Building Black wealth starts with reparations and home ownership: Spelman economist

·Writer
·3-min read

It is going to require “generational solutions” in order to tackle the “generational harm” that has impacted Black Americans that are descended from slaves and otherwise, Spelman College professor of economics Dr. Suneye Rae Holmes said as part of Yahoo’s Juneteenth: Soul of America event.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would make Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the United States, as a national holiday. Holmes, along with businessman and former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, joined the event to discuss the economic future of Black America and what needs to be done in order to build wealth within Black communities and solve structural inequality.

“It’s going to require government intervention for such,” Holmes said. “On its own or [in] the private sector, we will not be able to bridge the wealth inequality, wage inequality, housing inequality gaps, because it was laws that made that discrimination possible.”

According to Holmes, although people typically think of cash when they hear the word “reparations,” cash may not be the only, or even the most effective solution. Instead, she argues, reparations may better manifest themselves as educational credits, health credits, enterprise credits for business owners, or incentives for participating in the stock, bond, and real estate markets.

Holmes emphasized the significance of breaking down barriers of race, nationality, and other qualifiers in order to reach economic targets such as bridging the wage and wealth gaps and increasing participation in the stock market by people of color. These are the facets that will enable America to push towards greater racial and economic progress, Holmes said.

The Census Bureau found in 2018 that the median Black household made just 59 cents for every dollar of income made by the median white household. And according to a report by Citi, if Black wage, education, housing and investing gaps had been closed 20 years ago, it would have added an estimated $16 trillion to the economy. If it were closed today, it would translate to an estimated $5 trillion boost in the economy in just five years.

According to Brookings, Black homeowners have the least median housing equity among white, Asian American, and Hispanic or Latino homeowners. To understand this disparity, the historical context of the matter must be examined—Black people were excluded from public programs to encourage homeownership and higher education until the later 20th century. In addition, Racial inequality persists due to discrimination as Black people receive lower valuations on their homes compared to white people, Brookings said.

“Americans have long been indoctrinated and perhaps even inebriated off of the power imbalance, and in a different time period that power imbalance was more profitable. Today, we know that it is not,” Holmes said. “We know that racism, discrimination, exploitation—economic exploitation in particular—holds all of the country back when we're holding back particular communities.”

Watch Yahoo's Soul of America Juneteenth special
Watch Yahoo's Soul of America Juneteenth special

Thomas Hum is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @thomashumTV

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