By Victor Ochieng
According to Forbes Magazine, Oprah Winfrey is the richest African American with $2.9 billion in net worth. We also have Robert F. Smith, Michael Jordan, Jay Z, and P Diddy among many others who possess some real money. Most of these people have literally worked their way up the latter to rest among America’s richest 1%.
A point to note, however, is that Blacks only make 1.7% of the richest 1%, which is a percentage that’s proportionately low.
The truth of the matter is that there are only a few African American billionaires and the richest among them doesn’t even feature among top 200 richest in America. Still, it’s deserved to acknowledge the Blacks who have defied all odds to join the league of America’s richest 1%, whose minimum household net worth is $7.87 million.
Besides the fact that Blacks are few among the richest, household income comparisons between Black and White families also leaves a lot to be desired. For example, for every $1 a white household owns, a Black person owns 6 cents. This is also seen in income, where a Black person earns less than a white person, regardless of whether they’ve got the same educational background and experience.
Why is the gap so wide? Historically speaking, according to Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, Black people went through numerous challenges during slavery that it was impossible to accumulate wealth. They weren’t even allowed to earn any income or create their own wealth. While this was happening, their white counterparts, whom they were actually working for, were free to accumulate wealth and pass it on from one generation to another. This went on for centuries, resulting in a better credit score for the White community. With banks and other financial institutions applying stringent measures in the issuance of loans, whether for home ownership or business, things aren’t easy for African Americans.
In addition to the historical influences, Blacks are also discriminated against. There is no denying that there is systematic and institutionalized racism that makes it more difficult for African Americans to secure jobs, own homes or accumulate wealth.
The racial economic gap needs to be bridged. Some members of the 1% richest feel so to. Tanzina Vega took an investigative mission to establish what this click thinks or are doing to raise the number of Blacks in the 1% league or simply improve the average income and wealth of Black families.
Eddie Brown, the CEO of Brown Capital Management, a funds management with $8 billion in assets under management, said his journey hasn’t been easy. He faced numerous challenges because of his color, but decided to surge forward to realize his dream. Brown says he faces challenges to date. At some point, one realtor even advised him to pull down black family pictures from the wall if he was to get a good price for his home.
Brown and his wife believe it’s important to inspire other members of the Black community to raise their standing economically. Brown’s wife, C. Sylvia Brown, a Community Volunteer, agrees that even if someone had talent, it’s still important lend them a hand.