January 15, 2014.
As we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s 85th birthday, we’ve all come to know his dream. Above all else, he dreamed that one day this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”Read the rest here.
Yet here’s the grim reality facing black America today:
The net worth of just 400 billionaires, a group that could fit into a high school gym, is on par with the collective wealth of our more than 14 million African- American households. Both groups possess some $2 trillion, about three percent of our national net worth of $77 trillion.
*****Comment: Those who make a point of wanting to erase the racist past often ignore how its structural legacy lives on.
In the weeks since a squatter camp has been erected in my neighborhood I have thought about the poor people who now live in the shacks so despised by most of my longstanding neighbors.
I recognize the absolute poverty of folks who have no choice but to find open land and stake a claim.
It is at once a failure of our present government to live up to its promises to provide decent housing for the poor majority; but it is also the stranglehold legacy of apartheid that continues to punish the poor black masses who will struggle for generations irrespectively.
I also understand the discomfort of those in my once 'coloured' designated neighborhood who despise the shack dwellers and the negative impact on all our property values.
My dad worked all his life to pay off our family home. We were forced to live here by apartheid laws.
If our nice English style Tudor was in a formerly white neighborhood it would be worth about two million rand or more. But since it is essentially in a sprawling ghetto now the house is worth less than a third of that value if even that.
This is structural racism and its legacy reaches into the future. To appreciate this fact you have to understand that wealth is generational in much the same way that poverty is.
Black folks in the US are understandably still struggling to amass financial security in a system that was historically designed to keep them on the margins.
I am not therefore surprised that 400 billionaires in the US have more collective capital than 14 million black households.
I expect that if you used the same 400 billionaires - many of them who became rich as a result of an economic world system in large part built on African slavery - you would find that their wealth comes close to eclipsing the total wealth of all households in sub-Saharan Africa.
Racism can't be wished into the past because it is very much a part of the present in consequence and I agree with Bob Lord that Dr King would still be very distressed.
And we are not free.