The racial wealth gap has remarkably increased with time especially when one considers the wealth ratio between the white and black Americans. Thus, there is need to provide an in-depth discourse on the gap and ratios in a bid to gain an informed sociological perspective on the social stratification based on social imagination. It comes as no surprise that the median wealth of the whites is twenty times that of the black Americans according to the Pew Research Center statistics of 2009 (Kochhar, Fry & Taylor, 2009). Compared to white Americans who face little or no job loss, other workers of color such as African Americans face increased levels of loss of employment. In addition, these workers of color lose their homes, languish in debts, and exhaust their savings thereby having nothing to fall back on. As such, the racial group to be discussed upon is the African Americans. Thus, this discourse is focused on elaborating on why and how these racial gaps appear and their effects on the chosen racial group.
The extent of the gap between the whites and the black Americans has consistently been staggering. According to The Insight Center Report (2009), in 2007, the household net worth of the black Americans was seventeen thousand and one hundred dollars compared to the whites’ a hundred and seventy thousand dollars and four hundred. Regarding asset poverty, African Americans have a rate of two and a half times that of the white Americans. In 2009, thirty-five percent of the African Americans had no or negative net worth compared to only fifteen percent of the whites (Kochhar, Fry & Taylor, 2009). Further research has also shown that the net worth of parents is a fundamental determiner of the next generation’s wealth. As such, the African Americans are less likely to inherit from their parents than the white Americans. In fact, when the white Americans inherit from their parents, the amount is ten times more compared to black Americans inheritance.
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One of the main reasons for the social stratification of the African Americans is the traditional American belief that to be successful one needs to work extra hard. Based on this ideology, the African Americans are labeled lazy, uninterested in education, unwilling to save, and incapable of working hard. This stereotype has become oppressive to this racial group and with the society labeling them as such, it is difficult for them to make any sense of progress financially. It must be noted that the society measures success based on personal behavior and rarely stop to think fortune and luck play a role in achieving wealth. For instance, Paul Getty based his success on policies like working hard, waking up early, and going to find oil thereby becoming rich. However, the society does not consider that it is luck and fortune that made him the owner of the land which fortunately had oil.
Historically, the government has been the main reason for the racial wealth gap by providing resources such as funds for businesses, farm loans, free education, the social safety net, and business subsidies to the whites exclusively. These resources were disproportionately allocated alienating the African Americans. For instance, after the Second World War, the federal government through the G1 Bill ensured the distribution of public wealth benefits especially to the whites who received college funds, paid vocational training, and government backed mortgages with low interests. The effect of this was the cropping up of high intellectual individuals, professionally stable and with entrepreneurial talents. On the other hand, the blacks who equally fought and sacrificed during the war were denied such benefits including education, housing, and business ownership. Most of them were enslaved, and their lands were taken from them leading to a poor Black American Community currently witnessed in the US. Other than the race-based benefits, the federal government also erected racial policies that created a wider rift of the wealth gap. The law only allowed the blacks to maintain the status of servanthood and slavery by denying them lands, education and those that saved enough to buy land, the government gave a blind eye when the white vigilantes destroyed their properties (The Insight Center Report, 2009).
It is evident that the racial wealth gap did not appear naturally, but rather it was human-made perpetrated by the government and the white people. This does not come as a surprise at all based on the racial conflicts and wealth gap witnessed today. The literature provided has provided in-depth insight regarding the social stratification of the African Americans. The society’s misconception that this racial group is lazy and does not work hard enough is wrong, and in fact, the real reasons are embedded in our racially perpetrated history that only favored the whites ensuring their success over the African Americans. Understandably, social stratification and structure is not as a result of behavior but rather unfairness, inequality, and racism.
Through the literature presented above, a comprehensive knowledge on social imagination is achieved. Through social imagination and the history of the wealth gap, it is understood that the extent to which an individual works hard is not the only determinant of success or failure. Institutions such as the government and the policies they create have a major effect on the wealth gap. For instance, the wage gap between the white and the black Americans can be attributed to a period in history when the government, G1 Bill, and its racial benefits favored only the whites. This is why statistics majorly favor the whites over the African Americans regarding net worth and household income. The fact that blacks were denied education, land, and freedom explains the reasons why there are few black American intellectuals and entrepreneurs as well as why the rate of poverty among the blacks is higher in comparison to the whites. It also explains through social imagination why whites own big corporations and firms or hold stable and big jobs compared to the blacks who have little or no lands and who are mostly employed working under the whites and earning less than them.
My view on the affirmative action has not changed. As a matter of fact, the discourse of this paper has strengthened and solidified my position. In essence, even from statistics, it is the people of color such as African Americans who suffer most from loss of employment and poverty mainly due to racial discrimination. As such, affirmative action as a policy is a vital way forward for equality and fairness and should subsequently be enforced vehemently by the government without prejudice.
The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act should be enforced and strengthened by the government in order to do away with discrimination based on race. Consequently, the people of color such as the African Americans will get equal employment opportunities and get paid equally to the whites thereby reducing the racial wealth gap. Moreover, the government should be impartial in distributing the Social Safety Net benefits and any other government benefits to ensure the equal prosperity of the American nation regardless of the race.
Kochhar, R., Fry, R., & Taylor, P. (2011). Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. The Pew Research Center . Web. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/
The Insight Center Report. (2009) Laying the Foundation for National Prosperity: The Imperative of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap. Insight, Center for Community Economic Development. Web. Retrieved from: http://ww1.insightcced.org/uploads/CRWG/LayingTheFoundationForNationalProsperity-MeizhuLui0309.pdf