Tuesday, 25 October 2016

In the year 2244

According to a recent US-report, white households own seven times as much wealth as black households. The Forbes 100 billionaires are as rich as all black US-Americans combined. This is hardly surprising as wealth accumulates and can be passed down from generation to generation. So can debt and poverty. Both are effects of history. At current growth rate, it will take black US-Americans 228 years to have as much wealth as white US-Americans have today. In other words: We are talking about the year 2244.

Higher unemployment rates among black US-Americans only explain part of the situation as the wealth gap between blacks and whites is much bigger than the income gap. As sociologist Thomas Shapiro puts it, "(h)istory and legacy created the racial gap." Discrimination has - for instance - an impact on homeownership (41% of black US-Americans own their homes vs. 71% of white US-Americans). Housing segregation (generally, white US-Americans do not want to live in a neighbourhood that is more than 20 to 25% black) costs black families "tens of thousands of dollars in home equity" (via). Differences in education (e.g. via) and employment (e.g. via) add to the gap.

In 1956, Life published Gordon Parks's photo essay "The Restraints: Open and Hidden" that documented everyday life of black Americans in the segregated rural South (via). 26 of his photographs taken of three families living in Mobile, Alabama, were published (via and via). Parks's photographs were rediscovered in 2012.

"Despite de facto segregation still being glaringly prevalent across the US today, Americans are more comfortable thinking about it as something that happened long ago. Black and white photographs help create that sense of distance, which is why Parks’s use of colour is so important: segregation no longer feels as if it’s from some distant, unrecognisable past. Even when Parks became Life magazine’s first African-American photographer, black and white was the dominant medium. If colour made his essay stand out then, the effect is even more striking today."
Steven W. Thrasher

Related postings:
- Narrative images: American Gothic
- The -ism Series (4): Racism
- In the year 2069

photographs by Gordon Parks via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via