The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America (Hardcover)
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An explosive and deeply reported look at the systemic racism inside the American financial services industry, from acclaimed New York Times finance reporter Emily Flitter.
In 2018, Emily Flitter received a tip that Morgan Stanley had fired a Black employee without cause. Flitter had been searching for a way to investigate the deep-rooted racism in the American financial industry, and that one tip lit the sparkplug for a three-year journey through the shocking yet normalized corruption in our financial institutions.
Examining local insurance agencies and corporate titans like JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and Wells Fargo, The White Wall reveals the practices that have kept the racial wealth gap practically as wide as it was during the Jim Crow era. Flitter exposes hiring and layoff policies designed to keep Black employees from advancing to high levels; racial profiling of customers in internal emails between bank tellers; major insurers refusing to pay Black policyholders’ claims; and the systematic denial of funding to Black entrepreneurs. She also gives a voice to victims, from single mothers to professional athletes to employees themselves: people who were scammed, lied to, and defrauded by the systems they trusted with their money, and silenced when they attempted to speak out and seek reform.
Flitter connects the dots between data, history, legal scholarship, and powerful personal stories to provide an assiduously reported, eye-opening look at what it means to bank while Black. As America continues to confront systemic racism and pave a path forward, The White Wall is an essential examination of one of its most caustic contributors.
About the Author
Emily Flitter covers banking and Wall Street for The New York Times. Before this, she spent eight years at Reuters, writing about politics, financial crimes, and the environment. Flitter holds an MA in Near Eastern studies and journalism from New York University and a BA from Wellesley College. She began her journalism career as a freelance reporter in Cairo. The White Wall is her first book.
“Vivid....devastating.... this book examines the ways that our financial system has systematically neglected and exploited Black people.”
"Important and infuriating."
“[A] damning exposé of the essential racism of the American financial system…. A rousing body of evidence in favor of activist reform of financial practices, from ordinary loans to reparations.”
"[A] searing debut...This evisceration of Wall Street’s 'private, ugly reality' packs a punch."
“Through rigorous journalistic inquiry, Emily Flitter boldly exposes the architects of inequality in the United States—the people, the firms and the devices that comprise The White Wall. After reading Flitter’s shocking and powerful narrative about the financial services sector, you’ll be inspired to tear it down.”
—Andre Perry, Brookings Institute Senior Fellow and author of Know Your Price
“The White Wall is a must-read wake up call. Flitter methodically establishes that the wealth creation process, controlled and dictated by big banks, has intentionally created barriers to Black people and all people of color. Flitter’s book should be required reading for anyone interested narrowing the wealth gap; it will leave you mesmerized, shocked, and educated.”
—Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, president of KNOWN Holdings
“Emily Flitter’s The White Wall captures—through assiduous, careful reporting—what I know firsthand: banking while Black, brown, indigenous, female, or as an immigrant can be demoralizing and dehumanizing. The book lays bare the appalling actions of big banks who continue to uphold Jim Crow-era policies like redlining and stifle Black and brown entrepreneurship. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Read this book as a radical act to let the sunshine in.”
—Luz Urrutia, CEO of Action Opportunity Fund