutes. Unfortunately, we are at our time. I just want to, on behalf of Raphael, Eric, and myself, thank you for being with us. We really appreciate it. And I want to turn it now over to Kai.

Burns: Thank you.

Ryssdal: Neel, thanks a lot. Miss Burns, thank you so much. Tell you what, there was a lot in there and I hope you guys are ready because there's a lot of stuff to talk about. And I'm going to dig right in. So let me introduce the panel, just to make sure everybody knows who's who. Neel Kashkari at the Minneapolis Fed, Raphael Bostic at Atlanta, and Eric Rosengren from Boston. Thank you for giving us your time and thank you for letting me ask you the questions. And the first one has to be, and Neel, I'll go with you because you were on the hot seat with her. She is not having it with the Fed, man. What's your gut reaction?

Kashkari: I think she's right. I mean, the reason that we're having this series, with Atlanta and Boston and Minneapolis coming together, is because I think we recognize we have a role to play and it's not okay for us just to say, "Hey, it's somebody else's problem. Hey, we're looking at the medians." We have to look at what role we can play to try to improve outcomes for all Americans, because we are here to work on behalf of all Americans. So I think she's exactly right.

Ryssdal: Raphael Bostic, same question to you. In light of the essay you wrote earlier this summer, and what Geoffrey Canada had to say, and Ursula letting fly on the Fed. What are your gut reactions?

Bostic: I totally agree with her as well. I have to say, when I first started this job, I had started leaning into this issue that the Fed needed to care about the full distribution of our population. And that there were people who were not connected to the economy, they weren't producing as much, they weren't contributing, and our economy was smaller than it should have been. When I started, people were a little nervous I was talking about this. But when I was out talking to regular people, they all got that. And they all had in their head that we're supposed to serve everyone. So I'm glad that she feels so energetically about it, but I'm also right with Neel. You know, I think this is a time for us to not shy away, but we need to step forward and be present in this conversation and own that we have a role to play.

Ryssdal: Eric Rosengren, I'm going to stipulate that you agree with your colleagues and if you don't please speak up. But to Raphael's point, how do you ... yeah, go ahead, speak up; let me know how that goes. How do you address this concretely, right? Because both Geoffrey Canada and Carmen Rojas, and now Ursula Burns, are holding your feet to the fire a little bit.

Eric Rosengren: Yeah. So first we have to listen more, and I think this actually is an attempt to be listening more. I think when we're talking about the Fed strategy statement, we made a concrete effort to make sure that we reached out to communities that we hadn't. And so I think this is part of a process where the Fed really does get a better understanding of the full distribution and how everybody's being affected by our policies. I would tee up a couple things that Geoffrey actually raised. One is, place matters. So different places are in different situations. And I think the pandemic has really highlighted that. So I think it's really important for us to understand how different geographies, and different places within the economy, are impacted so differently. The second is, I don't think that employers just have to think about their boards. I think we have to think about the quality of work and how our workers are actually being treated, particularly at the lowest end of the distribution.

So people—a number of panelists have talked about essential workers. I think it's critically important to think differently about how those people, in all our companies, are being treated. That can be, do we have the appropriate work schedules? Can you have appropriate daycare? One of the things that pandemic has really highlighted, is that many women have to be taking care of their children at the same time that they're trying to work. That means many of them are pulling out of the workforce at a time when they shouldn't be, and we don't want them to. So for long-run productivity in the economy, we have to think about quality of work more. And then the third thing I would highlight is risk. Geoffrey really highlighted the importance of risk. So thinking about the distributional consequences over the cycle is a critical aspect of thinking about who is actually hurt in economic downturns.

A number of panelists have highlighted that it is minorities. It is low-income individuals. It is frequently young people. It is frequently women. And I think on all those dimensions, we need to give more thought to how these economic downturns affect those people.

Ryssdal: Let me get the social media thing in here, right at the beginning. The hashtag is #racismandtheeconomy. Tweet it at us and we'll get some questions if we can. I can't have this conversation with the three of you, and I want to stay as apolitical about this as I can. But obviously in the last 24 hours, the prospects of fiscal relief of this economy have been torpedoed. And I think it's not unreasonable to think that it will go beyond the election and perhaps into January before anything happens. And given that, as we've talked about this morning, the people who've been hurt by this pandemic and the recession that came with it are the exact people we're talking about today. Raphael Bostic, let me start with you. How do we use the powers of the Fed and the creativity that Geoffrey Canada was talking about, to make up the gap? And look, I heard Neel say, "It's not really our job." Well, you imputed that it's not really your job. But look, Congress and the president are out, and you guys are it.

