Sunday, April 14, 2013

Black Wealth Frontin and the Real Racial Disparity Wealth Gap

by Kenray Sunyaru

A recent growing wealth gap report between Blacks and whites reminds me when Malcolm X said that Blacks have deluded themselves to believe because America is progressing Blacks are too.

Brother Malcolm said if Blacks board a jet plane riding in the back and whites are in the front, no matter how fast the jet is going Blacks are still in the back. 

From my perspective this wealth gap reports shows that Blacks and whites are riding on 2 different American jets; the white jet is speeding along and the Black jet is stalling in turbulence. 

According to this new study from Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy the racial wealth gap between Blacks and whites has increased by $152,000 in the past 25 years. The median wealth of white families has shot up precipitously since 1984, while the median wealth of Black families has barely moved.

“Tracing the same households during that period, the total wealth gap between white and African-American families nearly triples, increasing from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009,” write the authors of the report. The chief driver of the inequality increase, they write, was disparities in home ownership, with household income arriving in second and unemployment in third.

White households were found to benefit disproportionately from average income increases, and residential segregation was said to be a major reason for inequality in home ownership. Additionally, “whites received about ten times more wealth than African-Americans” among those earning an inheritance.

“Our analysis found little evidence to support common perceptions about what underlies the ability to build wealth, including the notion that personal attributes and behavioral choices are key pieces of the equation,” they write.“Instead, the evidence points to policy and the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated and that continue to permeate the most important spheres of everyday life.”

Without reports like Brandeis’s exposing the tremendous structural racism wealth gap between Blacks and whites, the casual observer could draw the conclusion that African Americans are doing well. Ride through many Black communities and you are likely to see us driving an assortment of luxury vehicles from Mercedes and BMWs to Bentleys.

In some of the most distressed Black neighborhoods it's not uncommon to see high end vehicles lining the streets. Catch Black folks out on the town in our ‘cool pose’, and you will find us wearing the latest designer fashions with hair freshly styled even when we are unemployed or sinking in debt.

But how is this possible when the median net worth of Black households in 2009, was $2,200 compared with a median net worth of $97,900 for White households. Being in a psychological ‘fantasy-protection’ state we are able to look so wealthy when the truth is of the 36 million African Americans, less than .01 percent or 112,000 of Black households in the U.S. have a net less than .01 percent or 112,000 of Black households in the U.S. have a net worth of $1 million or more.

Even at $500,000 in net worth only 333,000 Black household fall into this range. Given these facts, not very many African Americans are truly wealthy even though we look like we are. Indeed we are riding in the back of America’s wealth jet in denial ‘frontin’ and ‘stuntin’.

As Black folks there’s definitely no future in our wealth frontin! Wealth-building comes from a plan for Black economic self-reliance and not from superficially looking wealthy.