The Racial Wealth Gap: Racism and Classism in America

As a middle-class white female who grew up in predominately white, the racial wealth gap is not an often-discussed topic. Before I had the opportunity to really understand what the racial wealth gap really was, and to what extent it was prevalent in society, I knew little to nothing on the subject. This is probably due to the fact that there are not a large amount of people of color or lower-income people in my area, so my ignorance to the subject was due in part by lack of exposure.

After learning the truth of the racial wealth gap, I was shocked to say the least. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual income of a white person is $678,737, while the average black person makes $95,261 per year. The numbers don’t lie – this wage gap is huge and its growing. The racial wealth gap is true and very present – the question is “why?”

ice cube
Ice Cube, looking disgusted

The two dividing factors in this gap, race and class are two of the most disc

riminating groups in our history. Racism has sadly always been a presence in our country, dating all the way back to the beginning of our country’s history with slavery. Though there have been strides taken to improve this, prejudices and stigmas against people of color unfortunately have yet to be mitigated from our society. These same prejudices are seen when it comes to low-income citizens. Due to their class and economic status, these people are often labeled as “lazy” and “freeloaders,” which is not at all true.

actually that is not correct
A picture of a mans face saying “actually that’s not correct”

These factors are what fuel the racial wealth gap. Not only are low income people of color put at a disadvantage due to racism in the workplace, but their status in society means that they have little class mobility, and therefore improving upon their lives is not always an option. They are instead labeled as lazy and unmotivated, chasing the ever-elusive American Dream. This problem goes dates back hundreds of years and is in turn worse now than it has ever been in the past.

american dream
Cartoon depicting the American Dream as a breaking bridge in American society

How can we solve the racial wealth gap? This is a difficult question to address, and to fully understand it one would need a knowledge of economics that I do not possess. Although, one thing is for sure, and that is that we need to stop the systematic oppression and racism that has embedded itself so far into our culture. White people in particular need to take responsibility for the stigmas placed against low-income people of color before anything can be improved. In fact, Forbes  number one proposal to end the racial wealth gap is “stricter enforcement of housing anti-discrimination laws.” We can no longer remain ignorant to this wealth gap and allow our fellow citizens to be methodically oppressed. While these realizations will certainly not solve all problems surrounding the racial wealth gap, it is a start. Taking accountability allows us to move forward and further address the problem, without placing the blame on the victims of this wage gap like we are so accustomed to in the past.

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