Bostic: So, first of all, I don't think Neel said it's not our job—

Ryssdal: You're right. I'm sorry.

Bostic: Just want to step up for my colleague on that.

Kashkari: Thank you. Thank you, Raphael.

Bostic: I'm there for you. But the other thing I would say is, there are really two ways to go. One, I think it's important for us to not give up on the legislative and executive branches. We talk to them all the time. I have relationships with the folks from my district. I tell them about what I'm seeing and where there are challenges. And I impress upon them that if things don't happen in terms of offering relief, bad things are going to happen in those communities. And we've got to continue to say that. And hopefully that will trigger some attention and action before those bad things start to realize themselves.

But the second thing is, we actually have some knowledge about what's happening. We have experts and networks of our own that can help local governments and communities move forward. I'm talking to a lot of folks at the state and local level, trying to give them a sense of what can happen. And I've deployed my staff very much into our region to try to find out and learn what's happening, and then try to help them find solutions.

And then one last thing I would say is, I think it was Carmen who was talking about data and the stuff that we were doing. We've actually stood up a survey, during the pandemic, of lower-income communities so we can chronicle what's going on and try to get ahead of some of the problems that people think are emerging, both in terms of the things that we do and the types of advice we can offer, but also in talking to philanthropy and others, including the private sector, who can also contribute.

So I really view this as a multidimensional, multipronged approach. Certainly the federal government and its contribution is a super important in this, but we can't just stand by and wait and hope. There are other things we have to do.

Ryssdal: Neel, let me go to you. And first of all, mea culpa. I didn't mean to put words in your mouth.

Kashkari: It's okay.

Ryssdal: There—

Kashkari: Can I add one thing? Kai, can I add one thing?

Ryssdal: Yeah, of course.

Kashkari: To what Raphael was saying. I agree with everything Raphael said, but let's be clear: expanding QE is no substitute for extended unemployment benefits. If you can't pay your rent, what is the Fed doing more QE going to do for you? So there are things the Fed can do to support the economy as a whole, but we cannot put money in pockets of people who've lost their jobs. Only Congress can do that.

Ryssdal: I want to get back to that in a second, but I want to dig into the data thing and the get creative with it and use the data thing that Carmen, Raphael were talking about. There's actually an institute at the Minneapolis Fed, right? Devoted to inequality research. Talk about that a little bit, because I'm not sure if people are aware.

Kashkari: Yeah. So when I moved to the Minneapolis Fed, I was surprised by the disparities that Minnesota has, these terrible economic disparities, racial disparities. And I asked our economists to help me understand why they're there and what's been done. And I'll be honest with you, I got very few good answers. And I know that there were people around the Federal Reserve System doing work, but there was no organized center saying, "Hey, let's focus on understanding these economic disparities, and let's try to identify tools and solutions to close these gaps." Whether they're tools the Fed controls, or other policymakers could control. So we launched the center, the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute. Now, in its third year, it's doing great work, and it's working with colleagues all around the Federal Reserve System, to bring our research capability, to bear on these problems.

And then if we can arm state legislators, or the federal Congress with data and analysis, that's nonpolitical, nonpartisan, then potentially they could take it from there. So we think that research—I know Eric and Raphael would agree with this—we believe that research is an important contribution we can make. Whether or not we have the direct levers to implement it is a different matter.

Ryssdal: Eric Rosengren in Boston, to whom do you deliver that research? You obviously have your own staffs. What do you do with it once you get it?

Rosengren: So I think that's an important question; I think it's very important. First of all, I think it was Geoffrey who highlighted follow the science, or follow the data. And I think it's really important to understand what the data is telling us. So in almost any macroeconomic or microeconomics study, we put in variables that take into account race and income. And there's a reason for that, because they're important determinants of economic relationships. So whether you're looking at wages or unemployment or many of the social issues, there is very much a very racial and social component to that. I think it's incumbent on the Fed to highlight those issues and then think about policies that could actually change the outcomes. Let me just give one example. So Angela gave an example of the importance of finance, and I do think that, particularly given what's happened to our economy, rebuilding our economy means that we really need to get finance into the right places.

