Black Wealth Matters
Black Wealth Matters
By Chuck Collins / otherwords.org
Jan 8, 2015

For generations, white households have enjoyed far greater access to wealth and security than their black counterparts.

As protesters march through our cities to remind us that black lives matter, grievances about our racially fractured society extend far beyond flashpoints over police violence.

What is the state of the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about, particularly as it relates to economic opportunity?

Racial inequality in earnings remains persistent. African-American workers under 35 earn only 75 cents on the dollar compared to their white contemporaries. Latinos earn only 68 cents.

Examining income alone, however, is like tracking the weather. If you want to explore the true tectonic shifts of the earth, you have to look at wealth and net worth — that is, what people own minus what they owe.

There’s a high correlation between wealth and economic security. Wealth in the form of savings, investments, and homes provides a cushion to fall back on in the face of hardship. Homeownership in particular is a foundational asset, something to pass on to one’s children.

The racial wealth gap has persisted for decades. It widened following the Great Recession.

Suffocating Black Wealth, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

According to the Pew Research Center, the median wealth of white households in 2013 was a stunning 13 times greater than the median wealth of black households — up from eight times greater in 2010. White households had 10 times more wealth than Latino households.

While people of all races saw their net worth implode during the recession, recovery has come much more quickly to whites. The wealth divide is growing at an alarming rate today, with median wealth tumbling downward for people of color while ticking slightly upward for whites.

This is partially because whites tend to own more financial assets, such as stocks and bonds, which have rebounded since 2009. Home values, meanwhile — which represent the largest share of assets for households of color — haven’t recovered at the same rate.

Behind these statistics are stories of lives under stress, of people losing homes, jobs, savings, and stability. The collapse of middle class wealth has touched people of all races, but it has hit communities of color the hardest.

“It is time for all of us to tell each other the truth,” Dr. King wrote in 1967, “about who and what have brought the Negro to the condition of deprivation against which he struggles today.”

Such dramatic shifts in racial wealth disparities can’t be explained simply in terms of the latest recession. They’re part of a legacy of racial discrimination in asset building that dates back to the first great dispossession, when black people were treated as someone else’s property.

Even a century after the formal end of slavery, African Americans were largely excluded from programs that helped build middle-class wealth. That led historian Ira Katznelson to characterize such initiatives as “white affirmative action.”

In the decade following World War II, our nation made unprecedented public investments to subsidize debt-free college education and low-cost mortgages. These wealth-building measures benefited millions of mostly white households.

People of color, facing overt discrimination in mortgage lending and separate-and-unequal school systems throughout the United States, generally didn’t share these benefits. They were left standing at the railway station as the express train to the middle class left.

White homeownership rates eventually rose to as high as 75 percent, while black rates peaked at 46 percent. This 30-point gap, which remains intact today, means generations of white families have enjoyed access to wealth that has long eluded their black counterparts.

Black wealth matters. Until we tell each other the truth about the racial wealth divide, King’s dream will remain deferred.

 

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies where he directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good (www.inequality.org), and the author of the new book, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It. Chuck is also a co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders, high-income households and partners working together to promote shared prosperity and fair taxation.He is co-author of The Moral Measure of the Economy and with Bill Gates Sr. of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes

4.3 ·
2
Trending Today
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 9,996 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Baraka (1992)
97 min · 8,389 views today · Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 4,554 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
The Myth of Romantic Love May Be Ruining Your Health
Susanne Vosmer · 3,846 views today · Romantic love in Western societies is often portrayed in a stereotypical way: two yearning halves, who search for each other to find their complete, original state. Few find...
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Bracing for Trump's Anti-Worker, Corporate Agenda
Colin Jenkins · 3,760 views today · Rich people don’t have to have a life-and-death relationship with the truth and its questions; they can ignore the truth and still thrive materially. I am not surprised many...
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 3,370 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
Why I Think This World Should End
4 min · 3,280 views today · Sorry if this offends you. - Prince Ea
Prophecy Delivered! Martin Luther King Jr. and the Death of Democracy
Reverend Osagyefo Sekou · 3,164 views today · “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Democracy is dead. It...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 3,141 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 3,034 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,784 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 2,484 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
Thoughts on the Eve of the Trump Regime
Mark Corske · 2,201 views today · A blend of dread, disgust, rage, and despair for the future, all in a state of shocked disbelief—if you feel something like this facing the Trump regime’s ascent to power...
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 1,142 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 875 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 844 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Union Co-Operatives: What They Are and Why We Need Them
Simon Taylor · 824 views today · Neoliberal policies contribute to alienation, disempowerment and non-unionised jobs, but a new model for unions could break the vicious circle, argues Simon Taylor.
Something Better to Offer Trump Voters Tired of Waiting for Their Turn
David Korten · 698 views today · A world free of extremes of wealth and poverty in which no one needs to stand in line for a chance at a secure and fulfilling life.
Living Through an Age of Unraveling: Reflections as We Enter 2017
Martin Winiecki · 684 views today · “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 655 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Black Wealth Matters