The Black Middle Class Is Shrinking Even as The Economy Improves
By Victor Ochieng
For years, there has been a wide cry about how minority groups in the U.S. are disadvantaged in a number of ways. Black people, in particular, have been victims of racial bigotry right from the days of slavery, something that has emaciated them both socially and economically. With the civil rights movement and the eventual expansion of the black middle-class, there was some array of hope.But was that just a mirage?
As the country went into the recession, there was a general negative impact on the middle-class, and Obama made it a key point in his campaign for the 2008 presidential elections. Since Obama took office, a lot of progress has been made, and many Americans believe that the country has significantly improved economically. In fact, there are many analysts who’ve stated that the country has fully recovered and is surging healthily forward.
For the black population, however, it seems like they’re still stuck in the mud. The Black middle-class, instead of regaining its pre-recession vigor, is fast dwindling.
In Las Vegas, for example, construction and housing prices are moving upward, showing a general growth in the middle-class. While this is true, the black middle-class in the resort town is still troubled.
A Washington Post article recently gave a picture of what’s happening in Prince George, D.C., where there was a growing majority affluent black population. Sadly, when the recession came knocking, this population suffered its pangs and ended up in homes that were worth way below their mortgages.
“There was never a period in American history where the wealth gap was not enormous, but after this most recent recession, the wealth gap went from dismal to even worse,” says Darrick Hamilton, professor of economics and urban policy at the New School in Manhattan.
For black families in America, the story of economic imbalance has always been there. Blacks are the descendants of slaves, who, through the civil rights movements, were able to earn some level of freedom, but whose freedom came with nothing in material possession to start them off. Their struggle to move up the economic ladder is, therefore, a big challenge.
The very wealthy in America are whites; and they’ve got homes and own some of the biggest companies in the world. When an economy suffers, this lot suffers too, but not to the extent of those who’ve got no homes; those still struggling to clear their mortgages. And when the economy bounces back, the big companies will pick up immediately, but the effects of a bad economy on someone with nothing at all takes longer to recover from.
In terms of property, the average African-American family possesses $41,581, compared to $233,793 for an average white family. Similar disproportionate gaps are also evident in retirement assets and total assets.
What this has turned into is debt, where black families have to always be in debt for sustenance. As a result, every new black generation either finds loans to clear or has to start from zero.
This all boils down to what standup comedian Chris Rock delivered in his “Kill The Messenger” piece. He said that he lives in a posh neighborhood with big black names like Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, among others. Surprisingly, his immediate white neighbor was a dentist, with no noteworthy achievement in the field.
To wrap it up, the comedian says, “See the black man gotta fly to get somewhere a white man can walk to. I had to make miracles happen to get that house. I had to host the Oscars to get that house.”