HOT TOPICS, 08/11/2020
It started out as if it was going to be one of those HR workshops where you have a facilitator, small groups, an easel with huge sheets of paper & suggestions to pass along to management. Snoozer stuff.
But Tuesday evening’s LWVOC Hot Topics-ish program actually turned out to be interesting – as well as informative, historical & depressing.
Presented by the Bread for the World Institute, “The Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation” is an interactive program that tells us why there is the continuing gap in the U.S. between median net worth of white households ($141,900) & Black households ($11,000).
The simulation looks at 13 federal policies that have resulted in lost opportunities and/or severe setbacks for Blacks, causing the systemic discrimination cited in study after study. If you undertake this program, you’ll see fully what long-term systemic racism does to affect not only wealth but also income and hunger.
The first policy in 1865 rescinded the promise of 40 acres to each former slave who fought in the Civil War. Instead, President Andrew Johnson ordered land under federal control to be returned to its previous owners, beginning the practice of sharecropping – with, in effect, former slaves working again for the ex-slaveholders & usually unable to build up assets (property, savings) that would lift them out of poverty.
As Reconstruction ended & up to & beyond the National Housing Act of 1934, Blacks were subject to illegal land seizures, eminent domain judgments, redlining -- resulting in residents in redlined areas being denied FHA loans & being labeled bad risks.
Then came another series of policies that did Blacks no favors. Under the Social Security bill, 65% of Blacks couldn’t participate because farmworkers & domestics were excluded from old-age & unemployment compensation nor could they benefit from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 or the GI Bill of 1944 (Black veterans excluded from many benefits accorded to whites), separate-but-equal being anything but. Systemic.
We march on through the war on drugs, subprime loans, voting restrictions (including for those freed from incarceration).
Even when policies are good, some provisions aren’t enforced or are inconsistently enforced. Or take 2013 when the Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – doing away with oversight over states considered practitioners of discriminatory voting policies.
The Institute provided relevant statistics for Orlando. For instance, median income for white households is $55,596 & $31,102 for Black households. Also, African Americans here are five times more likely than whites to face hunger & three times more likely to live in poverty.
For information about Bread of the World Institute, go to bread.org