According to the New York Times #1619 Project, white Americans have seven times the wealth of black Americans on average. Black people make up nearly 13 percent of the United States population, yet they hold less than 3 percent of the nation’s total wealth. The median family wealth for white people is $171,000, compared with just $17,600 for black people. Nineteen percent of black households have zero or negative net worth. Just 9 percent of white families are that poor.
The foundation of the problem that black Americans have had with white Americans is the inexplicable belief by many that black people belong to an inferior, subhuman race. This madness did not simply disappear once slavery ended. It continues to some degree to this very day.
Reflection on this point allows one to understand the underlying root cause of racial issues in America.
White people, often aided by law enforcement, waged a campaign of wanton racial terrorism against black Americans that robbed them of an incalculable amount of wealth. During slavery and post-slavery until civil rights became a reality on a nationwide basis, white Americans unleashed racial terror throughout the country. Black Americans were not merely killed but castrated, burned alive and dismembered with their body parts displayed in storefronts. In response to demands for civil rights promised by Constitutional amendments that ended slavery, white Americans strung black Americans from trees, beat them and dumped their bodies in muddy rivers, assassinated them in their front yards, firebombed them on buses, mauled them with dogs, and murdered their children with explosives set off inside a church.
The wave of systemic violence deployed against black Americans after reconstruction in both the North and the South eliminated any real opportunity to create wealth by black Americans as a whole.
With the blessing of the nation’s highest court, there was no federal governmental will to vindicate civil rights for black Americans. Starting in the late 1800s, states passed a series of laws and codes meant to make slavery’s racial caste system permanent by denying black Americans political power, social equality, and basic dignity. States passed literacy tests to keep black Americans from voting and created all-white primaries for elections. Black Americans were prohibited from serving on juries or testifying in court against a white person.
There are many examples of state laws enacted to impede the freedom of black Americans. Memphis had separate parking spaces for black and white drivers. Baltimore passed an ordinance outlawing black Americans from moving onto a block that was more than half white and white Americans from moving onto a block more than half black. Georgia made it illegal for black and white Americans to be buried next to one another in the same cemetery. Alabama barred black Americans from using public libraries that were paid for by their own tax dollars.
Black Americans were expected to jump off the sidewalk to let white Americans pass and were forced to call all white Americans by a title that conveyed the white person’s superiority no matter how old they were. In the North, white politicians implemented policies that segregated black Americans into slum neighborhoods and into inferior all-black schools, operated whites-only public pools, and white businesses regularly denied black Americans service, placing “Whites Only” signs in their windows.
States like California joined Southern States in barring black Americans from marrying white Americans, while local school boards in Illinois and New Jersey mandated segregated schools for black and white children.
White America savagely enforced a system of racial apartheid that excluded black people almost entirely from economic opportunities and mainstream American life. Black Americans have only been legally free and able to build wealth freely for 50 years.