People of Color Face Historic Wealth Loss

The core institutions of American capitalism have condemned Black and Brown America to further centuries of wealth disparity. Now standing at about ten-to-one, the wealth gap between African American and white median households cannot but grow bigger in the wake of the subprime lending catastrophe. The Boston-based United for a Fair Economy recently released a report, detailing the carnage wreaked on people of color by predatory lenders — and it is mind-boggling.

The report, titled “Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008,” shows definitively that banks and other lending institutions trapped Blacks and Latinos in predatory lending schemes as a matter of policy. “Even a surface check of the demographics shows,” the report says, “that, in city after city, a solid majority of subprime loan recipients were people of color.” The very scope of the crime proves that the lending crisis is not the product of Black “culture,” but the result of calculated policies, near-uniformly carried out by virtually all of the nation’s mortgage lending institutions. This is institutional racism writ large, and indisputable.

The money-lenders have already sucked the value out of whole communities, urban and suburban. The wealth loss is staggering: People of color have collectively lost between “$164 billion to $213 billion over the past eight years,” with Latinos losing slightly more than African Americans. For the average American, wealth is passed on through the value of homes. That dream, as the report concludes, has been largely foreclosed.

Before the crisis hit, it was estimated that it would take 594 years — more than half a millennium! — for Blacks to catch up with whites in household wealth. Now, in the aftermath of the home mortgage massacre, it could take ten times as long – more than 5,000 years! – before Blacks achieve homeowner parity with whites. Looking backward, that stretches from now to when the great pyramids were built.

People of color have collectively lost between $164 billion to $213 billion over the past eight years.

If Black wealth creation through home-owning is central to the drive for equality, then the private sector cannot be allowed free reign; they have already proven themselves criminally culpable in the death of dreams. And the crisis is by no means over. The rot extends to the non-mortgage practices of global financial institutions, that bundle worthless paper and trade it like real money. So deeply corrupt are the mega-banks, brokerage houses and finance capitalists of all kinds, the entire planetary house of cards is in danger of collapse.

Domestically, cities are already feeling the crunch of diminishing home property taxes — having long ago given away much of their tax base to attract many of the same corporations that created the current crisis. Boarded up houses destroy property values in the surrounding neighborhood, but there are at present no reliable private mechanisms to reverse the devastation. The banks aren’t even taking each other’s paper — knowing it is as worthless as their own.

Forget the sales sloganeering, that owning a home is the “American Dream.” Affordable housing is what the people need, whether rental or family-owned — many millions of new units. The private sector cannot — will not — provide affordable housing, since it is more concerned with creating artificially high sale values than with meeting the public’s crying needs. Now that the bubble has burst, it should never be allowed to be re-inflated. There is only one alternative, and that is massive public spending on housing that fits the actual needs and budgets of the citizens. That’s the very least one can demand from one’s government.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.

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  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on January 28th, 2008 at 7:57pm #

    The power of capitalism not only to destroy the natural world, but also to impoverish and immiserate millions, while all the time stealing from posterity by exploiting far beyond the planet’s current capacity, can only be summoned into dreadful action by a certain type of human creature. Most people would hesitate before deliberately entrapping and pauperising others. Most people would have at least some second thoughts before closing a factory and re-locating to a poor country to exploit its cheap, downtrodden labour. Most people would pause and contemplate the effects on generations yet unborn of their selfish actions in the here and now. Not the capitalist. As has been often pointed out, capitalism favours the psychopath, the creature indifferent to the suffering of others, the plausible denier, the ruthless self-seeker. Capitalism’s greatest evil, however, is its spiritual toxicity. Through their total dominance of the media and the means of communication, and through their ruthless selectivity in ensuring their human media property are completely committed to spreading Market propaganda, no matter how many and how transparent are the lies that must be concocted and disseminated, the parasite class has brainwashed the world. It is now most peoples’ view of life that one spends one’s precious Earthly existence in the unending drudgery of wage-slavery, accumulating as many possessions as possible while one’s soul and character slowly corrode. Our society exhults the avaricious, the venal, the unprincipled and the unscrupulous. These attitudes infect politics, where men and women of principle have long since been purged. Naturally racism, along with misogyny, sectarian hatreds and internecine antipathy amongst the parasites themselves act as a synergistic, fulminating, infection. Fortunately capitalism is a self-limiting disease. Like most cancers it cannot be transmitted to another host, we having, fortunately, not yet escaped the bounds of our planet and spread our sickness to the cosmos. Pity is, unless we do something soon, and something..vigorous, the parasites are taking us all over the edge and down into the abyss.