Blacks worth $6k; whites $88k
by William Reed
Wealth is a measure of cumulative advantage or disadvantage. It is an abundance of items of economic value, or controlling or possessing such items, and encompasses money, real estate and personal property. Wealth is a state that eludes the majority of blacks.
The median net worth of today's Black household is $6,000. The net worth of a white household is $88,000 -- fourteen times the wealth.
The fact that Black wealth is a fraction of white wealth represents the nation's long history of discrimination. While America's racial structures continue wealth disparities, whites remain implacably opposed to engaging in discussions of reparations, while continuing to profit from inherited gifts from the legacy of slavery.
Continuing disparities in wealth and wealth accumulation require realistic discussions regarding reparations; but whites don't want that discussion, the vast majority believing that their privilege and wealth has been earned. White Americans pretend that some malady of "culture," rather than a legacy of racism, holds African Americans back. Ironically, some African Americans believe and support them in these deceptions.
Surveys conducted on the subject of "reparations" reveal that fewer than five percent of whites favor reparations for slavery. Two-thirds of African American respondents favor reparations, but most do not get involved in actions advocating for such national legislation. The current challenge of repairing our needs through reparations is in determining how to have a national discussion toward legislation. But Blacks fail to force the federal government to undertake an official study of the impact of slavery on the social, political and economic life of America.
Four million Africans, and their descendants, were enslaved in the U.S. and its colonies from 1619 to 1865. As a result, the U.S. was able to begin progress toward becoming the world's most prosperous country. Calculations of the sum total of the worth of all the Black labor stolen through means of slavery, segregation, and contemporary discrimination range from $5 to $24 trillion.
John Conyers' (D-MI) bill, H.R. 40, to examine the effects and remnants of slavery and Jim Crow have had on African-Americans since emancipation, has been stuck in Congress since 1989. The bill is labeled H.R. 40 because ex-slaves were supposed to get forty acres and a mule as "just compensation" for slavery.
Emancipation freed Blacks from forced free labor, but did little for the wealth disparity. Had the post-Civil War federal government honored and expanded upon Gen. Sherman's 1865 promise, or passed the 1867 Reparations Bill, African Americans would have had an economic foothold before waves of European immigrants poured into the U.S. during the latter decades of the 1800s.
An 1865 plot of forty acres would be worth $1.5 million dollars to each of today's African Americans. But, in reality, whites and immigrants got land that Blacks were due. From the 1860s to the 1930s, President Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act provided access to the wealth of 246 million acres of productive land at minimal cost. Approximately forty-six million of today's Americans are beneficiaries of that Act. The vast majority of the 1.5 million beneficiaries of the Homestead Act were white; only 4,000 African Americans secured such properties. White Americans, many of them immigrants, received that acreage -- 246 million vs. 40 million -- yet their descendants laugh when African Americans bring up "Forty acres and a mule."
African Americans that favor reparations should stop allowing discussions to be guided by perceptions that: 1) reparations are unlikely ever to be awarded; 2) reparations are undeserved by African Americans since all ex-slaves are dead; 3) today's white Americans have not injured African Americans and should not be required to pay for sins of their forbears; 4) it is impossible to determine who should get what and how much; and 5) African Americans must become self-reliant and determine their own fate and stop waiting for relief from external sources.
Don't be deceived; opponents of reparations have benefited from a system of white privilege that is imbedded in American society. Let's stop acceptance of a system of white privileges and Black disadvantages that has accrued advantages for whites for fifteen generations.