(ThyBlackMan.com) The wealth gap in America has been a persistent problem in this country since its founding. Over 400 years of slavery and a series of Jim Crow laws designed to restrict the accumulation of wealth and power has left the black community seeking to rebuild financially from it’s challenged past. To date, African American families have far more debt and far fewer assets than the typical white family in America.
During the recent recession, the wealth gap between blacks and whites nearly doubled, with whites having nearly 22 times as much wealth as African Americans. A new study from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy says that the growing gap is part of a long-term trend in differences between wealth, debt and income levels between whites and blacks. According to the center, the wealth of whites has grown a great deal over the 27 years, while that of blacks has hardly grown at all:
In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black families.
Looking at the same set of families over a 25-year period (1984-2009), our research offers key insight into how policy and the real, lived-experience of families in schools, communities, and at work affect wealth accumulation.Tracing the same households during that period, the total wealth gap between white and African-American families nearly triples, increasing from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009.
The massive wealth gap is attributed to a number of factors. Conservatives are likely to cite low financial literacy rates among African Americans, and an increased desire to borrow, spend and consume. Others point to policies that
The report states that the growth in the disparity was created by “policy and the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated.”
Some of these advantages might include the ability of whites to get help from their families when they go to college, start a business, get married or get into legal trouble. Most wealth in America is inherited wealth, and for too many black families, all their relatives are able to leave is a stack of bill collectors once they have died. Making matters worse has been the prison industrial complex, which has sucked primary bread winners out of black communities, creating an overflow of single parent households, kids without parental guidance and citizens who are permanently marginalized from the American economic system.
This is the reason that I am hosting the Wealth, Education, Family and Community Forum with Minister Louis Farrakhan on March 30 at the University of Illinois at Chicago (5 pm at the UIC Forum). It’s time that we reassess where we are as a community and find ways to rise above pre-existing paradigms to incorporate some element of self-sufficiency into our personal and collective business models. If we are always looking for others to give us opportunities, then we will always be looking for a job. If we always insist on living paycheck-to-paycheck, then we can never build a vision that goes beyond next Friday. If we are always borrowing and spending rather than investing and producing, we will always find others telling us to “sit down” when it’s time for us to “stand up.”
A new civil rights movement must emerge in the African American community. It must be one based on economic empowerment, educational achievement and a reclamation of our own self-worth. If we do not grab the bull by the horns, we will continue to be bullied. America is no place to be broke.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins