FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Economic Inequality

by DEDRICK MUHAMMAD

Greed, economic exploitation, and dehumanizing stereotypes of inferiority are the root of racism in the Western world. Brutal, racist exploitation in the United States and throughout the Americas has been the means through which Western European economies have been built. A belief in the inferiority of people of color justified this concentration of wealth in European hands. As Howard Zinn writes in his classic A People’s History of the United States “These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.”

President Lula Silva brought to light the current racist global economic order during a visit from Prime Minister Gordon Brown of England. President Silva of Brazil, the country that was the primary destination of enslaved Africans during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, highlighted that the global economic downturn is the result of the irresponsibility and greed of white elites. Additionally, he noted, this greed has caused disproportionate suffering to the poor of the world, primarily people of color. President Silva’s remarks have been mocked in much of the US press, ignoring his demand that global racial economic inequality be addressed as nations come together to rebuild the global economy.

The same week that President Silva highlighted the global racial wealth divide, scholars, activists, and experts from across the United States came to Washington DC to discuss the racial wealth divide in this country. During this Color of Wealth summit, it was highlighted that Blacks and Latinos have less than 15 cents for every dollar of wealth held by the median white family, exposing how economic inequality is the foundation of today’s racial divide. During the two day summit, there was excitement about the opportunities to bridge the racial wealth divide with an Obama presidency that has recognized a greater role for government to play in increasing opportunity for all Americans. Yet in the opening roundtable of the summit, John Powell of the Kirwan Institue for the Study of Race and Ethnicity highlighted the historical failure of universal economic programs advancing racial equality. Powell noted that when policies fail to take into account institutional racism and the unique characteristics of disenfranchised minorities, often times greater racial inequality is created. For example, many of the great liberal programs of the New Deal exacerbated racial inequality.

From the time of the civil rights movement till today, those who highlight racial inequality are often portrayed as troublemakers creating racial divisions rather than problem solvers exposing racial division. One of those who was regularly criticized for being a troublemaker was Dr. Martin Luther King, killed 41 years ago this April 4th. Dr. King in examining the need to master ones’ fears wrote: Courage and cowardice are antithetical. Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance.

Too many white Americans have surrendered to the circumstance of racial inequality, blaming racial inequality on the inferiority of disenfranchised groups rather than the systemic disenfranchisement faced by these groups. In the past the rationale for racial inequality was a belief in the inherent mental deficiencies of people of color – today the rationale for racial inequality is belief in deficiencies of morality or the work ethic of people of color. Yet, there are some who are willing to go beyond the standard racial justifications of contemporary racism. Thousands of white Americans are showing this kind of courage by participating in a week of White Privilege Awareness events occurring March 30th to April 5th. In Washington DC Resource Generation will have a viewing of “Traces of the Trade”, a documentary that follows white descendents of slave traders and their struggle with the privilege attained in their family through profiting off of the Transatlantic slave trade. The Global Awareness Project, also in Washington DC, will host a panel discussion as to how white privilege is an issue and challenge in the multi-racial Latino community. Finally there will be a national gathering in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated, to discuss and strategize how to courageously stand up to address white privilege and racial inequality.

It is an act of courage for people, particularly white people, to come together and look at racial inequality. Those with privilege need to be able to see it as part of the problem rather than blaming the disadvantaged as deserving of their fate. It is this type of courage that must be exemplified by world leaders and policy makers to build an economy that no longer has the racial wealth divide at its foundation.

DEDRICK MUHAMMAD works at the Institute for Policy Studies.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is host of the Race and Wealth Podcast and Director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at the Corporation for Economic Development.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
 North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail