Are we seeing the end of white privilege?

ACcording to an opinion piece in the NY Times, the economic differences between white and black populations in the US have remained the same for 50 years.

The income gap between black and white working-class Americans, like the gap between black and white Americans at every income level, remains every bit as extreme as it was five decades ago. (This is also true of the income gap between Hispanic and white Americans.)

In 2015 — the most recent year for which data are available — black households at the 20th and 40th percentiles of household income earned an average of 55 percent as much as white households at those same percentiles. This is exactly the same figure as in 1967.

Indeed, five decades of household income data reveal a yawning and uncannily consistent income gap between black and white Americans across the economic spectrum. Fifty years ago, black upper-class Americans had incomes about two-thirds those of white upper-class Americans, while the black middle class — those in the 60th percentile — earned about two-thirds as much as its white counterpart. Those ratios remain the same today.

The median white household has about 13 times the wealth of the median black household — and much of that wealth is transferred between generations. This remarkable gap helps perpetuate the consequences of centuries of social and economic injustice.

Many readers commenting on this piece ‘argue’ that it is not white privilege or racism that is creating the gaps. Rather, despite a lot of contrary facts, they believe it is the fault of black Americans.

6 thoughts on “Are we seeing the end of white privilege?

  1. This is why implicit bias is so harmful. We aren’t aware that we or others are biased, that our choices put others at an unfair disadvantage, and so when minorities, women, or any other disadvantaged group don’t achieve we conclude that it must be because they just don’t cut the mustard. Study after study in which matched resumes and matched grant applications with male and female names, or with white-sounding and black-sounding names (and, in France, with ‘Franco-French’ and Arabic names) show that employers and funders discriminate.

    But try persuading people that this happens. The Folk by and large remain convinced that policies and programs aimed at addressing ongoing discrimination are intended to provide unfair advantages to ‘identity’ groups, result in hiring under qualified or unqualified workers, and are all part of a plot against white Anglo males perpetrated by politically correct elites in order to benefit minorities, immigrants, LGBT people and other special mascots.

  2. Anyone who either denies, is puzzled by, or blames African-Americans for the racial wealth gap needs to read Richard Rothstein’s book *The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” ( ) I thought I was unshockable, but this blew me away — a long, steady series of explicit laws and rules, at every level of government, enforcing residential segregation — in some cases, creating segregation in what had been integrated neighborhoods. This includes policies that made it virtually impossible for African-Americans to become homeowners. This lack of homeownership accounts for at least 31 per cent of the wealth gap, and its ramifications account for many other racial inequalities, like the gap between whites and blacks with respect to college education. (See this report by Demos: )

  3. These numbers are likely to change, as the expansion continues. Black unemployment is now approaching all-time lows (U.S.). Blacks have added more jobs relative to the pre-recession peak than whites have (Latinos have bettered both by a wide margin). The gap between black and white unemployment is at all-time lows. This only happens at the tail end of expansions, as blacks are the last beneficiaries.

    The 2016 Census data will probably show records for real median household income. All this means that we are at a point where there is a genuine opportunity for blacks to build household wealth – an opportunity not seen since at least 2000, which was the very end of the longest US expansion ever. This, then, should be the number one concern of policy makers – doing whatever it takes to avoid recession (I;m talking to you, Ms. Yellen).

  4. I apologize very sincerely for now responding earlier to these interesting comments. I hope I can get to it tomorrow. There are important issues being raised.

  5. I am very sorry for not responding sooner to these great comments. Let me say first that I am very puzzled by the comments in the times that seemed to have people saying “I am not a racist, but these people are inferior.” I suppose they are saying that their negative attitudes are based on facts, not feelings. But I suspect most racist think their attitudes are based in fact. So in effect in denying their racism, they end up displaying.

    Louiseantony, Thanks so much for the wonderful reference. I agree that the extent to which blacks were denied access to ways white built wealth is horrifying and very important.

    ajkreeiger, I think there is a huge worry about the kinds of jobs that are available. I know of poor women who are working two or three jobs to support 2 people.

    HEB, thank you!

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