The violent clashes in Charlottesville last week put front and center a much needed conversation about race. But let’s not forget there’s an ugly economic side to bigotry.
There has been and still is profit in racism. In my column this week I addressed how racism has suppressed the economic mobility of people of color.
As I wrote, it was because of racist policies that my grandmother Big Mama, who raised me, was scared to change jobs, invest her savings or seek out opportunities that might bring a higher standard of living. Big Mama worried constantly that whites would take away her home.
Here’s the column: The costs of racism in American society
As I expected, there are still some who refuse to accept the legacy of slavery and racism in America.
“No white man was going to take her property unless she didn’t pay her mortgage,” wrote Mark from Alexandria, Va. “Can you show me a single case of a person whose home was ‘taken’ from them by a white person just because they chose to abuse a black person? It simply doesn’t happen.”
Right there. This is why bigotry is so hard to stamp out. Racism lives because people don’t want to accept the truth that discrimination happens.
There are examples of homes and land being taken away from African Americans and other people of color by individuals and government. History has shown that my grandmother was not being paranoid. We only need to look to the recent Great Recession for examples of predatory lending practices that resulted in a disproportionate number of black homes being lost to foreclosure.
Here’s some proof for Mark:
“Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia, oil fields in Mississippi, a baseball spring training facility in Florida,” the AP found.
Although “poor white landowners, too, were sometimes treated unfairly, pressured to sell at rock-bottom prices by railroads and mining companies. The fate of black landowners has been an overlooked part of this story,” according to the AP investigation.
This article profiles some of the cases from the AP investigation, which included land lost by the 18 Ocoee, Fla., families, not including buildings now on it, assessed in 2001 by tax officials at more than $4.2 million.
— Here’s a book on the topic: The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South
And let’s not forget the discriminatory policies that helped put us in a recession.
The Washington Post’s Heather Long looked at racism from the perspective of jobs.
“President Trump believes he has the cure for America’s racial tensions: more jobs,” Long wrote. “In Trump’s view, everyone will be happy once they are working. ‘They will be making a lot of money, much more than they ever thought possible,’ the president said. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Jobs are not magic fairy dust that can cure everything. Racism is a deeper problem than just economics. Even in periods of strong employment and economic growth, the United States and other nations have still experienced ugly flare ups of hate crimes and riots.”
But jobs won’t stamp out racism.
“Just look at what’s happening right now,” Long says. “The economy is in pretty good shape. Unemployment is a mere 4.3 percent, the lowest level since 2001. Job openings in the United States are at record highs, yet people still walked through the streets of Charlottesville carrying Nazi flags and telling nonwhites and Jews that they should burn in ovens. They did this even though working-class whites still have a large advantage over blacks and Hispanics in getting jobs, earning higher wages and owning homes. Jobs are not enough to bridge the deep racial divide.”
We can’t talk about how to address racism if we’re still fighting the notion that it doesn’t exist and that it doesn’t have a real economic impact on victims.
Color of Money question of the week
Have you experienced economic loss due to racism? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “The Cost of Racism” in the subject line.
PayPal steps up efforts to prevent racist users from using its platform
The Post’s Tracy Jan reported that the online payment platform announced this week after the Charlottesville rallies that it would bar users from accepting donations to promote hate, violence and intolerance. It was discovered that PayPal was used to raise money for a white supremacist rally.
“Corporate watchdogs and civil rights organizations have pressured the company for years to ban such groups — to little avail,” Jan wrote.
Keegan Hankes, an analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Jan: “For the longest time, PayPal has essentially been the banking system for white nationalism.”
Live chat today
I’m live every Thursday from noon (ET) to 1 p.m. to take your personal finance questions.
So what’s on your mind moneywise? Join me this week. Here’s the link to participate in the chat. If you miss it, use this link to read the transcript.
Should you use your child to get credit?
Last week I asked: Have you had a relative steal your identity and if so what did you do?
It happened to Lorna Gilkey of Alexandria, Va.
“Unfortunately, I had this happen to me from my mother,” she wrote. “She put a checking account, car and a few other bills in my name as I went off to, and returned from, college. She defaulted on almost everything to the point where I practically had my own parking space at the courthouse for 10 years! I also blame the companies who accepted checks with MY printed name but HER signature (she didn’t even try to hide her fraud). It took a DECADE before I could clear HER mess because an attorney I consulted said the only way out of it was to sue her. Not good for family relations so I didn’t do it. Just suffered on my own, paying HER debts. And she had no remorse back then. Twenty years later, though I love her with every fiber of my being, I honestly regret not suing her. That was a horrible thing to do to me, to ruin my credit life before I could create one. I have never, and would never, do that to my own children. It is a crime. Period.”
Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.
Stay informed about your money. Read and share some recent column.
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.