The Hard to Detect, Economic Traps Blocking Black Wealth
The world often has what I like to call lazy eyes. They see something and make a generalization or assumption without studying problems systemically and historically. When we do this, we often form improper (and sometimes implicit) biases that do more harm than good.
When the world sees Black people and the lack of Black progress, I feel like the world views us as rejects, can’t get rights, and flawed. It’s not the truth. The majority of us really, really work hard.
We try to be decent. We’ve for the most part assimilated.
We try to be good citizens.
We try to show the world we are good, smart, and kind.
But it seems no matter what we do, there is always what seems to some group or some invisible obstacle putting us down, kicking us down, putting us in the ground, or leaving us out.
I just love when people White people and immigrants put Black folks down because they can’t seem to get ahead. The one thing it shows me is how ignorant these segments of our population are and how little they understand challenges black communities have accruing wealth in a segregated economy.
For all of you patriots out there, I need you to understand this! The United States government (aka, the Man) has worked tirelessly to create, encourage, and enforce racial segregation in the 20th century.
That’s right! America is the reason why most Black and Brown people can’t make it. So if you don’t like how we live, if you dislike how we act, and if you disagree with standing in society, be angry with America, not Black people.
America’s history of federally mandated housing segregation, gentrification (also called reverse migration), lending, banking, education, economic discrimination, community development, school-to-prison pipelines, employment discrimination, policing bias, credit discrimination, and racism makes the playing field uneven. Always and forever.
The invisible economic traps are endless. The is no such thing as a “free-market” for the Black community. It’s anything but free.
For example, Black women were one of the last groups allowed into America’s workforce. How in the hell do you catch up while waging the war on poverty when everyone got a chance to work before your group? Today, Black women still face discrimination in the workforce. Many career fields, despite our strides in attaining high-quality post-secondary education, still give preferences (and higher wages) to Whites over us. In all things White is right. Then other. Black is always last.
Again, if White people are making a higher wage for doing the same job, then how do Blacks get ahead?
Race and ethnicity are intertwined inextricably with our concerns about justice and equality.
Because housing and education go hand in hand, which is the easiest (and hardest to track) way to keep People of Color down. Residential segregation ensures White property values are higher (so says our government), and Black and Brown community property values are much lower (so says our government), we never have enough money to fund our schools at the same level as White schools in White communities.
How can Black children (and poor rural children for that matter) get a good education to get into college or perhaps pursue academic scholarships which eventually leads to a great job, that then leads to that young Black adult being able to buy a decent home in a decent mixed community creating generational wealth for their family if housing and education are inextricably linked?
How can Blacks get a decent paying job when there are no jobs ever coming to their communities because their community is deemed unworthy?
They don’t. You know why?
It’s because over policing and implicit bias means higher perceived crime rates which in turn is bad for business and economic development. No jobs in our communities mean no wealth-building. We spend all of our resources just trying to meet our basic needs. And the businesses that do come to our communities come with the intention of taking from us. They view us as consumers, not as partners or stakeholders.
Black communities are the easiest consumers to exploit because we are stuck. We are trapped. We are blocked.
Those hard to track barriers and obstacles are invisible, and when people are too lazy to study systems and too quick to forget/dismiss America’s real history, a group of people and consistently and systemically left hind.
We are blocked. We are trapped. We are stuck.
It doesn’t matter if we leave our raggedy side of town or our rundown Black communities and move to Whiter ones, the racist biases entrenched in our systems are inescapable. Our names and skin color gives us away, allowing those desiring to continue the spirit of exclusion to achieve their goal whether it’s intentional or unconscious. Discrimination is a mother.
Because of our race and ethnicity, life tends to always be unfair for us (if you say it’s not, go click on the links above and then go off and do more of your own research). Wouldn’t you be angry if you knew before you even tried to get a good education, get a good job, buy a nice home for your young family in a mixed or all White community, or open a checking account you’re going to fail because of your race or ethnicity on the application deems you unworthy?
And yes, I’m sure you’ll say I have a Black neighbor, or a Black co-worker, or you have that one Black reference in your life. Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that there is usually just one token Black person in your life? Why is that?
The one Black person on your street or in your neighborhood. How about that one good Black token at your job, likely making less than their White counterparts no doubt? It’s by design. It’s sanctioned by America. It’s the American way. A limitation on Black people is always in fashion. All the blocking is frustrating.
That’s why we’re always angry. Someone is always fucking us around. As long as you’re not Black (or in some cases Hispanic), your life is golden even if you don’t have all the things you feel you deserve, especially if you’re White.
And while other ethnic groups may suffer because of some of these hard to track obstacles, no ethnic group in America has been impacted more by the policies and systems designed to keep a people several classes beneath White people in America except Blacks.
Being Black is a hole we will never be able to ever fully dig ourselves out of. Most of us don’t even try. Yes, we are living our best lives being mediocre instead of being great. Who wants the hassles that come with trying in this country? Trying means fighting all the time and still coming in second place. Some of us are still fighting to be the first Black (yes we are still doing coronations for ethnic firsts here).
Fighting to be the only Black, then dealing with the baggage that comes with being the only is too much weight for one person to carry.
We’re tired. Fighting seems futile and feels hopeless.
So, if you’re White, and you’ve lived in all White spaces all of your life…while it’s not your problem specifically, you are apart of our problem. You’re hoarding all of the resources for yourselves. Understand the hidden systems that oppress and then help us fight them. And if you’re with no plans to help combat America’s systemic racism, then please don’t complain about our lack progress.
You’re just one of our many problems.
And some White folks have the audacity to make fun of the rare Black athlete who finds a way to transcend get out of poverty by playing a game. Sometimes entertainment is a Black man’s only way out. It’s one of the few doors you’ll allow Blacks to go through, and it’s because it’s entertainment. It’s one of the few non-threatening means we’re allowed to use to sustain our ourselves while accruing generational wealth.
Now, do you understand how hard it is to be Black, get the fuck out of poverty, and accrue wealth? It’s damn near impossible. It’s not an excuse. It’s not our imaginations either. It’s our reality, and it’s a reality we have to deal with every day.
The hard to detect economic traps blocking Black wealth will never go away with the assistance and support of White people. Investigate your local systems, then see how they tie to national systems. Write op-eds, join Black groups working on social justice issues (join, not take over), fight gerrymandering and rules and laws that disenfranchise our votes, and force your local governments to invest in Black communities. Sadly, many Blacks don’t understand why they are just barely making it.
So if you’re White you can learn, then go to Black churches and community centers to teach them. Afraid. Send the top Black church leader a letter and tell them what you know. Build bridges allies, stop building fences.
Remember, we’re intentionally left in the dark. The more we know, the harder we fight, and America doesn’t have to play fair when we aren’t fighting forcing her to be fair.
Then meet them at your local city and county council meetings to demand change. If one community is unhealthy, every community is unhealthy. America can’t continue to keep leaving people behind, and we can’t keep pretending we don’t understand why some ethnic groups simply can’t succeed. It’s by design.
You’ve been informed. Knowledge is power. What are you going to do now?
Love (and help) one another!
Marley K., 2018