The Trayvon Martin case illustrates that we still have a hard time dealing with issues of race in this country. The issue of racial injustice, coupled with economic injustice, is not likely to fade away.
The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the population will no longer be majority white. Many believe that this demographic shift will automatically bring with it a qualitative improvement in the situation for people of color.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a segment of white America that deeply fears the demographic changes and sees in them a threat to its status. Such fears lead some of these people to gravitate toward right-wing populism.
But the demographic changes are not expected to bring about any significant improvements for most people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, according to a new study, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.
If current trends continue, we will witness widening gaps in income and wealth, as well as in education and incarceration rates. The study predicts, for instance, that blacks will make 61 cents and Latinos will make 45 cents for every dollar whites make in terms of median family income.
Contrary to right-wing populists' "dystopia for whites," the report paints a picture of a reconfigured Jim Crow — almost an apartheid situation of haves and have-nots.
Most whites won't be benefiting, either. The overall living standard of most of this country, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, will continue to decline. The fates of poor and middle-class whites will be much more connected to those of people of color than to the very rich and largely white ruling elite.
The implications of this report are sobering — even frightening.
We need concerted political and economic action in the days and months and years ahead if we are to conquer our racial and economic disparities. That means not just continuing affirmative action. It also means launching policies of redistributive justice.
Let's face it: Those at the top have been redistributing income and wealth their way over the past three decades. If we don't implement policies that redistribute income and wealth to the vast majority of Americans who need it, our country will become increasingly — and dangerously — divided.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided." He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.
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.
The Emerging Majority measures the impacts of the past thirty years of public policy on the racial divide, examining a host of social and economic indicators, including income, wealth, poverty, health care, homeownership, education and incarcerationRead more
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to the struggle for racial equality. The vast racial economic divide remains a fact of American life more than forty years after his assassination.
White 7.5%, Black 15.8%, Latino 11.0%
Ratio to White: Black 2.1 to 1, Latino 1.5 to 1
Median Family Income (2010):
White $70,000, Black $40,000, Latino $40,000
Ratio to White: Black 57¢ per dollar, Latino 57¢ per dollar
Poverty Rates (2010):
White 9.5%, Black 25.7%, Latino 25.4%
Ratio to White: Black 2.7 to 1, Latino 2.7 to1
Education - Adults with College Degrees (Bachelor’s or Higher) (2010):
White 33.2%, Black 20.0%, Latino 13.9%
Ratio to White: Black 60% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree, Latino 42% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree
Incarceration Rates (2009):
White 0.39%, Black 2.39%, Latino 0.97% of the population is in prison
Ratio to White: Black 6.1 times more likely to be in prison, Latino 1.5 times more likely to be in prison.
Average Family Net Wealth (2007) Near the Height of the Housing Bubble:
White $675,000, Black $134,000, Latino $185,000
Ratio to White: Black 20¢ per dollar, Latino 27¢ per dollar
Dr. King described the civil rights victories of the 1960s as having achieved “a degree of decency, not of equality.” Racial economic equality remains a disturbingly elusive and distant dream. In wealth and incarceration, the Black White divide has worsened in the last thirty years. The economic situation for the average Latino family has deteriorated overall relative to Whites since 1980.
Read our 2012 State of the Dream report, The Emerging Majority, for more details on how we got here and where we are headed. In the report, we look thirty years ahead to 2042 when the Census Bureau projects that people of color will become a majority of the population. We examine the trends in racial ineqaulity over the last thirty years, since the election of Ronald Reagain in 1980, and project those trends thirty years forward to 2042.
|DOWNLOAD STATE OF THE DREAM 2012|
The last 30 years of public policy have hindered progress toward Dr. King's dream of racial equality. Thirty years from now, people of color will collectively represent the majority of the U.S. population. If we continue along the same governing path, the racial economic divide will remain in 2042 and, in many regards, will be considerably worse.
The racial economic divide is a national embarrassment. Eliminating it should be a moral imperative, and as the non-White share of the population grows, it will become an increasingly urgent economic necessity.
United for a Fair Economy’s ninth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, assesses the state of the racial economic divide since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and uses the trends of the last thirty years to project thirty years forward to 2042.
We find that the past thirty years of public policy has done little to address racial economic disparities. If the current trends continue, the racial economic divide will be immense in 2042 across a wide variety of indicators. Progress toward economic parity between Black and White is slow and inconsistent and, in some cases, inequality is increasing. Latinos who account for most of the growth of the population are, in most cases, experiencing a decrease in economic well being relative to Whites.
