By Jamiel Robinson
As I look at what seems to be a perpetual vulnerable and disadvantaged state of a large percentage of those belonging to “Black America” my thoughts go in a number of directions. One being the intentional underdevelopment of Black communities after the end of the Reconstruction Era up to and through the 1960’s. Then to municipal disinvestment in the urban core in the cities occupied predominantly Blacks and Latinos also known as Benign Neglect. While at the same time being denied opportunities to own property in their community through the practice of Redlining. Redlining which was and still is being practiced today in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. Or how the United States used highways to destroy black neighborhoods all across this country. The Black community has always been under attack economically.
All of these intentional and deliberate actions created what Black America is experiencing today; gentrification and displacement, low educational attainment, high unemployment rate, low homeownership rate, poor health and higher mortality rates, lower median income and lack of ability to create, retain and pass down wealth also know as inter-generational wealth.
The wealth gap between Black families and White families in the United States is at its widest point. The average Black household will need 228 years to accumulate as much wealth as their White counterparts hold today. The median White household had $111,146 in wealth holdings in 2011, compared to $7,113 for the median Black household (figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation). For generations we’ve been told that we’re behind economically because of the low percentage of two parent households. We’ve also have been told that college is the great equalizer when it comes to economic security but a recent study The Asset Value of Whiteness by DEMO debunked these myths.
While I believe in attaining higher education credentials to increase earning potential but how could we believe that by just getting credentialed and creating two parent households would reduce the wealth gap when for centuries, white households enjoyed wealth-building opportunities that were systematically denied to people of color.
Last November for the 2016 Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses #TheShift Summit we brought Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard a nationally renowned Economist and one of the leaders of Cooperative Economics movement to discuss ways and strategies the Black community can create wealth. Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard shared 5 ways that Co-Ops can improve income, wealth, and develop their communities. In addition to generating income Co-ops contribute to asset building and wealth accumulation. Creating stable jobs, equity in the businesses and property that provide returns on their investments. Over 70% of the wealth created through Co-Ops remains in the community that generated the wealth.
In order for the Black community to create wealth we must be the owners/investors of land, property, and business/industry. If we don’t become owners in these areas then we can’t control what happens to or what takes place in our neighborhoods and will continue to be vulnerable and disadvantaged.
We must collectively pool our resources while leveraging existing community resources. Individual success does not equate to gains of the group. Wealth creation and generation is a team sport. Individual accomplishments are recognized and applauded and may land you in the Hall of Fame but don’t lead to championships for your team. Individual success means little if your team ain’t winning. This is why the whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts.