African Americans: Children of a Lesser Economic God

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The history of the United States is, to a certain extent, the history of racism. A fracture that still runs through his spine and that in 1964 the leader of the civil movements Malcolm X (1925-1965) denounced with the sincerity of someone who has suffered from it for decades. “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there is no progress. If you extract it completely, there is no progress. Progress is healing the wound that caused the stab. And they haven’t even drawn the knife, much less healed the wound. They won’t even admit that the knife was there. ” A year later he would die riddled with 21 shots in Manhattan. The New York Times he wrote in his obituary that he was “an extraordinary and twisted man”, capable of “using many true gifts for evil purposes.”

Racism transforms the stripes of the American flag into bars and the stars into potholes. It is a structural problem. “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson [dos de los Padres Fundadores] they owned slaves, and the Constitution of 1787 counted enslaved African Americans as three-fifths of a person for representation, “says Mario L. Small, a professor of sociology at Harvard University. Certainly, in this time, there have been improvements, but 155 years after Emancipation Day, eight generations later, the divide in racial wealth is immense. Universities, public institutions and banks have started to draw equations of the price of this suffering. So far this century, racism has cost the US economy – according to a 104-page report by Citigroup – $ 16 trillion (about 13.6 trillion euros).

“The past never dies. There is not even the past, ”wrote William Faulkner. Past and present injustices pour out like a waterfall. The classic black family only has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family.

The 2016 Federal Reserve calculation is a sample of those wasted lives. We are talking about a wealth of $ 171,000 for white families compared to 17,600 for black. And it can be even worse. One fifth of African American families have a net wealth of zero dollars or less. 75% barely have $ 10,000 to retire. Whites – according to Citigroup – own 80% of their houses, blacks only 47%. And crime, it seems, is its main heritage. Blacks are five times more likely to end up in jail and account for slightly more than 33% of inmates, despite only representing 12% of the country’s population. Without a doubt, 400 years of slavery of black populations still have an effect on daily life. Closing inequality in investment, education, real estate and wages could boost – according to Citi – the country’s GDP by $ 5 trillion over the next five years.

But the numbers are boats pulled against the current of reality. “The spirit of slavery lives on in white economic supremacy. An economic system that strips black Americans of wealth and income and persists in widening, not narrowing, the inequality gap. There are echoes of that slavery in the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people and through unpaid or abusive prison work, ”criticizes Calvin Schermerhorn, a history professor and expert on slavery at Arizona State University. The teacher proposes not to forget what Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, calls “predatory inclusion.” The stocks catch without noise. “Welcome black participation in economic activities and then punish that entry with high interest rates and formulas that rob them of their income and wealth,” Schermerhorn warns.

The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it “silent looting.” A game with tricked dice. “Black faces the white man’s standard, without the white man’s opportunity,” complained black mathematician Kelly Miller in 1930. Despite the improvements, “it is a systemic problem,” admits Mauro Guillén, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Appears in unexpected voices. A reminder that the past is never another country. Nobel laureate George Stigler (1911-1991) defended in 1965 (The Problem of the Negro. New Guard), that black people were inferior as workers and that the solution lay in fostering “the will to hard work.”

The injustice of those words is built above all in the real estate space. The value of the house will depend on the quality of the neighborhood or the public school where black children attend. And econometrics whips them as a mistral. Black homeowners had the least real estate wealth in 2016. About $ 124,000 versus $ 200,000 for white families or 158,000 for Hispanics. Numbers that give off questions.

“President, my last name is Pérez, on which side of the wall you are building should I be?”


This is the question that Jorge Pérez, owner of Related Group, a Democrat and one of the richest Latinos in the world (1.7 billion dollars, according to Forbes), asked his former partner and friend Donald Trump a few months ago. Pérez, born in Argentina and raised in Colombia, is, through his Miami-based company, the leading real estate developer on the east coast of the United States. The situation has improved – he qualifies – referring especially to Florida. “But still, unfortunately, there are cases where they deny the rent of an apartment to a black person with the excuse of being occupied, but if a white client arrives they rent it to him”, describes the businessman. “And also, getting mortgages is more difficult in black neighborhoods. Much remains to be done ”, he laments. The gap in home ownership rates is larger today than it was in the 1950s or 1960s. That’s decades of lost real estate appreciation (black wealth). Behind them there is misery in living conditions. The police killings this year of three black Americans, George Floyd, BreonnaTaylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement show that the problem has taken root in the soul of the nation.

Direct and indirect exposure to police brutality, immigration service raids, or the separation of families at the border undermine the commitment to work of black employees. Especially when they are excluded from the dialogue about their own well-being. Everything starts in education and everything fails in education. The presence of black students in universities is 10 points below the national average. “Education is the key vehicle for leveling opportunities around the world. Yet in the United States, educational inequity is deep and historic and firmly rooted in basic education, ”observes Timothy Knowles, founder of the Academy Group, a company working to close the gap. “One essential reason is that schools are largely funded by property taxes. This means that the wealthiest American communities have the best-funded public schools. And vice versa”.

The result is that injustice sits on the desks. Those who most need training have worse facilities, teachers with less experience and a lack of basic teachings such as languages, art or advanced courses. “From day one in kindergarten through high school, African American, Latino and Indian youth face enormous obstacles, none of them destined for their educational success,” Knowles says.


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