I think one example where that has not happened historically and continues to not happen is in housing finance, where ability to get a loan, and the cost of that loan, has been shown systematically in numerous studies, including at the Boston Fed, that African Americans tend to have more difficulty getting the credit and pay much higher cost for it. Now we did a study 30 years ago that highlighted all the things that were included in the data, and found that only race could describe the disparities. I would say today, we are putting up a new study on mortgage prepayment, race, and monetary policy that highlights that African Americans did not benefit from the monetary policy easing as much as others, because they don't refinance as often. And so I think we need to continue to bring out the data, look at those patterns and ask, Is there anything we can do with our regulations or monetary policy to alter some of those outcomes?

Ryssdal: Raphael, I want to [crosstalk]—

Bostic: [crosstalk]

Ryssdal: Sorry.

Bostic: Jump in here because—

Ryssdal: Yeah, of course.

Bostic: You know, one of my economists actually worked on that study and it's actually a really good piece and we should probably try to get that to you at some point. But I also want to say that when you get information like that, certainly you can go to policymakers and try to get regulations changed, or get some legislation , or put in front of them and really offer a range of possible outcomes. The other thing that is important, though, is to get that information in the hands of consumers. One thing that has struck me for a long time, and I think a number of our speakers today talked about this, is that the knowledge and the familiarity with the financial system in African American communities and in other minority communities and among low-income households is very low. So in that study, for example, they show that the day that the Fed said we were going to buy mortgage-backed securities, white homeowners refinanced at a very high level, whereas Black homeowners didn't refinance hardly at all. And that gap became extremely wide.

That's about familiarity and sophistication. So one of the things that we've invested in, and I know that the System is doing this more broadly, is trying to get information in the hands of consumers so that when they have resources, they can use them and make decisions that make the most of them and place them in a stronger position. So that's an important other aspect of this. We actually have to talk to regular people and really help them understand the world better.

Ryssdal: Well, let me follow up with you on that one. We've had you on Marketplace a couple or three times in the past year or so, and every time I say, "So what are you hearing?" And you say, "Well, I was out talking to businesses in Alabama or Tennessee" or whatever. Give me an example. What are those conversations like? What was the last conversation you had with a person running a small business in this economy?

Bostic: Well, the last conversation I had was actually just yesterday, and I was talking to a businessperson who said, "I'm a small business. I've been trying to hold on as long as I can. I've been very, very stressed. I feel like I've been creative as much as I can, but there's only so much I can do." And this is a type of message that we're hearing, that I'm hearing because I know my colleagues are hearing very similar things, and is one of the reasons why there's such an urgency on our part. They have tremendous urgency and I want to make sure I'm true to them in projecting that urgency to the policymakers.

I actually think Neel is exactly right. We have some authorities in some things we can do. There tend to be less directed in what is possible. So if you can get the right tool targeted and aimed at the right problem, you can solve that problem and make a lot of progress. We've talked a lot about this. This virus has really created a huge split in terms of experiences, and many of the disparities that we had before are actually getting worse. I actually think it's important that we do things to prevent that from happening.

Ryssdal: Hey, Neel, I wonder if the Federal Reserve maybe has a public relations problem, because Chair Powell goes out every, whatever it is, six to eight weeks, and does his press conference and the headlines are whatever they are. And you guys are beavering away in the regional Banks without a lot of attention paid to it, which is part of the reason we're doing this. But I wonder what you think about that as you sit around the big table at the Fed building in Washington.

Kashkari: Well, there's no question that monetary policy, let's say—the thing that gets the most attention of what we do, the core—is very technical and it's a confusing thing and most people, maybe they hear about it in the news that the Fed raised rates or the Fed cut rates. I don't think it's realistic to think that every man or woman on the street is going to know the details about what the Minneapolis Fed is doing or what the Federal Reserve is doing. So we actually have a strategy here of thinking about how do we reach more of the informed public, the people who are interested in these topics—we have more of a shot.

Probably your listeners on Marketplace, we have more of a shot at reaching them and keeping them up to speed on the things that we're looking at. But you're right. I think, generally speaking, people have an impression, a vague impression, about government institutions for better or for worse and especially institution. They may know the post office because they go to the post office, but for the Federal Reserve, it's pretty amorphous, despite the fact that we're all working very hard to be more transparent.

