The Ghetto Is Public Policy

Arnold Hirsch opens Making the Second Ghetto with this undated clipping from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Something is happening to lives and spirits that will never show up in the great housing shortage of the late 40s. Something is happening to the children which might not show up in our social record until the 1970s.

That quote has haunted me for the past couple of weeks, and it came back again in reading this piece on America's yawning wealth gap:

The difference in wealth between typical households in each racial group ballooned to $236,500 in 2009, up from $85,000 in 1984, according to the study, released Wednesday. By 2009, the median net worth of white families was $265,000, while blacks had only $28,500...

Income gains are also a major differentiating factor, even when whites and blacks have similar wage increases. Whites are typically able to put more of their raises towards accumulating wealth because they've already built up a cash cushion. 

Blacks are more likely to use the money to cover emergencies. Inheritances also make it easier for some families to build wealth. Among the families studied, whites were five times more likely to inherit money than blacks, and their typical inheritances were 10 times as big.

White liberals generally prefer to talk about a colorless wealth inequality haunting the country. I'm not opposed to that conversation. But it also needs to be said (loudly) that black/white inequality has, for most of American history, been our explicit public policy, and today, is our implicit public policy.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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