May 28, 2021

The Tulsa Massacre in Oklahoma took place 100 years ago on May 31- June 1, 1921. The massacre targeted a wealthy Black community and businesses, causing a loss of wealth across generations that contributes to the current Black-white racial wealth gap. Other economic practices stemming from systemic racism, such as discrimination in lending for housing, have led to a gap of at least $11.2 trillion today.

William A. Darity, Jr., a professor of public policy, economics and African and African American studies at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, explains that figure and why supporting black-owned businesses isn’t enough to close that gap.

A $11.2 Trillion Gap

“The $11.2 trillion is a lower end estimate,” says Darity. “The data on median and mean household wealth by race is from the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances published in late 2020. The black-white disparity probably is worse in the aftermath of the pandemic that it was when the Federal survey was taken.”

“The $11.2 trillion figure was arrived at as follows: There are approximately 15 million black households that consist of persons who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States. If the average black household has $142,500 in wealth, then total black wealth comes to about $2.1 trillion.

“If total wealth in the United States now is about $130 trillion and black American descendants of US slavery are 12 percent of the population, if they held a share of the nation’s wealth consistent with their share of the population they would possess a total net worth of $15.6 trillion. The $2.1 trillion actually held leads to a shortfall of $13.5 trillion. The $11.2 trillion shortfall is produced using a more conversative estimate of total American wealth of $110 trillion.”