Duke University Professor William A. Darity Jr. on How Barack Obama Failed Black Americans

Saturday, December 24, 2016
The Black Daily

"Nevertheless, some of those white voters who did not vote for him took his eight years as president as license to assert that the country is post-racial, even while attacking him with both veiled and overt racial slurs. But racism is organic to American life, and it sits at the core of persistence of racial economic inequality. In his fascinating profile of Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to the 'mark of a system engineered to place one on top of the other'—to place white over black. He offers some examples: the facts that blacks with a college degree have an unemployment rate almost as high as white high school graduates, that completion of a college education leads blacks to carry twice the level of student loan debt than whites four years after the degree, that blacks experience a significantly higher default rate on their loans, that black households have one-seventh of the wealth of white households, and that black families with $100,000 or more in income reside 'in more disadvantaged neighborhoods than white families making less than $30,000.'

Sadly, these actually are softer illustrations of 'the mark of the system' than findings that have emerged from research I have done with Darrick Hamilton, Anne Price, and other members of the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) research team. We find a much higher discrepancy between black and white wealth than the gap that Coates reports. Blacks with some college education actually have higher unemployment rates than whites who never finished high school. At each level of education, the black rate of unemployment is twice as high as the white rate. Moreover, the relative economic position on virtually all indicators, including the racial unemployment rate gap, has not improved since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Estimates generated from the 2013 round of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances indicate that black households have one-thirteenth of the wealth of white households at the median. We have concluded that the average black household would have to save 100 percent of its income for three consecutive years to close the wealth gap. The key source of the black-white wealth gap is the intergenerational effects of transfers of resources. White parents have far greater resources to give to their children via gifts and inheritances, so that the typical white young adult starts their working lives with a much greater initial net worth than the typical black young adult. These intergenerational effects are blatantly non-meritocratic."

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