First, let me say that I'm excited and "pleased as punch" to be part of the Bilerico DC team! I treasure this noteworthy opportunity.
I'd intended that the subject of my inaugural column would be the legendary Mr. Essex Hemphill. This groundbreaking, award-winning African-American gay poet was both a colleague and good friend.
But something rather alarming--to say the least-- caused a "course correction." (However, I promise that my next post will be about Essex, a truly amazing and awesome talent.)
That something was a news report that came across my desk several days ago, and it impacts all of us: gay. lesbian. straight. bisexual. transgendered. intersexed. Different genders, races and ethnicities. And, it intersects with the series I'm writing on racism within the GLBTI community entitled Racism: The Cancer that Slowly Consumes Our Very Souls for QBliss.net. Currently, the syndicated version is appearing on Bilerico.
That Washington Post article, The Wealth Gap Gets Wider, was penned by Meizhu Lui, director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, California. Lui wrote
The gap between the wealth of white Americans and African-Americans has grown. According to the Fed, for every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family, the African-American family has only one dime. In 2004, it had 12 cents.
Shocking, isn't it?
The AIG bonus debacle, the Obama Administration plan to cleanse the banks, and our other seemingly myriad economic woes are vastly overshadowing this mammoth gap. This horrid situation continues to be "lost in the shuffle." Therefore, it's discussed very little.
However, on March 23 and 24, the Insight Center put this issue front and center by holding the Color of Wealth 2009 Policy Summit right here in Washington, D.C. Policy experts, prominent scholars, experts in asset building in communities of color, and members of Congress came together to discuss ways to close this wealth gap, and to "make the case that the nation's long-term economic future depends on the inclusion of all Americans in opportunities to build wealth."
Some of the summit's objectives included educating policymakers on the racial wealth gap and the need to close it; discussing how experts of color can be a resource to members of Congress and their staff; and learning about policy initiatives that could help close the racial wealth gap.
According to Lui, "the overhyped political term 'post-racial society' becomes patently absurd when looking at these economic numbers. This is just not a gap. It's a deepening canyon." Let's review the stats, which supports Lui's statements.
"White families are five times as likely as families of color to have a bank account and access to responsible loan terms," stated Lui. "Because of the lack of federally insured and regulated financial institutions on reservations and in inner cities, rural areas, barrios and Chinatowns, payday lenders and other shady financial dealers operating without government oversight have preyed on people of color, fueling the economic and foreclosure crises."
Lui continued, "African-Americans and other people of color were more than three times as likely as white borrowers to be steered to high-interest loans, even when they qualified for a prime loan. A Harvard University study showed that in Massachusetts, a high-income African-American was more likely than a low-income white borrower to get a subprime loan."
Such studies are plentiful, asserted Lui, who added that laws in our tax code have strengthened the hand of those who already have assets. For instance, an individual is allowed a tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages of up to $1 million--"a nice break for those who hardly need one. But if you own a home and make too little to itemize, the mortgage interest deduction doesn't help you at all."
Lui discussed what could be done to shrink this gaping crater. "We need a Financial Product Safety Commission to act against discriminatory lending policies and to stop the marketing of dangerous loans such as exploding adjustable-rate mortgages. We also should cap the mortgage interest deduction and make it refundable so low-income homeowners can benefit. Mandating that new schools and transportation and commercial projects that are supported by federal dollars be located only in areas with racially inclusive zoning policies would also do much to create and grow neighborhoods of opportunity."
This deepening, widening chasm negatively affects and impacts each and every American, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnicity. The social, political and humanistic consequences and ramifications are seemingly endless.
This huge disparity is markedly accelerating the unraveling of the tapestry and the very fabric of our nation. Therefore, it behooves all of us to seriously and sincerely work towards building a more level playing field for everyone.
Lui believes "Building wealth is essential to the American promise of opportunity for economic mobility and security regardless of the accident of one's birth." I believe that.
We all should.