The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development put out a great report titled “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap.”
You can read a short editorial summarizing a few of the findings here.
The report presents ten myths regarding the racial wealth gap and then gives the evidence again each of these myths:
- Myth 1: Greater educational attainment or more work effort on the part of blacks will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 2: The racial homeownership gap is the “driver” of the racial wealth gap
- Myth 3: Buying and banking black will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 4: Black people saving more will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 5: Greater financial literacy will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 6: Entrepreneurship will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 7: Emulating successful minorities will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 8: Improved “soft skills” and “personal responsibility” will close the racial wealth gap
- Myth 9: The growing numbers of black celebrities prove the racial wealth gap is closing
- Myth 10: Black family disorganization is a cause of the racial wealth gap
Pertinent both to our discussions on theft of black wealth and the conversation about reparations in Seeing White, the authors in this report give a detailed argument about why behavioral interventions to close the racial wealth gap are doomed to fail.
“We challenge the conventional set of claims that are made about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that the cause of the gap must be found in the structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy.
“As a result, blacks cannot close the racial wealth gap by changing their individual behavior –i.e. by assuming more “personal responsibility” or acquiring the portfolio management insights associated with “financially literacy” – if the structural sources of racial inequality remain unchanged. There are no actions that black Americans can take unilaterally that will have much of an effect on reducing the racial wealth gap. For the gap to be closed, America must undergo a vast social transformation produced by the adoption of bold national policies, policies that will forge a way forward by addressing, finally, the long-standing consequences of slavery, the Jim Crow years that followed, and ongoing racism and discrimination that exist in our society today.”
Questions to consider
- How many of these myths are only plausible due to racist prejudice against black people?
- Why are explanations of inequality that “blame the victim” more appealing than explanations that place some burden of responsibility on me? How can I counter-act this bias?
More reading on the racial wealth gap
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion. You can read summaries of previous discussions here.
The topic of this month’s anti-racism reading group was inspired in part by the Parkland shooting and the resulting public demonstrations for better public policy to prevent future gun violence.
Given that one of the main purposes of this reading group is to improve our capacity to understand the impacts of racism, this seemed to be a good opportunity to explore how racism impacts the gun control debate in our country. The following readings were sent out in advance:
- “The simple, surprising factor that explains America’s gun problem” by Jason McDaniel and Sean McElwee
- “Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions” by O’Brien, et al.
- “Racial Resentment and Whites’ Gun Policy Preferences in Contemporary America” by Filindra and Kaplan
- “The Secret History of Guns” by Adam Winkler
- “A researcher explains how racial resentment drives opposition to gun control” by German Lopez
While people went through these readings, I asked them to consider the following questions:
- What are the ways in which race and racism influence how people perceive gun ownership and gun control?
- How has the politics of gun regulation varied with the politics of race in American history?
- Philando Castile was a gun owner who had a concealed carry permit. He was explaining to Officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a legal weapon on his person when Yanez shot him to death. How does he fit into this story of race and gun ownership?
Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #6: Race and Gun Policy”
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion. You can read summaries of previous discussions by following these links: one, two, three, four.
For the fifth anti-racism reading group, we listened to Seeing White, an excellent podcast hosted by John Biewen at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. In it, Biewen and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika explore the history and consequences of White racial identity in a way that is both extremely accessible and intellectually rigorous.
This was a particularly ambitious project because the podcast series is fourteen episodes long, meaning there were many hours of material to discuss. For the purposes of our discussion group, we focused on the first three episodes which cover the history of Whiteness and the last two episodes on anti-racist action. However, I encouraged the group (as I encourage you) to listen to the full series, because every episode is worth your time.
Given the expanse of the source material and the conversation, I don’t have a thorough summary of the discussion, but rather three items of conversation that I found particularly interesting. Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #5: Seeing White”
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group for health care practitioners in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.
For the third reading of the anti-racism reading group we focused on White Fragility. Our reading was the article White Fragility from the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy which you can download here. Supplementary materials were Dr. DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Rules of Engagement and this comedic White Fragility Workplace Training Video.
What is White Fragility? In Dr. DiAngelo’s words:
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress be- comes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #4: White Fragility”
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group for health care practitioners in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion. You can read part one here and part two here.
For the third meeting of the anti-racism reading group, we focused on increased rates of perinatal death (i.e. death around the time of birth) for black women with this excellent piece of reporting by NPR and Propublica. NPR’s Code Switch team produced an excellent podcast on this same story which you can listen to here or read the write-up here.
This is an especially timely reading given Erica Garner’s recent death at age 27 from a heart attack just three months after giving birth. Erica was the daughter of Eric Garner who was murdered by the New York City Police. Since his death, she had risen up to be a prominent and effective activist against police violence. Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #3: Perinatal Mortality”
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group for health practitioners in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion. You can read part one here.
