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Black Families Far from Wealth Equality with White Families

by Minority Fortune

It’s the year 2010, and the US has historically elected its first black president. Race relations surely have made great strides over the previous decades. However, statistics suggest something different. Black wealth in comparison to their white counterparts is dismal. It’s a report that we wish we’d never have to state, but it must be revealed if we are ever to overcome it.

A study conducted by Brandeis University has revealed that black wealth progression has been stagnant from 1984 to 2007. White families experienced an increase from a median income of $22,000 to $100,000. Meanwhile, black families experienced a median income increase from $2,000 to $5,000.

Viewed another way, the median white family was 11 times richer than the median Black family in 1984 ($2,000 vs. $22,000). By 2007, the white household had become 20 times richer than its Black counterpart ($5,000 vs. $100,000).

With a lack of wealth income, there are no funds to put towards lofty education, businesses, community programs, etc. In essence, it’s 2010 and our labor has been for naught.

An article featured on Alternet suggests that we may never, as in never, attain wealth equality. While we’d hate for that statement to become true, the fact is that black families today are not there financially. However, if we are to truly tackle the problem, we must properly diagnose the causes.

Underlying Causes

“Black folks have been integrated long enough to know that the white family didn’t get richer by a quarter million dollars because they were smarter than the Black family. Privilege, especially cumulative privilege over generations, works wonders, like compound interest only better. Whites are both collectively privileged and capable of bestowing an endless stream of privileges on each other, while Blacks are deliberately positioned outside of the stream, and are preyed upon as a group by powerful (white) financial forces that profit from the wealth differential.”

One of the most powerful things that the black community could establish for itself is wealth. There’s no denying that the key to equality is wealth. However, wealth for a black person will go through filters. Wealth comes with the following tools:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Assets
  • Legal assistance
  • Accounting assistance
  • Community

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There’s only a few problems with each of these categories. There is a high possibility that a black person will face discrimination in the workforce, most notably in income. A majority of black children receive public school education in schools with poor funding, yielding a lackluster education and marginal preparation for a higher education. When it comes to assets, there aren’t any. The largest asset for black families is usually their homes or properties, if they are lucky enough to own them. For most, it is an endless cycle of debt and liabilities. The best chance at preserving their earned income is to attain the services of legal and accounting professionals. However, the fees for such services can become a barrier for many low-income earning black households. Last but not least, is the unity that a community can provide. This alone has helped many immigrant communities to attain wealth equality in one or two generations. This was our most powerful weapon, and our pinnacle in progress occurred during the Civil Rights movement. Yet, with the launch of Operation COINTELPRO, black communities found themselves facing funded, covert-intelligence operations created to disrupt this unity. These problems along with others must be tackled before we’re able to gain wealth equality.

It’s so easy to point fingers at Oprah, President Obama, and Condoleeza Rice, and just exclaim, “Do what they did. They made it.” They surely did make it. And we’re so proud to boast about prominent black figures and other minorities when they have indeed “made it”. However, it doesn’t make the plight of a child born to a mother strung out on drugs, living in the projects any more easy. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, could I make it if I were born to those same parents in those same circumstances? Why isn’t every child born to two-parent middle-income families in the suburbs? Instead of pointing our fingers at the black children and families who have been privileged enough to be raised in middle, upper class families and saying that it’s the reality for all black families, we should examine the livelihoods of children born in poverty more closely and discover the causes. Instead of asking “why can’t they make it”, let’s ask “HOW can they make it”? If it were so easy to fix, the statistics wouldn’t be so dramatic. As rapper Jay Z once said, “Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.”

Isolation

“Enemies of all colors and sly servants of the rich will use the news of the evaporation of African American wealth to heap blame on Black “culture.” This “shaming” strategy is designed to keep Blacks looking inward for the source of their woes, and to simultaneously despair of finding salvation in our own capacity for group agency. Meanwhile, the Lords of Capital devour us like piranhas – quicker than they do whites, who are padded with the fat of relative privilege – $95,000 worth of it, the racial wealth spread of 23 years.”

It is true that blacks are often accused of “playing the victim” and “wanting to blame someone other than themselves” when speaking out on the causes that have black families stuck in poverty. We must get past that “shame”. Furthermore, we should all bind together to create systems to combat these barriers to wealth for ourselves, in the way that other immigrant groups have done so.

For a group of people that have been in America for over 450 years, we have yet to claim our American privilege. In America, blacks don’t view themselves as just American but African American. Socially, psychologically, and physically we are bred to think of ourselves as an American minority, which manifests its thinking into our actions and ultimately our status. We don’t even realize that we unconsciously submit to societal preconceptions of what an African-American identity is, which evidently ties to our wealth status as well.

This subconscious wealth psyche, which we call here the “hardly wealthy” mentality, has been consumed at large by black families. While it is true that many of us do live on marginal incomes, we manifest that mentality further by spending all excess income so that we return to what we deem the appropriate wealth status for an African American. It’s acceptable to be broke until our next check, go shopping when we get our next check, and impress our friends with our flashy liabilities. It’s all that we “blacks” can ever achieve. The reality is that we’ve ignored our inherent right to chase the American dream of wealth and assets just as the white families have been doing. We must aggressively pursue our right to wealth.

This is not a project that can be completed overnight. For a system that has been in place for decades, it will take some time to overhaul. What makes the task much more difficult is that the series of hurdles are subtle to the naked eye and difficult to identify easily. However, the black community mustn’t give up. Our road to wealth equality is at stake.

You Answer:

How can black families better achieve wealth equality?

*Images courtesy of Rubberball  and Amy Eckert.
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