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
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 9,816 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
The Coming War on China
John Pilger · 5,473 views today · A major US military build-up – including nuclear weapons – is under way in Asia and the Pacific with the purpose of confronting China. John Pilger raises the alarm on an...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 4,756 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Murdoch and Trump, Sitting at the Tee, S-C-H-E-M-I-N-G
Frankie Boyle · 3,771 views today · Say what you like about Donald Trump but he's already done things people said were impossible, like made Twitter worse. Looking back, the Harambe situation is the closest...
Thich Nhat Hanh: How We Can Learn to Love Our Enemies
5 min · 3,419 views today · This is a short excerpt from Peacemaking. I often think about this story when I think about the kind of activism I would like to bring into this world. I want to help build a...
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 3,248 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
3 min · 2,841 views today · In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished - a radical narration about race in America, using the writer's original words. He draws...
Simple Social Experiment Shows We Are More Than The Boxes People Put Us In
3 min · 2,404 views today · We live in a time where we are quick to put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think?
The Charter For Compassion
2 min · 1,356 views today · The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,303 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
What Would It Take to Stop the Raids?
CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective · 1,226 views today · Responding Effectively to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attacks
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 1,220 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,053 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,026 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,019 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 818 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 608 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 595 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 502 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 416 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Black Wealth Matters