George Floyd’s murder sparked nationwide demonstrations and a broad conversation about how African-Americans are treated by the criminal justice system. Intrinsically connected is the question of systemic racism and the role it plays in keeping Black Americans from enjoying equal economic opportunity.
One stark illustration: for every $10 in wealth held by the average white American family, the average Black family has $1.
Recently, the media site Axios examined age-old, commonly held explanations for why a gap this large persists generation after generation. Its analysis shattered every hoary cliche about education, personal responsibility, stronger families, entrepreneurship, strategic investment, etc. Controlling for each factor, the huge gap remains.
Which strongly suggests there is something else going on, likely the accumulated legacy of centuries of racism catching up and weighing down on families even when they do everything expected to pursue the American dream.
BET founder Robert Johnson, one of a handful of American Black billionaires, read the myth-busting analysis and threw down a challenge to experts: Prove it wrong — or admit a depressing diagnosis that would demand more serious surgery: that “white people, from the beginning of this country, have had more access to capital to create wealth than Black people. And wealth in a capitalist society — or access to capital in a capitalist society — propels you to more wealth,” says Johnson.
In other words, if the wealth gap can’t be bridged by pushing and pulling dozens of other policy levers, the only answer may be to more directly redistribute wealth itself.
That answer, usually called reparations, is an ethically thorny non-starter for many (if not most) Americans of all races. Even progressives, with their trillion-dollar policy plans, would struggle to conjure up the cash.
But the wealth gap is massive and devilish. The answers must be bold and imaginative.
©2020 New York Daily News
Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.