By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
One of leading freedom fighters in the United States Congress is none other than the extraordinarily dynamic Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Congresswoman Waters does not bite her tongue. Not only has she gained the top Democratic seniority position in the House Committee on Financial Services, she also continues to speak truth to power on all the critical public policy issues that affect the quality of life of Black Americans.
It is important to support Congresswoman Waters’ latest courageous act of leadership in the U.S. Congress: introducing the “Wealth Gap Resolution” that addresses the widening wealth gap in America and its devastating impact on Black Americans and other communities of color.
There are serious economic disparities and inequalities between White and Black Americans. During the past decade, these inequities have increased. We are all more than aware of the current declining economic base of the Black American community.
Maxine Waters explained how that gap can fundamentally alter the quality of one’s life.
She said, “Wealth is the difference between sending your children to college or not…. It’s the difference between retiring with a comfortable nest egg or relying on Social Security. And it’s the difference between starting your own business or working at a low-paying job. So when we talk about the wealth gap and economic equality, we’re not just talking about numbers. We’re talking about pulling families out of poverty, keeping them out of poverty, and ensuring that their children and their grandchildren never fall back into poverty again.”
Waters’ resolution should not only be taken seriously by the U.S. Congress, but by President Barack Obama and the White House public policy advocates as well. During the last two years of the Obama administration, we should intensify efforts to end poverty in America. But in Black America, ending poverty through wealth creation and other strategies to create more sustainable economic development in our communities has to be a top priority.
According to research done by Congresswoman Waters’ staffers, the median wealth of White American households is 20 times the median wealth of Black American households and 18 times the median wealth of Latino American households. Other research also documents that income inequality in the U.S. is today the highest of all Western democracies. And of course the racial income inequality gap throughout the country continues to widen. That is why I believe that the national alert that is being issued by Waters is so timely and crucial to understand.
We know that homeownership is a major factor that provides the foundation for fundamental wealth building. We know that Black Americans disproportionately were injured during the last economic recession and housing crisis. Home foreclosures since 2008 have wrecked financial havoc for Black America and our communities still have not recovered from that economic crisis. All of these financial challenges are confronting Black America at a time when there appears to be a resurgence of predatory lending and racial discrimination in the housing sector of the economy.
The “Wealth Gap Resolution” thus far has attracted more than 50 co-sponsors that include members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus. Waters concluded, “Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged just how harmful inequality and the wealth gap are for many middle class families. The time is now to meet words with actions. We have a moral obligation to address this crisis with substantive solutions.”
We thank Maxine Waters for her leadership on this issue. It is time for us to wake up and to take the necessary steps to close the wealth gap in our communities. We must not relent. We cannot afford to stay mired in poverty. Instead of generational poverty, we all should be creating generational wealth. The future is in our own hands. Let’s all work together to close the wealth gap.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.