Saturday, December 29, 2007

Boyce Watkins on NPR - Black Family Wealth

As a finance professor, I see regular misconceptions in media about black people, black families and black wealth. America somehow has chosen to believe that the reason for wealth disparities in America is that African-Americans have simply chosen to be lazy and engage in the practice of bad money management. They also cite the fact that black families are not married as regularly and that this is a reason for poverty in the black community.

I could not disagree more.

The reason for the wealth disparity between blacks and whites is very simple: For 400 years (a very long time), America had a clear tradition of not allowing black people to pass wealth onto their children. As a result, all the big buildings in Manhattan, all the major media companies, and all the large corporations in America are owned, run and controlled by the white community. Period. Most wealth is inherited wealth and we were not allowed to inherit.

Black people choosing not to get married is no worse nor better than the fact that many families in America choose to get divorced. Honestly, I think divorce is far more devastating to the life of a child than not getting married. If one throws in the fact that non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support, then the income gap, in a perfect world, should disappear. One can argue that two parents are better than one, but at the same time, 3 parents would be better than 2, and 4 parents would be better than 3. You could make this argument forever, and to use the one vs. two parent disparity as the fundamental basis to explain America's commitment to racial inequality is ridiculous.

Bottom line: Love is what matters, and if you look at the lives of Al Gore's son and kids in the suburbs who engage in just as much deviant behavior as kids in "the hood", you will see that a parent's decision to get married or not can be good for the child or bad, depending on the circumstances.

In other words: I get sick of people trying to say that black families are immoral or culturally inferior. Our culture is just fine thank you. Also, racial inequality and wealth gaps are due to one thing: historical discrimination. If you want to talk about creating a fair america, then you must first correct the huge imbalance created by racist ancestry. Trying to be fair from this point on (as Ward Connerly tries to argue) is like a lifelong crook stealing billions and then promising not to steal anymore. A fix must be applied to past wrongs before you can move forward in fairness.

I did this NPR interview on the topic not too long ago. It was done with Farai Chideya, a woman I had a huge crush on during my time in graduate school. Don't tell her I said that (haha!).

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