By: Herbert Dyer, Jr.
November 03, 2013
"When white America catches a cold, black folks get pneumonia." - Anonymous
Try to imagine this: For every one dollar owned in assets by the average white person on the street in this nation-state, the average black person owns less than a nickel. Or, put another way, the median net worth for black households is $4,955, or about 4.5 percent of whites' median household wealth, which was $110, 729 in 2010. These numbers come to us courtesy of the US Census of 2010.
Furthermore, since the Census began tracking and publishing these figures nearly a quarter century ago, the chasm in wealth between whites and blacks has grown even wider than disparities in income. The wealth gap actually narrowed to a ratio of 7-to-1 in 1995 before stretching out to 22-to-1 after the housing market collapse five years ago.
And for those who like to point to the few Oprah Winfreys, Michael Jordans, and the occasional black CEOs of the world, know that even as black people constitute 14 percent of this nation-state's total population, they clock in at only 1.4 percent of the wealthiest 1 percent.
It has been well documented that real estate speculators' unbridled investments in usurious mortgage loans triggered 2008's inevitable implosion of the real estate market. That bursting of the real estate bubble, in turn, triggered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The 2008 turn down, again in turn, has had its most most profound effects not, as the "mainstream media" would have us believe, in the loss of white wealth, but in the dispossession of black folks' actual material wealth. This means that just since 2008, black people have lost more "value" since the slave trade when they themselves, in their very persons, were considered and treated as fungible, chattel property. Of course, during that long, hard time, we did not, could not, "own" ourselves, but we still counted as the valued pieces of real and personal property of "others," as it were and so to speak.
As former South Africa Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, Jon Jeter, wrote in BlackAgendaReport this week:
To be sure, virtually no American who works for a living has emerged from the financial crisis unscathed. But for blacks, today's political and economic climate is tantamount to a perfect storm: persistent unemployment, low wages, and a growing dependency on household debt have conspired with a restructured postwar economy to weaken every rung on the ladder - labor unions, the manufacturing sector, education, public sector employment, homeownership and marriage - that blacks have historically relied on to climb out of the muck of poverty.
Also, as Jeter puts it, the most salient and ironic aspect of this constantly growing wealth gap is that it has and continues to occur within an at least nominally "democratic" nation-state which has witnessed the rise of a whole generation of black post-civil rights elected officials, including, of course, the twice-elected first black president.
Let's get specific: In 2006, 53 percent of all black home buyers were steered to and often forced into subprime mortgages, compared to 49 percent of Latinos and 26 percent of whites.
At about the same time, payday loan operations seemed to magically appear on every other corner in the inner cities of Chicago, L.A., New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta, New York and many more.
Again, these scenarios reflect a profound and pervasive, ongoing and structural racial inequality in the US which shows no signs of letting up. Indeed, these inequalities and inequities are so deeply rooted as to seem "normal" and/or expected.
The proverbial "bottom line," as reported by the Associated Press, is this: "The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks."
Way back in 1968, after a series of black riots, rebellions, and generalized civil unrest, the Kerner Commission reported that, "Our nation is moving toward two societies - one black, one white-- separate and unequal."
Given these stats, does anyone seriously doubt that that day has arrived?
Although it was not completely ignored when it was first issued, the Kerner Report garnered only a modest amount of attention. That may be due in no small part to the fact that it's eponymous author, former Illinois governor and federal judge Otto Kerner was soon thereafter convicted and jailed on federal bribery charges. (His conviction, by the way, had nothing whatever to do with the report).
In any event, Kerner got it right.
What this all means in practical, down-to-earth terms of black peoples' overall socioeconomic position is that very, very few of us are positioned to help each other economically should and when the need arise.
That is, how many black people do you know who could put their hands on $100,000, $250,000 in cash or property -- right now -- and for whatever reason? Most white folks, however, can and do turn to each other when those kinds of funds are needed - really needed.
This "situation" is not just due to the economic "downturn" of 2008. Its roots lie deep in the legacy of both slavery and Jim and Jane Crow racial discrimination against black people. You see, during all of this time - every second of it - most white folks have managed (with much government assistance) to not merely accumulate substantial "nest eggs" or "rainy day" funds, hidden or not-so-hidden stashes, but to pass that wealth on to their progeny.
This inter-generational piling up of wealth explains why most white folks always seem to remain at or near the top of the economic ladder (or at least several rungs above) most black people.
Again, this situation is not accidental but deliberate, planned and enforced daily, monthly, century after century. Most government "programs" which today we tend to think benefit mainly blacks and other "minorities," were initially intended for white people only: Social Security, FHA loans, GI loans, farm subsidies, etc., ad infinitum.
How and why, for example, do you think the neatly manicured lawns, shimmering swimming pools, and well-tended tennis courts of the thousands of lily white "suburbs" dotting and scattered across this nation-state came to be in the first place?
Just asking....Just sayin'.