Duke economist William “Sandy” Darity discussed Thursday how America’s Black-white wealth gap came to be, and the case for reparations for Black Americans, during a video briefing for the media. The Biden administration recently stated its support for addressing reparations.
Watch the briefing on YouTube.
“There is an enormous gap in wealth between Blacks and whites in the United States. This gap is fully captured by the fact that Blacks make up about 13% of the population but possess only about 2% of the nation’s wealth. This corresponds to a condition where the average Black household has $840,000 less in net worth than the average white household,” said William “Sandy” Darity, an economist at Duke University.
“As a consequence there is this gaping chasm in opportunity and in the capability to participate in a society, and there’s ultimately denial for access to the material conditions for full citizenship in the United States.”
“We think that this wealth gap is what should be the primary target of a reparations initiative, that any well-designed reparations plan for Black descendants of U.S. slavery must be designed to eliminate the racial wealth differential.”
“The wealth gap that we observe today is the cumulative intergenerational effect of racial injustice in the United States,” said Darity, co-author of the new book, “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the 21st Century,” written with folklorist and arts consultant Kirsten Mullen.
“The starting point is the failure to provide Black Americans who were emerging from slavery with the land grants they were promised, while whites received (land grants) four times as large. The second phase that’s pertinent is nearly 100 years of legal separation … what we colloquially refer to as Jim Crow.”
“We also had a series of white massacres that took place ... from the end of the Civil War to the end of the 1940s.”
“(Also), mass incarceration of Black Americans, police executions of unarmed Blacks, ongoing discrimination (in credit opportunities) and discrimination in housing, and unemployment.”
“The cost (estimate is) $10-$12 trillion, that should be the baseline amount of a plan. The, ‘How will we pay for it?’ argument is one that’s always thrown up as an obstacle to transformative policies. I think that our recent experience both in the Great Recession and pandemic suggest quite clearly the federal government can make substantial expenditures without necessarily raising taxes on anyone.”
“The only barrier of any significance to increasing federal spending is the risk of inflation, and as a consequence it becomes important to design any new expenditure program in such a way that you minimize the risk of inflation.”
“They key point is there is a debt that has to be paid. … The nation has an obligation, has a debt that needs to be paid.”
William “Sandy” Darity
William “Sandy” Darity is a professor of public policy, African and African American Studies and economics who specializes in wealth and income disparities, the social-psychological effects of exposure to unemployment and reparations. Darity also directs the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.
Darity’s new book is also the inspiration for a new podcast, “The Arc of Justice,” that launched Wednesday. Produced by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy in partnership with WUNC-FM/North Carolina Public Radio, the podcast can be found here.
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