Ryssdal: Eric Rosengren in Boston, let me get you to a couple of technical points, because we're getting a lot of these three questions. So we've got some Fed watchers obviously watching. A lot of questions about full employment and what the Fed has planned or has been talking about as you guys address full employment, as you think about your new structure on inflation and how that's going to play out in this economy that is still, as the Chair said yesterday, very fragile.

Rosengren: So I think we've just changed, in the last statement, the way that we're going to respond during the recovery. I think that's actually quite important. In the past, in the recovery, we would tend to start raising rates relatively quickly. I think that our new policy is that we're going to be much more patient before raising rates, with the purpose of getting our 2 percent inflation and getting to maximum employment. So I think those are critically important, but I would say that I think it's important for the Fed to think about what the unemployment rate is through the entire cycle, because African Americans and many minorities, while they were brought in during the good times, also are disproportionately affected during the bad times. So moderating that cycle is a critical component of what we need to be thinking about as well.

Ryssdal: Okay. So staying with you, Eric, here comes the put up or shut up question. As Chair Powell talks about all the time, it was only in the last stages of the most recent recovery that low-wage workers, many of whom are minorities and others who are neglected in this economy, it was only then that they started seeing the benefits. Is what I'm hearing you say that, "Listen, we're going to do what we can, but monetary policy can only pull up from the bottom so much"?

Rosengren: I think monetary policy is a very important tool. It's not the only tool, as Neel highlighted earlier. So there are many aspects that fiscal policy can do that monetary policy can't. We can't give grants to individuals. We can't give grants to businesses. So that's why during a pandemic, where we have very high unemployment and where interest rates are already close to zero across the board, that it really is the responsibility of the fiscal government to do more. There was a lot of discussion about infrastructure. I think we need to think much more about infrastructure. It's kind of a topic that's gotten lost over the last few years. But having access to healthcare, having access to education, having access to many of the aspects that came up in this panel has profound effects to different groups. I think you see it in the wealth gaps that we see. So it's really an agglomeration of all these other effects that start showing themselves in the differences in wealth.

Ryssdal: Raphael, I'm going to channel my inner Geoffrey Canada here and say, "I don't care that this is what you usually do. Do something better. Get more creative." That was his last answer. Get more creative. What does that look like as you sit at the Atlanta Fed?

Bostic: Well, to be fair, I think we heard that from Angela as well. The "think outside the box" and really push the envelope, and Ursula in addition. When I think about what creativity means, I think it's really, think about ways that we can touch different parts of the economy in new ways. I think about things that we're doing. This series, I think is a creative thing. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of the Fed talking about race. And I think about the CRA, the Community Reinvestment Act, and ways that we might really energize that to think and provide incentives for banks and financial institutions to invest in places that are of need and in a more creative way. I actually think about some of the research that we're doing and some of the efforts that have been going on. In my Bank, we've been talking a lot about the benefits cliff—the idea that for people who are getting support, if you get one extra dollar of wages, you may lose three or four dollars in supports. So you'll be worse off by trying to make yourself better off.

We've got to think about, how do we lean in to a number of areas that we may not actually have the specific authorities or policies that drive it, but we have information. We have ways of thinking about it that are important. And moreover, I do think that this point that Neel and Ursula had in their first conversation about the Fed signaling with its behavior and its actions, that we actually believe that we represent all Americans. I think that's incredibly critical and it will, I have a great deal of confidence because it's happening already, lead us to be brought into a different set of conversations, and that'll also give us new opportunities to influence the trajectory of the economy.

Ryssdal: Neel, on that idea of the Fed being in different conversations, there is a question from the audience that has been asked widely the last number of months and years. What is the Federal Reserve doing in-house, internally, to hire more people of color, more women, train, retain and promote them? Because that is, as we all know, the product you're going to get depends on the people you have.

