Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Past Still Affects Us

In class the other day, a question was posed at the end of the period - is economic inequality today between whites and African-Americans a result of slavery?  After thinking more about this question, I realized that every racial inequality traces back to one of the greatest flaws our nation has had - slavery.  While it is in the past, its repercussions cannot go unnoticed.


The graph above clearly demonstrates that out of all the races portrayed, blacks have the lowest median income during every year.  Whites have an average income almost twice the income of blacks, and Asians are over two times the $33,321 the average African American household made in 2012.  Clearly, there is an trend regarding the income of different races - and African Americans are always on the bottom.

Generally, if a family is wealthy, then the kids in that family will grow up to have a fair amount of wealth, which will be passed down to their kids and so on.  The same goes for families in poverty - it is difficult to break the poverty chain and acquire wealth.  Financial situations tend to be similar for a given family tree.  Generations ago, whites were able to make a profit on enslaved people, while African Americans were forced to be enslaved and unable to make money for themselves.  Therefore, whites were able to start a chain of wealth, while African Americans had to start from nothing.

Graziella Bertocchi from the University of Modena in Italy and Arcangelo Dimico from Queen's University in Beflast did a study on the role of slavery in the U.S. economy.  They stated, "Those U.S. counties that in the past exhibited a higher slave share over population turn out to be still more unequal in the present day."  It is evident that some states exhibited greater amounts of slavery than others, and if these states and their counties are the ones with the greatest amount of inequality, than it makes sense that it is a result of their past with slavery.

Slavery also led to the idea that whites were superior to African Americans, which resulted in better education for whites.  The Soiling of Old Glory discussed the extent to which whites were granted a better education, which would allow them to prosper and obtain a high income.  African Americans did not have a sufficient education and therefore, were unable to secure adequate jobs.  This education imbalance leads to an imbalance in quality of jobs, ultimately ending in a difference of income.  None of these imbalances would not have occurred if whites were not once the "owners" of African Americans, which created the idea that whites must be superior, even after the end of slavery.

Is economic inequality today a result of slavery?  Is there a way to break this chain, or is it something that will continue to be apparent no matter how much time has passed?

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