If the current trends continue:
Income: Black and Latino median incomes will be 61 cents 45 cents, respectively, for every dollar of median White income in 2042. Blacks will have gained only 4 cents while Latinos will have lost 15 cents of median income relative to Whites from 2010 to 2042.
Poverty: In 2010, poverty rates among Blacks (25.7%) and Latinos (25.4%) were more than two and a half times the White poverty rate. By 2042, the Black and Latino poverty rates will remain 1.9 times and 2.6 times that of the White poverty rate.
Jobs: The current unemployment rates stand at 7.5 percent for Whites, 15.8 percent for Blacks and 11 percent for Latinos. In 2042, Black and Latino unemployment will be 1.8 times and 1.5 times higher than White unemployment, respectively.
Wealth: By 2042, Blacks and Latinos will both have lost ground in average wealth, holding only 19 cents and 25 cents for each dollar of White wealth. The average net worth of Black and Latino families in 2007 was 20 cents and 27 cents, respectively, for every dollar of White net worth.
Higher Education: Black adults were 60 percent as likely to have a college degree as White adults in 2010, while Latino adults were only 42 percent as likely as Whites to have a college degree. By 2042, Black will be 76 percent as likely as Whites to have earned a college degree; Latinos will have become even less likely (37 percent) than Whites to have a college degree.
Incarceration: In 2010, Blacks were a staggering 6.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites. Latinos were 2.5 times more likely than Whites to be incarcerated, and this figure does not include the disproportionately Latino population being held in immigration detention centers. In 2042, Blacks will still be six times and Latinos two times as likely as Whites to be incarcerated.
It does not have to be this way. Public policy does not have to follow the course that it has been on since Reagan. The growing share of the non-White population presents an opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to build political power. In the current era of extraordinary economic inequality, the fate of the vast majority of the White population is more connected with the economic interests of Blacks and Latinos than with the ruling political elite.
Shifting from the dominant conservative public policy direction of the last thirty years that has not addressed racial equality will require a broad coalition dedicated to eliminating the racial economic divide.
We need policy solutions that will significantly reduce the racial divide. Foreclosure relief, federal aid to states and targeted job creation programs are needed to both combat the economic slump and to reduce racial economic disparities. Longer-term strategies including wealth-building programs, increasing taxes on the rich, strengthening safety net programs, ending the war on drugs, and humane immigration reform are needed in order to substantially reduce the racial inequality.
The racial economic divide is the legacy of centuries of White supremacy practiced as national policy. As a nation, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday, but we tolerate the perpetuation of racial inequality that he dedicated his life to fighting. If we do not change course, our economy will not be able to bear the swelling numbers of Blacks and Latinos out of work, in poverty and in prison.
Absent a powerful and sustained political movement aligned not just along the lines of race but by economic interests, Whites will still make a disproportionate share of the national income and hold an overwhelming majority of the nation’s wealth and power in 2042.
Austerity for Whom? surveys the impacts of a tax-cutting, government-shrinking economic agenda – as prescribed by Republican leadership with Tea Party allies – on communities of color.Read more
MLK envisioned a work where the color of one's skin mattered about as much as the color of one's toothbrush. Sadly, the juxtaposition between the beauty of MLK's dream and the reality of racial and economic equality in America today is startling.
According to a new report released today by United for a Fair Economy—State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?—the racial economic divide in this country remains significant. For example: for every dollar of net wealth held by Whites, Latinos hold 12 cents and Blacks hold just 10 cents. Blacks are 90 percent more likely and Latinos are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed, and those who do work earn significantly less than their White counterparts—Blacks earn 57 cents and Latinos earn 59 cents to each dollar of White median family income.
Austerity measures supported by GOP and Tea Party activists will hurt all of us who rely on good schools, safe roads, and strong communities. But beyond that, austerity measures will simply worsen the economic inequality and prevent us from realizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream.
This video features Mazher Ali and Brian Miller of United for a Fair Economy, two of the co-authors of the report, discussing the key findings of the report.
Drained highlights the shortcomings of colorblind policies and the urgent need for targeted strategies geared toward lifting up the communities in most need.Read more
The Silent Depression explores the silent economic depression that affects communities of color – one that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed.Read more
This 2008 report examines the racial bias of the subprime mortgage lending crisis, and the devastating wealth loss to people of color that has resulted.Read more