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Imagine America With No Racial Wealth Gap

by Todd A. Smith

 

Imagine


Singer/songwriter John Lennon once sang, “Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world…


Unfortunately, imagination has never become reality in America because of the original sins of slavery and the genocide committed against Native Americans.


As a result, one race has accumulated most of the wealth and power in America. 

 

And as the wealth gap continues to exist so too do systemic racism, police brutality and discrimination.


Brookings.edu reported, “A close examination of wealth in the U.S. finds evidence of staggering racial disparities. At $171,000, the net worth of a typical White family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150) in 2016. Gaps in wealth between Black and White households reveals the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to the nation’s inception. The Black-White wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.”


For racism and discrimination to decrease, the wealth and power gap must decrease in America as well.


Unfortunately, it does not take much imagination to realize that Lennon was an optimist.


But a realist could tell him, if he was alive today that the damage done by greed and possessions has led to the problems of racism and discrimination.


And those problems will never totally go away.


But we can decrease that problem.


Imagine being a descendant of Africa.


You arrived in this new land in 1619 and toiled in slavery for 250 years.


Your work on the plantation, picking hundreds of pounds of cotton a day, led to many White families being able to accumulate generational wealth.


Some of that old money still controls the country in which your descendants live in 2020.


For 250 years, your people could not earn money, save money, purchase land, build homes, educate themselves or do all of the things necessary to pull themselves up from their bootstraps.


Like Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, you cannot tell a bootless man to pull himself up by his bootstraps.


But because your people could not legally improve their lives for centuries, they still struggle with poverty, poor education, poor healthcare and systemic discrimination.


I know what the detractors might say.


The last slaves in America were set free on June 19, 1865 so get over it and work hard like all other races.


However, when African-Americans did that in towns like Tulsa, Okla. and Rosewood, Fla., nearby White residents burned down entire towns because of lies and jealousy.


Therefore, countless generations had to start over across the country because the White man took their possessions because racism allowed him to, and he had a false sense of superiority that made him think he deserved that property because of manifest destiny.


I like to call manifest destiny, manifest stupidity, but I digress.


I can hear the same detractors again complaining that those events happened in the early 20th century and we are two decades into the new millennium.


But this new millennium still has to abide by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution that states people can be enslaved for committing a crime.


That reality has always disproportionately affected African-Americans.


Even when one emancipates themselves from modern slavery, they sometimes cannot vote, often cannot get a job and often cannot get certain housing because of their record.


The only thing that makes that sad reality worse is the fact that we know many African-Americans rotting in a jail cell committed no crimes.


But because of circumstances, often beyond their control, they could not get adequate legal counsel to fight bogus charges, instead having to settle for a public defender who could not care less about the Black public.


What about job discrimination that prevents many African-Americans from ascending to the middle class?


What about discrimination in housing?


Many African-Americans have worked hard enough to move to affluent areas but are stuck in more dangerous communities because of discrimination from lending companies and banks.


So as you can see, closing the wealth gap takes more than working hard and abiding by the laws of this land.


It takes structural change.


It takes reparations, which I prefer calling restitution.


Because when one pays restitution for a car accident or other accident, you have to restore the victim so that they can become whole again.


There is no way some White people should look down on the plight of African-Americans when much of their privilege and wealth came from the sweat of my ancestors like the late, Solomon and Cecilia Huff of Kentwood, La. who spent much of their life “working” for free on plantations.


Luckily, some communities like Asheville, N.C. understand the need for restitution and the need to remove discriminatory practices in order to close the racial wealth gap.


The reparations will not give direct payments to African-Americans.


Instead, investments will be made in areas of life in which African-Americans face disparities.


Another way to pay restitution is for big businesses that built their fortune from slave labor should pay reparations to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) so that underprivileged African-American students can pursue higher education without accumulating exorbitant debt from student loans.


Additionally, Ivy League universities should pay reparations to HBCUs because the most prestigious universities in our country built their wealth from slave labor and endowments from wealthy slave owners.


But those are only my dreams and I am just imagining.


However, dreams do come true and I still imagine America correcting the mistakes of yesteryear.

 

As Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” 


This article was published on Friday 31 July, 2020.
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