Dr. Syed Kamal
The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap
by Mehrsa Baradaran
Description: “When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned a total of 0.5 percent of the total wealth in the United States. More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged- blacks still own only about 1 percent of the wealth in the United States” (amazon.com). By focusing on black banks, The Color of Money tells the story of how this wealth gap was created, maintained and perpetuated. Both black and white leaders, including Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Martin, Martin Luther King Jr., and EVERY president of the United States since Lyndon Johnson prescribed that black-owned banks that focus on banking in black communities would lead to prosperity for blacks. However, “the very circumstances that created the need for black banks – discrimination and segregation – permanently limited their effectiveness. The very institutions needed to help communities escape the deep poverty caused by discrimination and segregation inevitably became victims of that same poverty.” Studying the story of the black banks will help us see the reinforcing nature of black poverty and realize how the focus on black banks merely functioned as a political decoy to avoid more fundamental social reforms. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1963, “America has given the Negro people a bad check.” As the author points out, the consistent promotion of segregated black banking by our policymakers was the bad check. This book will be of interest to faculty in a wide range of disciplines by integrating issues related to finance, politics, racial discrimination, and social justice.