How the Racial Wealth Gap Makes Us All Poorer

The real story behind this injustice…

This story was originally published here.

For the last three weeks, chants of “No justice, no peace!” have echoed across hundreds of American cities as millions of people have taken to the streets to protest against police violence after the killings of black citizens George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by white officers. 

It’s a simple chant, but it’s hard to argue with its underlying logic. Racial injustice feeds civil unrest. It’s a pattern which we’ve seen again and again — in Baltimore in 2015 after the killing of Freddie Gray by police, in Los Angeles in 1992 after the near-killing of Rodney King, and across the country in 1968 after the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. by a white supremacist. 

And police brutality is far from the only injustice black Americans live with. 

Systemic racism has also given rise to a shockingly large racial wealth gap in the United States. And that gap has grown significantly in the last three decades. 

racial wealth gap 1
Source: Christian Weller via Forbes

The COVID-19 recession is making the divide even more apparent. As my colleague Jason Stutman wrote in a recent article:

The timing of these protests should not be taken out of context. We just spent the last several months under a near nationwide lockdown, spiraling headfirst into an economic depression. Black Americans in particular have reported being furloughed and laid off at higher rates…

America’s racial wealth gap has a variety of causes, including racist government policies, historical inequities, and subtle forms of discrimination in the labor and credit markets which persist to this day. 

I don’t claim to have the solution to this worsening social crisis. But I’m using my column this week to discuss the historical origins of the racial wealth gap, its destabilizing effects on America’s present-day economy, and the ideas which black economists and financial experts have put forward to help black people overcome economic racism. 

Editor's Note: Click here for the full story.

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