Does wealth inequality leads to racism and discrimination? Why?

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This is a complicated question—one that academics and policymakers alike have struggled to comprehend. Does economic inequality lead to racial discrimination? Or is it the other way around? (Is is the chicken or the egg?) Or are they simply problems that go hand in hand, without one causing the other?

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This is a complicated question—one that academics and policymakers alike have struggled to comprehend. Does economic inequality lead to racial discrimination? Or is it the other way around? (Is is the chicken or the egg?) Or are they simply problems that go hand in hand, without one causing the other?

It depends on who you ask. Bernie Sanders famously called wealth inequality and racism "parallel problems." Others see the two problems as being so interconnected that they've collapsed two terms into a single phrase: the "racial wealth gap."

Let's look at the numbers. According to a study published last year and frequently cited in literature on the topic, 10.9% of white households earn incomes below the federal poverty line. Latino households come in at 23.5% and black households at 26.1%. The study shows that minority households (especially African-American) fall far behind white households in nearly every way you can measure wealth: they earn less, they're underemployed, they have less access to education, healthcare, and credit, and they don't own as many homes or businesses as their white counterparts.

Looking at this information, you could see another argument: what if it's racism that causes wealth inequality, not the other way around? Ta-Nehisi Coates has written extensively on the topic of black poverty, and he's been a strong advocate for reparations for African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves. In Coates's view, it's the history of slavery that's given white people a distinct economic advantage over black people. Slavery, after all, was a way for white people to get richer while using the free manpower of their black slaves. The USA has a debt to pay to the families of those slaves, Coates argues. Especially because even now, so many years after slavery was abolished, black people have never recovered from the deficit. 

Race and wealth are correlated, clearly. But whether or not one causes another isn't easily measured. If you're writing an essay on this topic, I'd suggest looking at the following resources, and at Coates's argument for reparations to address the racial wealth gap.

 

 

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