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To Understand #BlackLivesMatter,Take the Racial Wealth Gap Into Account

Written by Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield
January 7, 2015

Via Parliament Vice-Chair Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield in response to data released by Pew quantifying the racial wealth gap in the United States:
“Black Lives Matter” can have more than one meaning. We know the meaning, because of recent events, as it relates to life and death. But an article in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday (12/14//14) reveals another meaning–or should. It’s about the “expanding racial wealth gap” since the Great Recession. Virtually everybody experienced an erosion of wealth at that time (nearly 40% for the “typical American” between 2007 and 2010). But during the recovery it is a different story. For whites wealth leveled off between 2010-2013, but for blacks and Hispanics there was continued decline. “Now whites have 13 dollars for every dollar held by African-Americans” and it’s 10-1 for Hispanics. “For blacks, the decline between 2010 and 2013 was precipitous–more than 33 percent” (median income dropped 9 percent for minorities during that period). Why? Higher rates of unemployment for minorities than for whites. Also, whites tend to be more invested in the stock market, which has soared during this period. And then there is the value of homes: it fell by 4.6 percent for whites, 18.4 percent for African American households. We have to ask ourselves as a country whether this kind of disparity reflects the value we attach to not just life but the quality of life as reflected in economic well-being. And if we find that this is true and unacceptable, then we have to ask how we can change not just the dollars but also the values.
Click here to read the Pew Research Center’s Study on the Racial Wealth Gap
About Rev. Dr.  Larry Greenfield, Vice-Chair of the Board, Parliament of the World’s Religions:
Greenfield is the executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he received his B.A. degree from Sioux Falls College. He received his B.D., M.A., and Ph.D. (in theology) from the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he subsequently taught and served as dean of students. Later he served as president of Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York, where he also brought the Roman Catholic St. Bernard’s Institute to the campus. He served as vice president for research at the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics in Chicago, where his own research, funded by foundation grants, focused on multi-faith understandings of sexuality, science, and civil discourse. He has served pastorates and campus ministries in Chicago and Ann Arbor. He is also the co-founder (and currently chairperson of the board of directors) of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. His continuing concentration on religion and justice receives expression in his bi-weekly essays (published locally and nationally) entitled “Thinking Theologically about the Common Good.” He is an ordained clergyperson in the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. He is the past president of the American Theological Society/Midwest. He serves on the boards of numerous ecumenical and interfaith organizations and chairs the board of trustees of the Baptist Theological Union at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Photo courtesy of Flickr, Fibonacci Blue