Work hard. Go to school. Save money. Be a good Christian. These are admonitions most African American parents tell their kids from day one. But a recent report found that if you are Black and follow all of these rules, chances are it will still take you 225 years to accumulate the wealth of the average White person.
This is some bull ((((@&$x))))!
After picking my jaw off the floor, I had to remind myself that I do have an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Chicago so this shouldn’t be hard for me to decipher. But for those of you who didn’t spend your college years studying cost benefit analyses and the GNP, here is the simple reason that this disturbing pronouncement is absolutely true: the notion of wealth accumulation starts from the premise that you have wealth to accumulate.
The more wealth you have, the greater the rate of accumulation, all things being equal. Remember from your history courses that after African-American slaves were freed, they were never given the proverbial “40 acres and a mule.” This started a nefarious cycle that has been difficult to change. In short, historically, and even to this day, African-Americans have had relatively few assets that will appreciate overtime. Cars, clothing, household goods, electronics and most jewelry don’t qualify and will not cause you to measure up to your White peers in the wealth accumulation game.
To make matters worse, current economic and social policies continue to hold African-Americans back. Racial bias in the workplace, failing schools, depressed wages, mass incarceration, racially biased policing of Black communities and plain old racism all disproportionately impact African Americans ability to acquire appreciating assets and therefore to increase rates of wealth accumulation.
The economist in me says we can change the equation.
The mother in me says we must.
I refuse to accept that my two daughters and son, and all Black kids, will face a future where it will take more than two centuries to even the playing field. I know my kids and so many other African American millennials are prepared to do the work, the question is–does America have the courage to legislate and implement policies that will tear down the barriers that are holding us back? Even first year economic students know that increasing the asset base and rate of accumulation of any one group of Americans, benefits all Americans.
I’m not asking for the 40 acres and the mule.
I’m just saying….we can do better!