Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In America, whites have 20 times the wealth of African-Americans. So says census data

Dear Kevin:

In America, whites have 20 times the wealth of African-Americans. So says census data.

Not 20% more. Not twice as much. Twenty times as much. Specifically, the median household wealth for whites in 2009 was $113,149, and the median household wealth for African-Americans was $5,677.

When I heard this a few months ago, it was not entirely news to me. When I was in Congress, I read the reports that the Federal Reserve sent to Members; to me, that was interesting reading. In the appendix to one of those Fed reports, from a survey of respondents selected in 2007, these numbers caught my eye:

White, non-Hispanic households – $149,900

Hispanic and African-American households – $23,300

So from $149,900 down to $113,149, and from $23,300 (including Hispanics) down to $5,677. These numbers confirm just how hard the Great Recession has whacked minority households.

But there is a deeper issue. Can someone please explain to me how, in a country where we are told again and again that we are “all created equal,” one group ends up with 20 times as much as another?

MLK’s dream was that his four young children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” What are we supposed to think – that one group has twenty times as much character as another?

In the face of incredible numbers like these, you will still find right-wingers who insist that America is now a color-blind society (except for the scourge of “reverse racism”). But the numbers tell a different story. They suggest that America is not a color-blind society, but rather a racism-blind society.

And ask yourself: when has any elected official, ANY elected official, ever discussed this inconvenient truth, and tried to discern what should be done about it? Why is there a veil of silence over such a salient, central fact about the country we all share?

I went to a wonderful parade on Saturday, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And if there is one thing that we know in Central Florida, it’s how to put on a parade; we have several every day. All those smiling, happy faces that I saw on Saturday.

And it’s not my job to rain on anyone’s parade. That’s why I’m saying this today, not yesterday, when we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. But here we are, 49 years later, his “four young children” as old as I am, and one of them already gone from us.

And I have to say, about that dream of equality that he had, it’s still just a dream.

Just a dream.

Courage,

Alan Grayson

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Robert Kennedy, on dreams.

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