Kashkari: Yeah, I totally agree. I think leaders across the Federal Reserve and all the Banks and at the Board of Governors believe in that and are committed to it. I can speak in detail about what we're doing in Minneapolis. I'll tell you, when I got here January 2016, I had a report from some consultants on my desk saying, "You have a problem with diversity and inclusion at the Minneapolis Fed." They had surveyed our workers, and women of color felt particularly excluded at the Minneapolis Fed. So I had a meeting with the women of color, was supposed to be an hour. It went two hours and they let me have it about what their experience was like, and I appreciate them for speaking up. We've made a whole host of changes and have worked really hard on the recruiting end to make sure that we have a much wider pipeline.

I'm proud to say that we have about 60 officers in our Bank of about 1,100 employees. We've doubled the diversity of our officer corps in the four-and-a-half years that I've been here, from around 12 percent to around 25 percent. That now reflects the diversity of the Metro area that we are recruiting from. Every single person that we have hired, I can commit to you, we've hired the very best talent available, but we have worked harder on the front end to cast a wider net. Now, it's funny. Word is out, I think, that the Minneapolis fed is an attractive place for all types of folks to want to work at. Now, we're getting ... it's a feedback loop. Now, we're getting more really top talented people of all races are saying, "Hey, I want to go work there." So, you can do it. You can absolutely diversify, but it takes concerted effort from the leadership team.

Ryssdal: Eric Rosengren, this may not be a fair question to ask you, but you're here and Chair Powell is not. So I'd like you to speak to this issue at the broader level of the Federal Reserve generally, and at headquarters.

Rosengren: So I think across the Reserve Bank System and the Federal Reserve System, we've made a fair amount of progress, but we have a long way to go. So, if you look across the Federal Reserve presidents, Raphael is the only African American. So obviously, we have room to improve and I think that's true in our boards. I think that's true in our organizations, but I would say that we've made a lot of progress. I think it has been a concerted effort throughout the Federal Reserve System, including at the Board of Governors, to make sure that diversity and inclusion is given a lot more attention through all our hiring practices and at all levels, I would highlight as well.

So in the Federal Reserve, frequently we're hiring later in people's career. We're not just hiring people straight out of college. I think we're being much more inclusive than we ever were as we're thinking about the hiring practices. I think Neel hit it on the head. It requires leadership and the desire of leaders to make a change, and I think you're seeing that within the Federal Reserve.

Ryssdal: Now, let me get through a couple of technical questions for you coming in from the audience, but also based on what Angela Glover Blackwell was talking about. The first one is the wage and wealth disparity between Black Americans and white Americans in this economy. If you had all the power of the Federal Reserve vested in you right now, what could you do about it? [crosstalk] Raphael, actually. Sorry.

Kashkari: Okay. Thank you.

Bostic: Yeah, I thought that was going to me since I wasn't on the last two.

Kashkari: Yeah.

Bostic: I would really think about this as a two-pronged issue. We have sort of a long-term pipeline issue around the skills that people get, their access to good schools and good training, so that from a generational perspective, we start to break that cycle that we've had for so many years, where if you're born in particular neighborhoods, your hope of getting skills that would move you out of your income level is extremely low. So we have to do that, but we also have a today problem. We've got generations of people who are working right now. I'm actually talking much more on the income space than on the wealth space. The wealth issue is it's going to be a longer-term issue, absent something like a reparation scheme, which could make a difference there, but I think that will take some time to accomplish if we were to go that route.

But in today's world, we have lots of workers who have sort of come up through not so good school districts and school systems who don't have skills that are going to make them attractive for the jobs of tomorrow. So we've got to think about what kind of institutions there are that we can put in place to help them. So we've just started a partnership with the Markle Foundation, where we're going to try to stand up some of these institutions in local communities to try to change the muscle of the pipelines for a skill-building at a local level, and hopefully reach a bunch of people who may not have thought that they could be getting good wages and having solid job prospects. So to me, I think this is really a dual effort, and our Bank—and the System, more broadly—is trying to push on both those dimensions.

Ryssdal: Neel, this is a little bit of a retrospective question, so I don't know that there's actually a tangible thing that you can reply that the Fed's going to do. But Angela talked about repairing the harm, and she talked about reparations a little bit and what could be done. I don't imagine the Federal Reserve has tools that will be retrospective, and that what will we have to do now is accept where we are and move forward in good faith.

