Rodney gives us a history lesson about why some people have more than others and how our current system of inequality isn’t a mistake or an accident. It isn’t a problem that will be fixed by small adjustments to the status quo. We are faced with a problem that requires a completely new way of thinking. One that respects the history of white supremacy and economic domination that continues to this day.
Ahundred years ago, Greenwood, a 35-square-block section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was home to one of the largest concentrations of African American-owned businesses and wealth in America. Booker T. Washington referred to Greenwood as “Negro Wall Street.”
On May 31, 1921, white residents marched into Greenwood and burned it to the ground.
Like millions of African Americans who served in the military during Jim Crow, my grandfather was denied the privileges owed to him from the G.I. Bill of Rights, which provided financial support in the form of cash stipends for schooling, low-interest mortgages, job skills training, low-interest loans, and unemployment benefits.
G.I. benefits that helped to build the American white middle-class systematically excluded African American servicemen and their families
Thomas Craemer, an associate professor of public policy at University of Connecticut, concluded that U.S. slave labor in the 89 years between our country’s founding until the end of the Civil War would be worth approximately $5.9 trillion today.
Chattel slavery. Jim Crow. Redlining. Mass incarceration. Predatory lending. It’s a minor miracle that the racial wealth chasm between white and African American households isn’t significantly larger than it is today.
today in 2018, the free market status quo is tightening its grip. We can recite such frightening statistics as:
• 82 percent of all wealth created in 2017 went to the richest 1%
• The world’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762 billion
• The poorest 50 percent saw no increase in wealth at all
• Median wealth of African Americans could be zero by 2053
And while governments, philanthropists, investors, and civic leaders seek answers to today’s economic challenges, they lack truly systems changing ideas and beliefs.
What is needed is an entirely different intellectual edifice.
The mainstream ideas that drive our political economy concentrate authority, power, and wealth into the hands of the few, while actively marginalizing, exploiting, and extracting from the rest of us.
Where there was once slavery, indentured servitude, and sharecropping, there is now prison labor, wage theft, and the gig economy. In California, prisoners make up nearly 40 percent of firefighters — saving the state $100MM annually — and earn just $1.45 a day to fight deadly fires. Capital continues to find new ways to, in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, plunder. This is fundamental to how our economy works. But it need not be.
Restorative investing is one such alternative. Pioneered by brilliant black women like Nwamaka Agbo and Alfa Demmellash, restorative investing acknowledges the urgent moral, economic, and ecological imperative to share and redirect power and promote collective well-being and social equity.
financial elites are winning by the rules of a rigged game. What is required is a paradigmatic shift in the rules — moving from systemic power imbalance and wealth accumulation to distributing wealth and power equitably.
And instead of spending $90 billion every year in tax breaks and cash awards to companies like Amazon to move across states, U.S. municipal and state governments would invest in cooperative ownership, minority-businesses, community-empowered development, and other authentic alternatives for advancing community wealth and economic equity.
There are clear alternatives to the status quo.