In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the mass protests that followed, there has been much talk about a “racial reckoning” in America. This has taken the form of a flurry of public of interest in the work of Black public intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ibram X. Kendi, as well as major U.S. corporations now proudly proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” and vowing “to make internal changes such as hiring more Black employees, appointing more Black board members, or doing more business with Black-owned suppliers.”
But despite all of the energy of the age of equity, the reality is that many of the policies designed to bring about racial equity do not benefit most Black Americans, the majority of whom are poor and working class. Instead they serve the class interests of a narrow section of the Black elite, a fact that is obscured through talk of a shared Black political agenda and a race-first political posture.
And that race first agenda effectively stymies political movements that would deliver broad, universalist programs like socialized healthcare and free college that would greatly benefit Black Americans—along with many other working-class Americans.
Nowhere is the elitist nature of this form of Black politics more evident than in the current push to “close the racial wealth gap.” This cause is often cast as the most pressing issue facing Black America. But it’s no accident that this discussion has arisen at a time when millions of Americans have begun to look for universalist remedies to challenge the failures of the American economy, first as part of Occupy Wall Street and later, in a more pronounced fashion, with the rise of the Bernie Sanders.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 05: Travis Stanley, who said he has been homeless for three months and is a U.S. Navy veteran, reads on donated bedding where he normally sleeps beneath an overpass on June 5, 2019 in Los Angeles,
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A typical example is a discussion sponsored by the African-American Alumni Association of the Harvard Business School called “Bridging the Racial Wealth Gap by Serving on Federal Reserve Boards.” How a program targeting Black Harvard Business School graduates is going to change the lives of poor and working-class Black Americans is not entirely obvious. But this is just one illustration of elitist nature of the racial wealth gap discourse being promoted by corporate-friendly think tanks, finance capital funded non-profits, and academics at elite universities.
Of course, to say that the focus on the racial wealth gap benefits elites is not to deny that this gap exists. Since the end of slavery up through the 1960…….