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Race, Culture and the Logic of Reinvestment at the Oldest African American Bank in Los Angeles /

  • Author(s): Chiong, Melody Y.
  • et al.
Abstract

Ethnic banks are banks that are owned, controlled and serve racial-ethnic minorities. Broadway Federal Bank (BFB) is an African American ethnic bank established in 1946 by community leaders in Los Angeles to provide financial opportunities to African Americans when mainstream banks refused to do so. The bank's mission since its founding is to serve the community and to make a profit. While the bank's dual mission remains largely unchanged in the post-Civil Rights Movement era, its strategies to continue to open opportunities to the South Los Angeles community has changed to accommodate the current prevalence of the colorblind rhetoric and the mechanized system of credit assessment the mainstream industry has adopted. What does race mean and what role(s) do race and culture play at BFB, the oldest and largest African American bank west of the Mississippi? How do race and culture play roles in the economic calculations of risk and profit? Furthermore, how have generations of BFB actors been able to achieve the dual goals of profit and community? My dissertation is a case study that shows how institutionalized racism functions at a financial institution and how people resist this. Using ethnographic methods and archival research, I argue that contrary to beliefs that racial considerations are aberrant in economic activities, race is an integral part of the daily decisions made in banking practices. Understanding the social construction of race at an ethnic bank is important because banks can offer financial opportunities that can shape the life chances of individuals who have access to them. I argue that the bank's culture, which is based on what I call the logic of reinvestment, is central to understanding how BFB bankers have been able to achieve the often contradictory goals of profit and community. Specifically, I show how race and racial meanings play significant roles in banking activities by delving into the ways in which the meanings and roles of race have been incorporated into the strategies that simultaneously resist the mainstream industry's biases against people of color and allow BFB actors to achieve the dual goals of profit and community

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