First, as this lovely spring season ebbs away with less than 15 days to the summer solstice, it is so timely to take a moment to tell every graduating student from every education institution, who got the opportunity to walk across the stage and graduate with deserved accolades, kudos and my sincerest congratulations.
I want to tell them all that the ladder of opportunity still has rungs on it that have yet to feel the weight of young, tender feet. We need for our young people to stay in the game, not be discouraged or dismayed.
By the way, on a much more somber note, it is critically important to recognize the centennial anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. Just to think, in one fell swoop; seats at the banquet table of wealth, progress, sustainability and success were swept away by envy, hatred and short sightedness. Imagine the community, Greenwood, where Black families and individuals were upward bound on the ladder of fulfillment before evil prevailed, in an instant. For me, Edmund Burke reminds me of his sage quote, “All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.”
The remnants of this tragic event still reverberate today, albeit in a somewhat different fashion in cities across this otherwise stellar and significant nation. It has stunted the growth of self-reliance, independence and the nuclear family. Simply put, it has served to widen the wealth gap between the races in our country.
The wealth gap between white non-Hispanics and Black Americans is widening. Currently, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for white Americans is $76,000 versus $45,000 for Black Americans. The median value of assets for white Americans is almost $172,000 versus $9,500 for Black Americans. Now that is almost as wide a margin as some of my golf tee shots land from the fairway, thankfully, only on occasion. A home ownership comparison is an eye roller, as well. 74% of white Americans own a home, as of 2021, versus 45% for Black Americans. According to the National Center for Education Studies, on the education front, it is disturbing, too. 89% of white students graduate from high school versus only 80% of Black students. Unfortunately, one can not leave out the damning criminal justice statistics, that shows almost 423,000 white prisoners in state and federal correctional institutions versus almost 453,000 of Black Americans incarcerated, according to 2019 Bureau of Justice statistics.
Who will tell the people that unless and until they ask questions and inquire of their banking institutions, they will see the window of home ownership become an even more difficult lift? I strongly suggest that one not attempt to blame neither the home ownership gap, nor the wealth gap all on systemic racism. Sure, one can point to the race implications from Levittown (New York), red lining and, of course, the use of zip codes, for the wrong reasons. The linchpin to all of that is the very foundation for the current status that can be directly traced to a lack of financial literacy that usually leads to the pitfalls of poor credit and lack of savings. It brings to mind the significance of the quote of Victor Hugo, “Souls left in the dark, sins will be committed. The guilt is not with those who sinned, but with those who caused the darkness.”
Who will tell the people about the golden opportunity that abounds, still even now to get down payment assistance that can enable you to take a step on that ladder to building wealth. Thanks to several local banks, organizations, and the Cobb Housing Authority, Cobb County employees can qualify for down payment assistance. I am not aware of any other county in the state of Georgia that offers such an opportunity to its employees. Moreover, if you are a veteran or a public safety officer, first responder, you can get even more ‘Benjamins’ to help with that down payment. We all know that has historically been a hurdle to home ownership. It is even possible to stack assistance funds; thereby enabling you to qualify for a higher priced home, possibly in the same desired area.
Just the other week, a young man was sharing his home buying experience with me. After I congratulated him, I asked, “Did you get any down payment assistance?” He replied, “No,” but his next statement was what was sobering to me. He said that he was not aware of such a program. Just imagine, a grant program that would span five years, if you stay at the residence for that duration, there is no payback. Who will tell the people?
Moreover, someone needs to tell the people that our best days are still ahead, not behind us. Opportunity knocks for one and all if you just open your aperture to recognize it, seize it and take it to the bank.
We have to tell the people. We have to carry the torch into the dark confines that, outwardly, may appear, so ominous. The power of positive energy, and hope will carry the day for the deserving and will provide comfort and satisfaction for the afflicted. Collectively, we will begin to realize the beloved community, the one that Rev. Dr. King talked so much about.
Until next time…