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Massive Race Divide: Blacks Will Never Gain Wealth Equality With Whites Under the Current System

A new study shows African Americans are tumbling out of the nation's economic orbit on a tragic trajectory that will never let them achieve parity with whites.

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Although Black parity with whites has never been on the horizon, impatient whites have insisted since 1969 or thereabouts that “it’s time” African Americans were made to “stand or fall” on their own, minus all the imagined assistance Blacks have supposedly received from phantom federal and state agencies. After all, say the anxious whites, how long is society (meaning themselves) supposed to pay for the slavery and segregation of the past? Most white folks – and President Obama – believe, or pretend to believe, that whatever legitimate grievances Blacks might harbor against the United States stem from circumstances deep in the past. The only question is, when will Blacks finally “get over it?”

The Brandies study shows that the racial wealth gap, although historically rooted in slavery and Jim Crow oppressions, has grown dramatically under post-civil rights era conditions. The gap is not simply a legacy of some ancient American apartheid, but a product of the recent past and of the present. This is a different paradigm, entirely, in which past racial wrongs are compounded by additional layers of institutionalized anti-Black behavior in the 1980s, 90s and in the 21st century –wounds so harmful they set African Americans on a backward course in terms of wealth accumulation.

In 2004, United for a Fair Economy came out with the first of its annual “State of the Dream” reports. Readers were shocked out of complacency by data that showed Blacks would not reach wealth parity with whites until the year 2099. It was surely a bummer to realize that no one then alive would see the “promised land” of evenly matched Black and white median household wealth. But at least the study indicated that “we, as a people” would eventually get there, as someone famous once predicted. There are no such condolences in the Brandies data. At the rate Blacks have been falling behind in wealth since the mid-80s, the Black and white median paths will diverge ever farther, never to connect under this system of economic and political rule. Blacks cannot shop or invest or save or borrow our way to a just society. Social justice and true human equality can only be achieved through our collective political action in opposition to the current order – by any means necessary, as another famous man once urged.

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