11 Ways the Federal Government Contributed to the Racial Wealth Divide

March 01, 2012

Black History Month may have come to an end, but the fight against racial injustice is hardly over. In order to close the racial economic divide, we must first take an honest look at the policies and practices that created and perpetuate racial disparities.

Here are 11 ways federal government giveaways gave an economic headstart to white people while excluding people of color.

1. Free land
White Revolutionary War veterans were given nine million acres of Indian land.


2. Legalized squatting
In 1841, the U.S. government legalized squatting, allowing white settlers to take over Native American land.

3. Military-enforced squatting
The U.S. Government helped enforce squatting by employing the U.S. Army out west to beat back Native Americans from land coveted by white settlers.

4. More free land
In addition to conquering half of Mexico, the U.S. Government reclaimed Latino landowners’ land for minor infractions such as missing paperwork or back taxes, and then sold it to Anglo settlers at a minor cost.

5. Even more free land
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided free or very inexpensive land was provided by the government to 1.5 million white families.

6. Revoked promises to slaves
Following the Civil War, freed slaves were promised ‘40 acres and a mule.’ Following Lincoln's death, this promise was revoked and land was returned to its previous White owners.

7. Preferential treatment of white workers
Through the New Deal, the U.S. Government provided minimum wages, union rights, and social security to industrial workers, almost all of whom were white. These same benefits, however, were denied to agricultural and domestic workers, most of whom were people of color.

8. Government-sponsored aid
Government-sponsored aid was provided to struggling white farmers while denying it to most black farmers from the 1930’s right through the 1980s.

9. GI Bill benefits
Provided free college education, vocational training, and cheap mortgages to nearly two million white WWII vets via the GI Bill, while simultaneously blocking most veterans of color from accessing the same benefits.

10. Neighborhood investment through homeownership
Invested in infrastructure to expand suburban neighborhoods where white households were able to access government-subsidized mortgages while urban, inner-city neighborhoods were red-lined.

11. Tax breaks
Tax breaks on investment income (such as dividends, capital gains and inheritances), which are disproportionately owned by wealthy white people, have been cut and lowered much more than taxes on income from work.

Share: