Financial Insecurity: Not News for People of Color

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, the director of the Racial Wealth Divide Project at the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), read our May cover story and submits that the inaccessibility of financial prosperity may only come as a shock to white Americans:

The secret is out: The American Dream of a secure “middle-class lifestyle” with a clear path to better future economic prospects is a too distant reality for most Americans. For white, middle-class households, this is a shock; financial security was considered their right.

But over the last 40 years, private market forces have stagnated wages, concentrated wealth, made a norm of what was formerly banned as predatory lending rates, and radically increased the cost of child care, health care and more.  Yet, for most households of color—who will soon comprise the majority—this inability to realize the American Dream is no secret.

For people of color—whose median wealth is usually not even a tenth of that of white households and whose unemployment rates can be double those of white Americans—the economic insecurity causing populist anger among white Americans has been the accepted norm. To tackle this challenge, America, as it has done in the past, must invest in greater economic opportunity for its citizens and develop regulatory structures and tax policies that reward all. Amidst this ongoing financial insecurity crisis, there is an opportunity to create the first American middle class to be truly racially and ethnically inclusive.