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WILLIAMS D. BRACK: Ongoing discrimination – connecting the dots

Part II of IV

Williams D. Brack

by Williams D. Brack
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Admittedly, it’s a provocative move to assert that African-American wealth is being intentionally sabotaged. It’s the anchoring premise of this four-part series, which continues this week with my argument that discrimination against African-American wealth is ongoing and perpetuated through modern means.

Building upon our baseline discussion about the historical factors contributing to the expanding gap between African-American wealth and white-American wealth, let me now point out and connect a series of dots/instances that lay bare what I view as a modern-day assault on African Americans’ wealth-generating capacity.

• In 2016, Toyota Motor Credit agreed to pay up to $21.9 million in restitution to thousands of African-American, Asian and Pacific Islander customers for charging them higher interest rates on auto loans than white borrowers with comparable creditworthiness. So says the U.S. government.

• According to new findings from the Consumer Federation of America, good drivers living in a mostly African-American ZIP code end pay more on their auto insurance premiums than similar drivers living in mostly white neighborhoods. The higher rates are passed along regardless of driving history, population density and income.

• Lisa Rice is executive vice president of the National Fair House Alliance. With conviction, she says that in the United States “wealth and financial stability are inextricably linked to housing opportunity and homeownership.”

• It’s been five decades since the Fair Housing Act was put into effect to prohibit racial discrimination in lending. Now the Equal Justice Initiative is telling us that African Americans continue to be denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than white homebuyers, especially in the South.

• At the Rutgers Business School, researchers recently probed equity regarding small business loans. The resulting report shows that minority-owned businesses seeking small business loans are treated differently than their white counterparts, despite having identical qualifications on paper.

• The Federal Reserve two years ago released data showing that minority business owners pay interest rates on average 32 percent higher than what their white counterparts.

• The U.S. – according to the Center for Global Policy Solutions – was losing out on 1.1 million minority-owned businesses in 2016. Why? The finding reflected discriminatory financing practices and a bias towards companies primarily operated by white males. The result was the foregoing of nine-million-plus potential jobs and an estimated $300 billion in collective national income.

These sobering findings serve as a backdrop for seriously disturbing elements brought out in the Memphis Poverty Report, including that the median income for African Americans has – since the 50s – stubbornly remained at approximately 50 percent of income for white residents. By the numbers, that’s a median income earned of $35,664 compared to $69,860.

Today, 29 percent of the African Americans in Memphis live in poverty, with that figure swelling to 48 percent when limited to African-American children.

Sure, we are better off socially today than 50 years ago. Yet, the measures of economic progress show that the steps forward in this parallel arena have been painstakingly slow.

We can – and must – do better to increase African-American wealth and close the gap between African Americans and white Americans. The Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies projects that gap will double from $500,000 to $1 million by 2043. That’s the year that the Census Bureau has determined white Americans will become the “minority” population in the U.S.

NEXT, PART III: Let’s talk solutions.

LAST WEEK:  The intentional sabotage of African-American wealth.

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