Kashkari: Yeah, I think that's right. We have to start by not letting the problem get bigger. The wealth disparities is the accumulation of income disparities over many generations. And right now, the income disparities are still huge. So that means the next generation's wealth disparities are going to be even bigger. So here in Minneapolis, one of the things that we're doing a lot of work on is on education reform. Even though we don't set education policy, education is so important to labor market outcomes. If we can help state and local leaders advance education policies that close the education gaps in Minnesota, that will then lead to closing income gaps. Then, after you close income gaps, then you can at least press pause on the expanding wealth gaps. So right now, if we can make progress in stopping the expansion of these gaps, I think that that would be an important step forward. But these are hard problems to solve.

Ryssdal: They are hard. And Eric Rosengren in Boston, it occurs to me that what is required here is patience at a moment when maybe people are running out of patience?

Rosengren: Just to follow up on what Neel just said: When you see disparities in public health, when you see disparities in education, when you see disparities in employment, and you see disparities in housing, of course you're going to see the disparities in wealth, as well. Those disparities in wealth are reflecting the disparities that you're seeing in all these other areas and it accumulates in a way that's quite significant. So I think we have to think about this much more holistically. It's not just pulling on one of these strands.

In fact, we're going to be talking about each of these strands in some of the follow-on discussions that we're planning on having, so that we can dig deeper into each of these, because we do have to think about it as a whole. And you can't just solve, for example, the wealth gap without addressing all these other gaps. So I think thinking about collective action in a much more comprehensive way, both as Fed policymakers, but also as the recommendations that we're giving to other policymakers who have other tools than we have, is really important. Part of that, too, is the research that the Fed can provide to really highlight where the disparities are occurring and what actions can be taken to change them.

Ryssdal: I should've said at the beginning, and I apologize for not doing so, as Eric mentioned, this is the overview presentation, and there will be panels every six or so weeks in the future talking about education and housing, finance, criminal justice, and health, just to name a couple. So there's more to come in all of these subjects, which is why I'm keeping it kind of high-level. Just a couple of minutes left, maybe, Raphael, and I want to ask a follow-up to what we talked about with the other two panelists, something that Angela said about, "centering blackness." As you think about that phrase in terms of what the Federal Reserve does, what does that mean?

Bostic: So for me, I think it means really owning our history and acknowledging the arc of our history. We just had a conference a couple of weeks ago at Princeton where we co-sponsored with the Bendheim Center for Finance and I acted hard. I pushed hard to get a historian to talk about how we've gotten to where we've gotten, because without an appreciation of that history, it's very difficult to have a conversation where everyone starts in the same place. By centering on blackness, you necessarily will have to center on that history and think about what are the root causes that have led us to see such tremendous disparities in health, and education, and then housing, because that's the understanding about the depths of the problem and that then, I think, can kind of center us on what the scale of the solution and the type of commitment is going to be required to make that progress.

So, for me, I think that this is really a question of creating a singular understanding of what America is. The Black experience in America has been one that has been not so happy, but it's also that that lack of happiness is something that we don't all appreciate and deeply understand. I know I have a confidence that if we can get to that, then the types of conversations we can have and the types of things and solutions that will seem feasible and possible will expand, then we can start to make real progress.

Ryssdal: Neel, do you think that this moment makes it easier or harder for the Fed to do what the three of you are trying to do?

Kashkari: I think it makes it easier. I think that there's a calling. People are asking for someone to say, "Hey, help us make progress on these issues. The time has come. The time is long overdue. We need to make progress." So I think it makes it easier for us to take a step forward in this direction. But as we've all acknowledged, I believe we have an important role to play. We don't have the only role to play. So if we are working in partnership with other leaders, whether they be community leaders or business leaders or fiscal leaders, then I think that we can make real progress.

Ryssdal: Okay. So let's get out of here with a quick couple of questions to the three of you all in a row. We've got about five minutes left. Eric, I want to start with you. As you come out of this series of discussions that we've had today and in the future, what's number one on your action item list. What are you going to do?

Rosengren: So I think part of the discussion is understanding and empathizing with what has been happening, both in our society, but as Raphael highlighted, over the history. I think the Fed has a lot of tools that it can employ to actually do that. We spend a lot of time looking at data. We spent a lot of time analyzing data. So really highlighting that data is the first step to get into the solutions. So I think that is the first step ... is really having these conversations about the patterns that are not new. These patterns have been in the data for quite some time, but I think we're at a juncture right now where there's a lot more attention to how we can change the data going forward.

