Posted on December 23, 2021

The Obsession With the Black/White Wealth Gap Protects the Elites

Pascal Robert, Newsweek, December 21, 2021

In the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death and the mass protests that followed, there has been much talk about a “racial reckoning” in America. This has taken the form of a flurry of public interest in the work of Black public intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi, as well as major U.S. corporations now proudly proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” and vowing “to make internal changes such as hiring more Black employees, appointing more Black board members, or doing more business with Black-owned suppliers.”

But despite all of the energy of the age of equity, the reality is that many of the policies designed to bring about racial equity do not benefit most Black Americans, the majority of whom are poor and working class. Instead they serve the class interests of a narrow section of the Black elite, a fact that is obscured through talk of a shared Black political agenda and a race-first political posture.


Nowhere is the elitist nature of this form of Black politics more evident than in the current push to “close the racial wealth gap.” {snip}

A typical example is a discussion sponsored by the African-American Alumni Association of the Harvard Business School called “Bridging the Racial Wealth Gap by Serving on Federal Reserve Boards.” How a program targeting Black Harvard Business School graduates is going to change the lives of poor and working-class Black Americans is not entirely obvious. But this is just one illustration of the elitist nature of the racial wealth gap discourse being promoted by corporate-friendly think tanks, finance capital funded non-profits, and academics at elite universities.


No one is asking Black working class and poor people, who make up the majority of Black America, if Black representation at the Fed is a primary policy concern. American elites, Black and otherwise, are pushing these concerns from the top down, presenting more Black Americans working at the Fed as the panacea to Black America’s woes—at a time when millions of Americans find themselves looking for a pro-working class policy agenda.

And as Matt Bruenig has persuasively argued, the racial wealth gap exists primarily in the upper classes. The top 10 percent of both Black and white households own nearly all the wealth of their respective racial groups. {snip}


Too much of the policy associated with a race first “Black Agenda” is rooted in an elite project that does little more than transfer wealth to the Black political class and its counterparts in the corporate world. {snip}