Alvarado: System Racism is Preventing a Post-Racial America

By Andrea Alvarado

Post-racial America is a fantasy. The systemic racism ingrained in our government continues to deter the success of people of color. The proof is the money in their bank accounts. Throughout history, the government has enacted policies meant to create obstacles for people of color and to benefit white households. Despite the misinformation alt-right pundits and the propaganda machine known as Fox News continue to spread, white people are not under attack. They remain the most powerful group in the U.S. and continue to occupy high positions in our government. Meanwhile, minorities in this country continue to be disadvantaged because their representatives are not like them. Most of our nation’s leaders were never directly affected by racist policies.

Redlining began in the 1930s and became an illegal practice after the Fair Housing Act of 1968. In order to incentivize Americans to buy homes, the government created loan programs accompanied by maps segregating “bad” and “good” neighborhoods from one another. The “bad” areas were marked with a red line. These were neighborhoods with a larger concentration of low-income households and racially diverse households. Purchasing a home in the “good” neighborhood became impossible for black and Hispanic families because of the legal and blatant discrimination made by real estate agents and banks. Thus, people of color could only afford to settle down in places where schools were overcrowded, underfunded and more violent. Even though the Fair Housing Act was meant to remedy this, the damage was already done. Generations of people of color were forced to live in less-than-ideal conditions and the American Dream remained out of reach. To this day, most black and Hispanic households do not possess the wealth necessary to move to safer neighborhoods or to send their kids to college. The addition of job discrimination has made the racial wealth gap grow exponentially in the past decades to the point that whites currently hold seven times more wealth than blacks or Hispanics.

Unfortunately, there is still a general misconception in our society that people of color can still succeed if they only work harder. The reality is that even with a graduate degree, black people make significantly less money than their white counterparts and are more likely to take higher student loans. Nevertheless, they are expected to compete in an economy where white people have had easier access to the housing market, higher education and government jobs long before them. Consequently, their safety net continues to shrink with every tax cut to corporate America.

This is why the outdated American Dream of a nice-looking home surrounded by a white picket fence remains a hope among people of color. Being a homeowner continues to be the first step many of them must take in order to build wealth. It is a quantifiable and tangible symbol of financial stability for communities that have seen their wealth radically decline since 1983. Therefore, the economic inequality in this country must not be attributed to a lack of effort or hard work. It is the result of centuries worth of racist policies that have benefited white people above all others. Until the racial wealth gap is closed, “Post-Racial” America will remain an unattainable fantasy — because in a capitalist society, equality must start in the pockets of the people.

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