Ryssdal: Raphael Bostic in Atlanta. Action item number one for you.

Bostic: I think my first action item is really just to let all the communities that are in our District know that we want to be part of the solution. I've been just so surprised, maybe even discouraged, about how little people know about our interest in this. My hope is that by us planting a pretty big flag here and saying we're willing to devote resources and conversation and make ourselves a bit uncomfortable, people will come to us and allow us to help be part of that solution. So I want to make sure that as many folks know that as possible.

Ryssdal: Neel, same question with a twist. What's your takeaway out of this? And have you heard anything today that's going to change what you bring to the next meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee in early November?

Kashkari: This is something I've been thinking about a lot. Eric talked about the new framework that we created as a committee that I think we all really support, and it takes onboard what we've learned in the past five years about the labor market. There has been a huge disconnect between how business views the labor market and how workers viewed the labor market. Somehow, in my opinion, the worker view was not making its way into those committee deliberations enough. I think they will now, having now created this new framework. But I'm asking myself, why is it? Why is it that business has a louder voice historically in the Federal Reserve?

So one example of this is the Beige Book. All 12 of our Banks create the Beige Book. I think it's been noted that businesses are far overrepresented—that voice in those Beige Books. So one of the things I'm talking to our staff here in Minneapolis about is how can we re-look at how we create our contribution to the Beige Book, so that workers and diverse communities have a much bigger footprint in the Ninth District's Beige Book? I think that, I imagine that people across the System are considering these things because there's just been a big disconnect between workers and business. And frankly, business had it wrong. Business kept saying, "We can't find workers," and it was nonsense. The workers were out there.

Ryssdal: Neel Kashkari in Minneapolis, Raphael Bostic in Atlanta, Eric Rosengren in Boston, thank you all three very much for your time and for your answers. Eric, I believe it's over to you to close things out.

Rosengren: So thank you very much, Kai, for a very enlightened discussion. I think both the panels that you led have really benefited from the way that you handled those panels, so thank you. I'd like to thank all the panelists. And I'd particularly like to thank the staff at the Atlanta, Boston and Minneapolis Fed. Organizing something of this magnitude is very difficult and we all appreciate the effort they've taken to be able to make this so widely available. Clearly, as a country, we have some distance to go, even though we've come some distance. I think that we're seeing that there are very important disparities in the data, and that can't be completely covered in the relatively short time that we had today. So that's one reason why we're going to have a series of these kinds of podcasts that are going to focus in much more detail on some of the aspects that I think we highlighted at a rather cursory level—looking at what's been happening at our public health system, looking at what's been happening with our education system, thinking about employment and credit and housing.

So I think it's really important for people to listen to some of the additional panels that we're going to be having over the course of this year, because that's where hopefully, we get a little bit more concrete on what some of the solutions can be. I think, as it was highlighted, the disparities that we've seen in many of the other categories have contributed to very significant disparities in wealth. So I think those disparities really highlight that we do still have quite a distance to go before we not only have something that everybody thinks is moral and fair, but something that really addresses the inequalities that have held back the overall economy.

I think recent racial incidents have really highlighted, along with the pandemic, that the effects of what has historically happened are disproportionately being borne by some. I think the Federal Reserve has an important role to play. And I would say this podcast, as well as other things the Fed is doing, is starting to listen more. I would highlight the Fed listens as we thought about our monetary policy. I would highlight this event as an event where we're trying to listen more to understand some of the societal problems that can affect the economy in very important ways. I think it's important that policy considerations think about the racial inequalities and think about the distributional effects of those policies. So I think that's going to appear more in speeches, more in research, and more in policymaking if we're successful.

I think it's also important to think about the community development work that occurs at all the Reserve Banks. In Boston, we've been very focused on a work and communities initiative that focuses on small cities that have large minority populations. We want to find ways to make sure that those cities are resurgent and thrive. I think that's just one of many examples of how the Fed can concretely try to address some of the problems that we're facing.

So while these problems can't all be completely covered in one conference, I really hope that you continue to listen to the following symposiums that are going to be co-sponsored by the Atlanta, Boston and Minneapolis Feds. I would encourage you to please tweet your takeaways and we'll take that into consideration as we think about the future programs.

I hope you'll join us for the rest of the series. Thank you for being here today. And I think it worked out very well. Thank you.