For the second meeting of the anti-racism reading group, we read part one of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case For Reparations. In our first meeting, we discussed big-picture theory of race, so we followed that up by focusing in on particular racial project called redlining which had been a major contributor to both racial housing segregation and wealth inequality in America today. Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #2: Theft of Black Wealth”
In an effort to hold myself accountable to better anti-racism theory and practice, I’ve started hosting an anti-racism reading group for health practitioners in the Seattle area. In this series, I’d like to share both these readings and some of the discussion.
For the first meeting of the anti-racism reading group, we read a selection from Racial Formation In The United States by Michael Omi and Howard Winant. You can download a PDF of this selection here.
In this section, the authors describe race as existing in the interaction between 1) social structures which organize society by race and 2) the cultural representations and experiences of race. Racial projects is the term given to the mediators of this interaction. Continue reading “Anti-Racism Reading Group #1: Racial Projects”
As part of my family medicine residency training, I’m taking a month-long elective called Innovations in Primary Care. This month is an opportunity for primary care doctors from family medicine and internal medicine residency programs in Seattle to explore some of the different primary care models being trialed in the Seattle area and to use those experiences to fuel discussion about how primary care (and really, all medical care) can be improved in the United States.
Today was our first meeting, during which we gathered to collectively write an H&P for our current medical system. For those reading this who are not in medicine, the History and Physical or H&P is a semi-standardized note-writing structure that doctors use to describe the subjective and objective information about a patient’s health, assess why the patient is experiencing illness, and describe the next steps we need to take (diagnostic tests and/or treatments) going forward. It’s a structured way of thinking about a patient that helps us be rigorous and methodical.
It was a gratifying process because each of the doctors at the table shared a passion for making our health care system better, but brought a different set of experiences and priorities to the conversation.
Some of the take-aways I had from this conversation are as follows (in no particular order):
- The insurance framework for paying for health care, while originally conceived to improve access to surgical services which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to most people, was quickly recognized by doctors as a way to extract larger fees for patient care. After all, when a third party (the insurance company) pays the bills, people tolerate much higher fees even if the end result is steady rise in out-of-pocket costs for everyone. Doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies have abused this system so greedily under the previous usual-and-customary payment system that increasingly rigid cost-containment measures have had to be implemented to control costs. We now live in a society where the average doctor makes $294,000 per year–more than 98.9% of Americans–while medical bills bankrupt patients and health insurance cost suppresses wage growth. Recognizing and holding ourselves accountable to how capitalism in medicine has brought out the worst in us is necessary before we can even begin to conceptualize a new system.
- The costs of most important and effective interventions to improve health, including primary care, are recurring and predictable costs that are best paid for through public health funding, NOT through health insurance. Access to clean water, nutritious food, safe housing, and preventive medical care is necessary for All People at All Times.
- America fails to invest in public welfare programs because of racism. The idea of the racialized-and-thus-undeserving Other benefiting from public welfare programs (e.g. the racist specter of the Welfare Queen that Reagan so infamously promoted) is fundamentally intolerable to White America. We are comfortable with 1 in 7 people in the United States facing food insecurity if it means we can prevent one person from buying steak with food stamps. There is no justice without racial justice.
- Many participants are needed to transform our medical care system into a true health care system. While there are only physicians in this particular group, the real work requires public health professionals, community health workers, housing experts, policy wonks, political activists, artists, chefs, personal trainers, behavioralists, and many others to both design an implement a better system.
I’m looking forward to the experiences and conversations this month will bring, and I hope to walk away with greater insight into how I can be a better advocate for effective and equitable health care in this country.
Inspired by this letter by Jennifer Tsai and Ann Crawford-Roberts, I’m working on putting together a reading list to jump start conversation about Critical Race Theory in medicine at my family medicine residency. The goal of such a conversation is to develop a more effective anti-racism praxis in our medical system and our lives more generally. I’ll update this list as I get more recommendations. Please let me know if you have recommendations to add.
Professor Adrienne Keene’s open-access course in Critical Race Theory at Brown: Introduction to Critical Race Theory 2017
If you are having trouble accessing any of these articles, let me know!
Associate Professor Tommy Curry at Texas A&M (my alma mater) is the latest academic targeted by White Supremacists in their campaign to silence scholars of race and racism.
Four years ago, in a podcast conversation about the movie Django, he gave a brief summary of scholarly work about the role of anti-White violence in the path of Black liberation. White Supremacist groups have now taken quotes out of context from that interview and are claiming that he was inciting racial violence.
Texas A&M President, Michael K. Young, found these White Supremacists’ argument compelling and decried Mr. Curry’s words as “in stark contrast to Aggie core values.”
I’ve signed this petition and am writing this now because I disagree with that assessment in the strongest terms. The Aggie honor code calls for us to “not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do,” and yet the history of racial violence in America has been one of theft of Black people’s lives and livelihoods. If we are to live in this country as honorable Aggies, we must reject that path a form a new one. Doing so requires the thoughtful academic scholarship and leadership of people like Tommy Curry.