Atlanta companies pledge to tackle legacy of racism, improve equity

A pedestrian heads down Centennial Olympic Park Drive near State Farm Arena. Atlanta has had one of the worst rates of income disparity among U.S. cities, with the Black community especially hit hard. A new push by Atlanta businesses will try to address those problems.  (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
A pedestrian heads down Centennial Olympic Park Drive near State Farm Arena. Atlanta has had one of the worst rates of income disparity among U.S. cities, with the Black community especially hit hard. A new push by Atlanta businesses will try to address those problems. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

More than 150 companies in metro Atlanta have signed up to review their policies and make changes when necessary to promote racial equity.

Participants in ATL Action for Racial Equity are promising to take action in four areas — corporate policies, economic development, education and workforce development. The program, promoted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, launches Tuesday.

An annual Bloomberg analysis of income disparity in U.S. cities pointed out in 2018 the contrast between Atlanta’s image as a booming city and mecca for the Black middle class and the reality. The city’s poverty rate was 24%. Black families in Atlanta are among the most economically insecure and are less likely than minorities in other big cities to escape that poverty, the report said.

Data gathered by the chamber shows the metro Black population’s median household income is 67% of the white population. Unemployment in the Black community is 1.8% higher. Meanwhile, 30% of Black people in metro Atlanta have college degrees, compared to 44% of white residents.

“We spent the back half of 2020 working through these critical pieces and are eager to launch this important effort that addresses systemic racism, inequity and immobility head on,” Katie Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said in a written statement.

The participating companies include small businesses and some of Atlanta’s best known brands, such as Delta Air Lines, UPS, the Home Depot and Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In Other News