My first taste of Virginia politics was being inspired to knock doors as a teenager to help the former capital of the Confederacy elect its first Black governor. But as powerfully as that moment pointed toward racial progress, I was acutely aware that the election of any one individual could not by itself undo the effects of racist policies, from our original sin of slavery through Jim Crow and beyond, that denied generations of non-white Virginians equal educational, employment, and financial opportunities. That legacy remains with us today, most obviously in the wide and still growing gap between the wealth of white and non-white families.
When we talk about the wealth gap, we’re not talking about luxury or riches. We’re talking about the basic building blocks of a middle class life. The money for daycare and college that sets children up to succeed in life. The ability to make a down payment on a first home, or start a small business. The savings cushion that allows people to weather layoffs or a car breakdown.
Not only does the wealth gap persist, but in the last few years we’ve been going in the wrong direction. Today, the average white household in Virginia has more than eleven times the wealth of the average black household. Over the last thirty years, the average wealth of white families has grown three times faster than it has for black families. Black families nationwide saw their net worth devastated by the Great Recession, in part because they were often targeted by dishonest mortgage loans. Median net worth for black families fell 43% between 2007 and 2013, from $19,200 to just $11,000. Today, the average black family is less well off than they were a decade ago. (Medium)