Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Racism Facts

The income of the median African American household is about 60% that of the median white household and this income gap, after narrowing a bit over the first couple of decades after World War II, is now wider than it was in 1970.  

One in five African Americans live in poverty (more than twice the rate for whites) and a third of African American children live in poverty. 

The unemployment rate among African Americans in the US is about twice as high as unemployment among whites, and this has been true for as long as we have been measuring US unemployment rates by race. 

The wealth of the median African American household is one tenth that of the median white household. 

 And—as is painfully evident these days - racial inequality manifests itself in other realms of social life as well: education, health care, life expectancy, infant mortality, housing, access to capital, exposure to toxins, and more. 

 COVID-19 is killing African Americans at more than twice the rate of whites.  And "law enforcement" and "criminal justice" in the US systematically victimize and brutalize people of color.

The economist Darrick Hamilton, in his "Racial Equality is Economic Equality," conveys succinctly that this racist history is essential for understanding racial inequality in 2020:
"The racial wealth gap is an inheritance that began with chattel slavery, when blacks were literally the capital assets for a white landowning plantation class. The gap continued after Emancipation, when discriminatory laws and institutions established insurmountable barriers to the American middle class for black families. 
Today, hundreds of years removed from chattel slavery, there has virtually never been a substantive black middle class when defined by wealth. In contrast, the implementation of FDR’s New Deal and post-war vision facilitated an asset-based white middle class to cumulatively build wealth and pass it on to their heirs."

Over the course of the 20th Century, millions of American families, through home ownership, accumulated wealth as never before. African Americans were, overwhelming, excluded from this bonanza. Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro get it just right in their book, Black Wealth/White Wealth: African Americans were "locked out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history." 

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