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Why the racial wealth gap is still growing in America

By Keshia McEntire America is known as a land of opportunities, but those opportunities are not shared evenly amongst all of its citizens. According to data from the Federal Reserve, the median white household wealth is $171,000 dollars while the median black household wealth is only $17,600. For every $100 that a white family has to their name, black families only have about five dollars, and that gap is still increasing over time. But why, 153 years after slavery was deemed illegal in America, does the racial wealth gap still exist? The answer to this question is rooted in American history. The transatlantic slave trade began around the year 1650. During the slave trade, 12.5 million Africans were taken from their homes. Most slaves came from West African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Congo and Cameroon. Many did not survive the boat ride over and were tossed over the side of the ships, but those who did survive were forced to spend their lives doing backbreaking unpaid labor. During those 300 years, rape, murder and torture were commonplace, families were separated, and reading, learning and speaking their native languages was illegal. Slave owners had the opportunity to acquire wealth without having to pay workers. Many buildings and structures in America including the White House was built by slave labor. Slave owners got rich from selling cotton, tobacco, indigo, rice, and other crops. They were able to afford good homes and their children inherited property. Wealth was passed down from generation to generation. Once slavery was abolished after the Civil War, black people were free to go but many had nowhere to go. They had no education because reading had been illegal, they had no homes, jobs or money. With nowhere to go, some worked for and rented land from their former slave owners, other started their own towns or migrated to northern cities such as Chicago. Many towns and businesses launched by black people were burnt to the ground, which made it difficult for black families gain wealth. Slavery was over, but black people were not treated as equal. The government created Jim Crow Laws that mandated racial segregation. Black people and white people could not go to the same school or live in the same neighborhoods. These laws were repealed 54 years ago. With change, there is always resistance. Some white families pulled their children out of school because black people would be there, and cities found new ways to exclude black people from buying homes in white neighborhoods. Nevertheless, black people persisted and have been able to make great strides in the 54 years following Jim Crow. Since they were not allowed into white universities, they started their own. Black people build their own schools, churches, universities, and organizations, they became doctors, teachers, preachers and politicians. They started to gain wealth, but gaining wealth in America remained difficult for the black community. In 2008, the Global Financial Crisis hurt many Americans, but no community was as deeply impacted as the black community because they had less wealth to begin with. The black community lost more than half of their wealth as a result of the Wall Street collapse that took place only ten years ago. Today, statistics show that in America, the rich are gaining wealth while the poor and losing wealth. Many of the poor happen to be black. So how do we solve this problem? Some say the answer lies in education, but even college-educated Black workers earn 20 percent less than college-educated white workers who are working the same types of jobs. I believe the answer lies in what we value. Black Americans have built the countries wealth. American businesses must value black workers by offering equal wages for equal work, as well as equal opportunity for promotion. All people, no matter their race, are children of God, and all people should be given an equal op


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