I'm sure you've heard how black Americans make seriously less than white Americans, Asians, and also Hispanics. I'm sure you've even heard that black families are less likely to own their own homes than whites (73% to 44%). But the way that a combination of lesser income and less home ownership combine to create less household wealth (total assets minus liabilities) is nothing short of staggering. Since right now, in Brooklyn, it's never been more apparent how different is the financial stability of owners vs. renters, I'm sharing with you a graph that makes me dizzy with disbelief.
|Median Household Wealth (median, as you recall, is half above and half below, not average)
How the hell are you supposed to get a leg up in this country if you haven't any help from the generation before you? I mean, where would so many of Brooklyn's new residents be if their folks hadn't afforded good schools or neighborhoods where great schools are, or paid for great colleges or contributed to buying first houses or cars, or come to the aid when the shit hit the fan?
That's not to say that many members of today's middle to upper classes didn't work hard to get there. But if you look at the broader picture - and don't get too defensive about your personal case - it's not hard to see that the transference of wealth is a huge part of how the haves continue to have. And I'm not just talking about the super-rich. Just affording a downpayment on a house is becoming an act of razzle dazzle. It's becoming trickier and trickier to remain part of the middle class without more than mere income. A house, an heirloom, an inheritance, a hand, they've become precious commodities in the struggle to remain part of the bourgeoisie.
In a country where wealth breeds wealth, it's astonishing that the myth of Horatio Alger continues to dominate mainstream discourse. Work hard. Play by the rules. You too can snag a piece of the American Dream. The anecdotes abound. But the big picture is above, and it's not pretty.
The change of neighborhoods from black to white is often described as a mere transfer of real estate. It is, in my estimation, a very deep reflection of lingering racism. I think it's worth asking why race is such a big part of gentrification at all. I know you're not dumb, and you probably wonder the same thing. The above graph says it all to me.
Our denial as a country knows no bounds. Like the looming environmental catastrophe, racial and class inequalities lie in wait, with perhaps as many implications for the country, hell the SPECIES, as anything we can conjure up in science fiction. Perhaps never before has a country on earth had the strength and resources to get this equality thing right and stay strong and resource-rich. We're failing miserably, and downing craft beer and kale as the opportunity to the right the ship passes by on the rising sea.
That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 73 percent for white households.