Going Beyond Black History Month: Naming Anti-Blackness to Address Racial Wealth Inequality

A new report highlights why progressives must focus on addressing the structural forces that cause the racial wealth gap, not just fixate on the gap itself

New York, NY—Over the last 50 years, neoliberal (“free market”) ideology has cemented into place racial inequities that are rooted in our nation’s founding. To advance racial and economic equality in the 21st century, we must understand the role that unchecked corporate power and corrupted public power have played in stripping wealth from communities of color and eroding wealth-building opportunities.

As Don’t Fixate on the Racial Wealth Gap: Focus on Undoing Its Root Causes, a new report released today by the Roosevelt Institute and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, argues, we must move beyond the sole goal of closing the RWG by first addressing its structural root causes, including anti-Blackness, mass incarceration, and the current neoliberal rules of our economy that maintain racial oppression and economic exclusion. Authored by Anne Price, Roosevelt Institute fellow and president of the Insight Center, the report further suggests that to achieve a real solution for racial wealth inequality, we need a new framework that acknowledges systemic inequity and provides space to explore how strategies and policies at all levels of government can address this legacy.

Specifically, that framework must do the following:

  • Focus on how deep-rooted inequities and the structure of our economy divide people into the deserving and undeserving;
  • Include ways to address current racial wealth inequality—as seen through issues such as mass incarceration and wage stagnation—and acknowledge the ways that Black women in particular are impacted by race and gender wealth inequities;
  • Support organizations at the local, state, and regional levels that chip away at racial wealth inequality so that they can help inform national strategies; and
  • Intentionally address the role of anti-Blackness in shaping our enduring social and economic inequities and work to shift the mental models that reinforce anti-Blackness, specifically through narrative change.

“Our current political moment provides a unique opportunity to reevaluate how we think about and understand the issue of the RWG under neoliberal policy,” said Price. “Focusing on closing the racial wealth gap keeps us locked into the status quo by upholding the ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ narrative, a key feature of neoliberalism. Without being intentional in grappling with the strong role neoliberalism and anti-Blackness play in shaping most economic policies, we will continue to be unsuccessful in advancing economic solutions that both rectify the failings of the past and help everyone thrive in the future.”

We absolutely cannot proclaim to be solving for racial wealth inequities while at the same time repackaging lists of familiar ideas that are built on austerity, personal responsibility, and toxic individualism. Neoliberalism is a threat not only to human rights and environmental security but also to the long-term health of our economy. To learn more about how the Roosevelt Institute is pushing a new post-neoliberal framework that works for all click here.

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.

About the Insight Center

The Insight Center is a national racial and economic justice organization working to ensure that all people become and remain economically secure. Race-and gender-based economic inequities are two of the greatest failures of the American economy. Through research and advocacy we expose hidden truths to unearth and address the root causes of economic exclusion and racial inequity. Learn more.