Racism and Economic Inequality: Can We Level the Playing Field?

That sounds like a lot, right? But in the same way you’d eat an elephant one bite at a time, we’re going to tackle this one bite at a time. And no, I’m not suggesting that anyone actually eats an elephant. I’m making reference to the proverb “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 

All this means is that seemingly insurmountable tasks can be accomplished if tackled in small stages. Racism by itself is a gargantuan fight to take on. So is economic inequality. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. For our first bite, let’s take a look at the wealth gap that exists in the United States. 

We all know that the 1% possess most of the wealth. Disproportionately so. But if we take them out of the equation and just look at the general disparity between higher earners and lower earners, there’s no ignoring the fact that there is a clear line of demarcation along race. 

Generally speaking, the average income of people of color (POC) is lower than that of our white counterparts. But how did we get here and how can we level the playing field?

How Racism Led to Today’s Wealth Gap

Time for the second bite. Imagine a race with six runners. Three of the runners are given a head start. You’d say that’s unfair to the other three, right? So would I. The starting pistol sounds and the race gets underway. The head start runners are leading. No surprise there. 

The other three are trying their best to catch up but now they have hurdles to jump. That’s going to slow them down a bit. The head start runners continue their sprint unimpeded by hurdles. This is a super-simplified analogy to illustrate what slavery and Jim Crow did to the ability of black people to generate wealth. We started the race way behind. Then we had to deal with segregation and unjust laws intended to prevent us from making real progress in the race. 

There was a time where we actually caught up. 

The emergence of Black Wall Street, officially called Greenwood, proved that wealth creation was possible despite the starting point and hurdles. But the destruction of this community proved that racism can and does obstruct our advancement. We’ve now gone from that to a systemic issue of unconscious bias. However, some of the explicit racism from decades ago still exists in some instances. 

None of this is said to anger anyone or generate any pity. It’s just an acknowledgement of how we got to where we are. It’s an acknowledgement of the fact that we haven’t had the same opportunities and access to financial resources as non-POC. It is important to note that these issues don’t just affect black people. Other minorities also face the same difficulties to varying degrees but I speak on the black experience because I am a black woman.

How Do We Fix Racism and Economic Inequality?

Third bite. So, what do we do now? We know economic inequality exists between POC and non-POC. We know why. But what do we do about it? We’ve been doing it. And we need to continue doing it. Create wealth. That’s the answer. 

Yes, it’s easier said than done but we’ve already established that we’re not shying away from things just because they’re difficult. Andrew Glaze, the founder and CEO of CMPD Wealth, recently said, “The ability to create wealth is a key part of financial freedom and that’s something that every American should have regardless of race, creed or color.” We just need to find ways to make it happen.

Wealth creation for POC comes with all kinds of hindrances and impediments. We know that. Take the case of the couple in California who had their house undervalued a few months ago. They had purchased the house in 2016 for just under $900,000. They then spent approximately $400,000 on renovations (even adding an extra 1,000 square feet of space). 

When they had the house appraised, they were shocked by a valuation of just under $1,000,000. They then had the house appraised a second time but they had their white friend pretend to be the homeowner. The new valuation came in at close to $1,500,000. Did racism or unconscious bias affect the first valuation? They believe so. And there have been other similar cases in the past. But what if this is one of the hurdles we could actually circumvent?

How to Bridge America’s Wealth Gap

It’s 2021. We’re in the digital age. It is now possible to sell your home online. Well, it’s been possible for a while now. But the point is that we could be taking advantage of resources like this which could help reduce the risk of unconscious bias playing a part in low home valuations which, in turn, make it harder for us to create wealth. 

CMPD’s platform is designed to prevent discrimination because no racial demographics are shared with decision makers. Should it have to come down to that? No, it shouldn’t. But we’re playing the hand we were dealt and utilizing digital resources to our benefit can help us catch up to those head start runners. Not everyone likes or wants to go digital. But it’s a valid avenue to explore. 

Fourth bite. Educate yourself and your kids (if you have them). Financial literacy is an integral component of wealth creation. You wouldn’t try and change the tire on your car without first learning how to. Consume knowledge that will help you achieve financial freedom more quickly.

Learn how to clear your debts or how to invest or how to repair your credit. Choose the thing most relevant to your circumstances and educate yourself on that topic. Then implement it in your life. If you can do more than one simultaneously, even better. 

We Have to Tools to Fight Financial Inequality

All these bites of the elephant go hand in hand with the general fight for equality, not just economic equality. Once certain groups of society are seen as equal to those with decision-making power, the fight for economic equality will become easier. This article focused a lot on the black-white wealth gap

But there are some individuals who have other battles to fight where economic equality is concerned. Women have long been held back from financial advancement due to the vestiges of patriarchal edict. Some have the extra burden of being a woman and a POC. Other minority groups also face similar issues in their bid to create wealth. Until equality exists across the board, the fight for economic equality marches on. 

We must do what we can with what we have in order to get to where we want to be. What we have is access to a vast amount of information with which we can edify ourselves. And we have access to digital alternatives to the traditional methods which have held us back up until now. We should take full advantage of both in a bid to make the playing field less inequitable.

Continue learning more about financial topics like this by downloading the WealthStack app for free on the App Store or on Google Play.