Racism costs U.S. billions annually

Freddie Allen | 11/18/2013, 11 a.m.
Closing the income gap between Whites and minorities would boost earnings by 12 percent, an economic windfall of $1 trillion, ...
Gail Christopher Freddie Allen

The infant mortality rate for Blacks is more than double the rate for Whites. AIDS diagnoses are 10 times higher among Blacks than Whites’. Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women.

In the richest nation in the world with the highest health care costs, the life expectancy for Black men is almost five years shorter than the life expectancy of White men. Black women face a three-year deficit when measured against White women.

Discrimination in housing, once supported by federal policies, now permeates the balance sheets of the nation’s largest banks and continues to drive the wealth gap between Whites and Blacks.

“The black/white wealth gap increased from $85,000 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009, driven primarily by the racial difference in the number of years of homeownership,” the report stated.

In 1934, Federal Housing Authority officials took actions that set up roadblocks to homeownership opportunities for people of color.

According to the W.K. Kellogg study on racial equity, the FHA issued a manual to its loan officers that sanctioned “‘redlining,’ which made home purchases in many non-white, largely urban neighborhoods ineligible for FHA-backed mortgages, without consideration of the credit worthiness of the applicant.”

Most of the loans during the first decades of the program flowed to Whites living in middle class neighborhoods, forcing Blacks to live in resourced starved, segregated neighborhoods.

“While housing discrimination in the U.S. was outlawed in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, legal forms of housing discrimination were built into, or sanctioned in, prior federal, state and local laws,” the report stated.

At the close of World War II, federal government officials actively steered home and business loans, supplied through the GI Bill, to White veterans and deprived Black veterans of those same opportunities.

The racial equity report found that 44 percent of Black families owned homes compared to 74 percent of White families.

Christopher said that attempts to fully integrate neighborhoods, schools and the workforce failed, because people still believed in the false premise of a hierarchy of human worth based on physical characteristics; that Blacks and other minorities were inherently inferior and that they were less than human. In order to deal with racial inequality in the United States, Christopher said, Americans must confront the consequences of embedding that belief into the very DNA of our country.

“We have to be intentional and we have to have a strategy that is grounded in how we know how to change people’s minds and hearts,” Christopher said. “It’s an effort. It takes work, it takes reason, it takes research, it takes re-description, and it takes strategies to overcome resistance.”

Christopher continued: “It takes real world events that you are able to capitalize on and it takes resources.”

Those resources continue to be squandered in the political quagmire and obstruction, instigated by the far-right wing of the GOP, that some critics argue has reduced the effectiveness of Congress as they veer from one crisis to the next. The recent federal budget agreement that ended the partial government shutdown only delayed the inevitable, and set up two more battles over the budget and the nation’s debt limit at the top of next year.

“The cost of the health disparities, the cost of the educational and achievement gaps are going to bankrupt our country,” Christopher said. “And they have been overshadowed by these superficial political discussions.”