“African Americans alive now didn’t go through slavery, why should we pay them?” The aftershocks of slavery are still affecting African Americans almost 155 years later. Here’s why: Redlining in 1934 allowed banks to deny mortgage loans to black households looking to buy property in white neighborhoods but also stated that disadvantaged neighborhoods were a bad credit risk. The IRS gave tax incentives to churches operating in white neighborhoods, and city policy allowed delayed waste collection and electric and water companies to refuse service in black neighborhoods. White, high income households were more likely to move away from these neighborhoods because of fear of declining property value and safety. (Sullivan, et.al, 2015; Rothstein, 2013).
Children in disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to be less successful in school than their middle-class peers because of lack of healthcare access, undereducated parents and inadequate housing (Rothstein, 2013). This continues the cycle from generation to generation of African Americans being set up for less opportunity than their white peers. African American students who attend integrated schools have higher self-esteem and more job opportunities (Galster, 1992).
The effects of redlining allowed white homeowners to accrue wealth easier than minorities and pass that wealth from generation to generation. As a result, today there is a wealth gap of $104,033 for black families compared to white families (Sullivan, et. al, 2015).
Other factors also contribute to the racial wealth gap such as racist policies criminalizing blackness and barring African Americans from the same privileges white citizens have. But redlining and housing discrimination is one of the most identifiable policies that facilitated the struggle for African Americans to accrue wealth.
The concept of reparations is not new. The US gave monetary compensation to Native Americans and Germany gave to the Jewish community after World War II. Allowing the wealth gap to persist is unproductive, and frankly, irresponsible economically. Not only is it immoral to deny minorities access to wealth, but the government is losing tax money it could be collecting from the extra wealth and businesses are losing money that could be spent on their products and services. Reparations will start the process of closing the wealth gap. Not only will African Americans benefit, but the country as a whole.