The tragic murder of George Floyd (#GeorgeFloyd) highlighted the heinous reality of racism, police brutality, and the legacy of racial violence in America. But if we’re going to truly address this country’s ills, we must name, condemn and fix ECONOMIC violence too.
First, a definition. Economic violence occurs when 1 party disenfranchises, subjugates or financially abuses another party.Any person or entity in power can commit economic violence. This includes individuals, companies, organizations, governments, institutions or systems. Clearly, many individuals and groups may be subjected to economic violence, such as LGBTQ people, immigrants or women.
But I want to talk specifically about the economic violence that African-Americans have endured for 400+ years in the U.S. Ever since 1619, Blacks have faced non-stop economic violence. For ~250 years, under slavery, Blacks provided the FREE FORCED labor that made America an economic powerhouse.
Reminder: Cotton was the world’s #1 commodity and crucial to the first Industrial Revolution, and Civil War (1861-1865).So imagine being born in 1866 as a “free” Black person. For generations, your ancestors worked for others and received NOTHING for their labor.
* Your parents
* Great grandparents
* Great great grandparents, etc.
Would that depress you? Anger you? Motivate you?
Now imagine you’re a determined, smart, hard-working and positive-thinking Black person. Hmmm. You seem ‘uppity.’ So after slavery and through Reconstruction (1865-1877), you’re hit with “Black Codes” — racist laws designed to help Whites and completely hold you back economically and socially. Black Codes inflicted massive economic violence; too much to name.
African-Americans could not:
– own certain property
– rent/lease land
– sell any farm products
– work where they wanted
– have more than 1 job
Eventually, Black Codes led to Jim Crow laws, enacted from 1877 to the 1950s, which fostered generations of Black poverty.
Racist Jim Crow laws didn’t just mean segregation in all aspects of American life. They also codified disparate treatment and resources for Blacks. In education. In the workplace. In the tax code. And ESPECIALLY in housing. Why the emphasis on housing? Housing comprises the majority of Americans’ wealth.
So housing #discrimination was the law and was a CORE FEATURE (not an accident or a byproduct) of city, state and federal policy. Here are just 2 examples of economic violence prevalent in housing back then:
– Blatant Redlining, when bank and insurers refused to provide financial services to Blacks, or did so only at MUCH higher rates
– The Federal Government flat out REFUSED to insure home loans for Blacks. Yet from the 1930s to the 1960s, 98% of loans approved by the feds were for Whites, DOUBLING their homeownership rate (from 30% to 60%) and creating the White middle class.
What about legislation that ended such discrimination, you ask?
Yes, there were some laws:
– The 1968 Fair Housing Act
– 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act
– 1977 Community Reinvestment Act
But each of these was a partial fix and incomplete. So economic violence remained. What is the result today of a long legacy of economic & labor market #inequality? Things are exactly as PLANNED and DESIGNED.
White wealth is 10 times Blacks: $171,000 vs. $17,600 (Source: Federal Reserve Bank) White median income: ~ $71,000 vs. $41,361 for Blacks (Source: Census Bureau) White homeownership rate: 74% vs. 44% for Blacks (Source: National Assoc. of Realtors).
Even now, in 2020, Blacks face discrimination in mortgage lending, studies from the Federal Reserve, Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers show.
For African-Americans with the same assets, income and credit scores as White borrowers, Blacks still get higher home loan rates or denied more often. *SMH* I don’t have all the answers or a comprehensive plan for how to fix all this (Elizabeth Warren might though). 🙂 But here’s what I do know: as a society, we have to address these issues at a systemic and structural level.
After slavery, there was a systematic, strategic, intentional effort to maintain White supremacy, give Whites economic advantages, and keep Blacks financially disenfranchised. We need to be equally strategic and intentional in undoing that legacy of oppression, injustice and economic violence.
- Laws have to be changed.
- Practices, policies and procedures must be revamped.
- Systems have to be dismantled and/or re-fashioned.
Some advocate for #reparations. I agree. That’s the least America can and should do.
Maybe hearts and minds are changing too right now, with the videotaped murder of George Floyd (RIP) sparking protests in all 50 states and internationally as well. People of all races are now saying: “Enough is enough” and #BlackLivesMatter.
If that’s genuine and that sentiment holds, then yes, let’s end police brutality and racial violence. But let’s not forget that what sustains it all is economic violence. That must come crashing down too.