It is About the Money
By Ja’Net Adams.
When we talk about Martin Luther King Jr. we tend to focus on his fight for racial equality. The fight that every man and every woman is created equal no matter the color of their skin. He fought for the lynchings to stop, for the end of separate schools, water fountains, and restaurants. He fought for the front of the bus, voting rights, and so much more. A little known fact of his fight had to do with economic equality. Not only for African Americans, but for all races. He wanted people of all colors to have better wages and improved working conditions. He wanted to see the wealth gap closed.
Fast forward to today and the wealth gap is the largest it has ever been. I believe Martin Luther King Jr. was just beginning to gain traction in his fight for economic equality when he was killed. Like his fight for racial equality he had the support of multiple races of people. This fight may have been even stronger in that it directly impacted every race because everyone had the same thing in common. Money. Or lack of it. During the fight of racial inequality the races who were unaffected by Jim Crow joined because they knew Jim Crow was wrong, not because it affected them. Economic inequality on the other hand knows no color.
So what would Martin Luther King Jr. think about the economic situation of African Americans today?
He would probably start with what in the world is going on?
It would probably be confusing to him because he would see a population who is more educated than their parents and grandparents while also having two to three times as much money as those who came before them, but still projected not to close the wealth gap for 228 YEARS! (CFED August 2016 http://bit.ly/2Doj5VW) Seeing these stats Dr. King would be scratching his head and asking with all this money that you now have why are our neighborhoods food deserts, why are some of our elementary kids not succeeding, why are our HBCUs endowments not flourishing, why are we not buying up our buildings and revitalizing the block? Why? Why? Why?
I would say to Dr. King the answer is money. Not that we are not making it, the problem is that we are not keeping it. Although we are more educated and bringing more money in we are also sending a lot more money out. We are in more debt than our parents and grandparents.
The average take home pay for an African American is $40,000 per year which translates into about $2600 per month. Dr. King did a lot of his work in the south, so lets look at the numbers in the south. Take a single person bringing home $2600 per month. They have a $1000 mortgage, $700 in utilities and food, and $100 in entertainment. That leaves them $800 to do whatever! Turn that single person into a married couple bringing in $5200.00 even with kids they would be clearing at least $1000.00 a month and I am being conservative with these numbers.
Go a step higher and replace this couples annual salary with the salaries of an African American with a college degree and that annual number becomes $80,000 EACH! That calculates to $6500.00 per person and $13K PER MONTH. Maybe it is hard to believe those numbers so instead look at a couple where one has a college degree and only making $60K and one that has a high school diploma making $30K. This couple brings home $5,500.00 per month. They should be clearing more than $1000 per month in profit as well.
So what is the problem? Why will it take African Americans 228 years to close the wealth gap?
It is simple. We are giving all of this extra money to other people and not using it to grow generational wealth.
Yes Dr. King we heard you and we went for better. We are now more educated and have more money, but we didn’t hear you fully. We took on large amounts of student loan debt, we bought bigger expensive homes, we bought bigger expensive cars, we went on multiple expensive vacations each year. We have way more money than our parents and grandparents, but we don’t live the same life financially that they did. If we did,the monthly surplus of money that we are supposed to have Dr. King, it would fix the problems you dedicated your life to solving.
We are all about reaping and not interested in sowing and as long as that mentality continues we will continue to say:
Why do HBCUs have to depend so heavily on state and federal funding? Why do our schools have less funding and supplies?
Why is there no grocery store near our neighborhood so we can be healthy? Why won’t they fund politicians that look like us?
Why are they buying up the neighborhoods and pricing residents out? Why? Why? Why?
Dr. King the answer is money and what we are doing to keep more of it so that it can grow for our families and for our communities. My generation and the one before and after me have been enemies to your fight for economic equality. We have squandered the economic gains that have come because of your fight so long ago. I know that my grandmother would have been a multimillionaire if she had the opportunities that I had. Because of that I have decided to stand on your side of economic righteousness and do my best to right the wrongs that make up that statistic of 228 years. To make sure that as we fight for pay equality for all that those who have, do better. Do better so that those around us are able to grow as well.
Dr. King, my dream is to bring your dream of economic equality to reality. The fight continues.