Why do White Americans have on average 13 times more wealth than African Americans? There have been government policies following the Civil War that have led to this disparity. Bread for the World has documented some of these policies. Here is their Policy # 2 that has contributed to the gap.
Minding the Gap: Land Seizures
From 1865 on, blacks could have their land seized to pay sharecropping debts—or simply because white landowners declared that black farmers or businesses were in debt. Blacks could not fight these charges because they were legally prohibited from suing whites in court. In addition, from 1949-1970, one million people lost their land to abuses of the power of eminent domain, which allows local governments to seize private property. About 70 percent of these families were African American.
How has land seizure added to the racial hunger, income, and wealth gaps?
Seizure of the land they owned deprived African Americans of their main source of wealth, making it far more difficult to pass assets along to their children and grandchildren. Today, African American parents as a group are not able to give their children nearly as much financial support as white parents are—whether this means investing in a costly asset such as a college education or a home purchase, leaving behind an estate with resources, or both. The African American community continues to suffer economically from unconscionable actions that targeted earlier generations. Just one example is a report that 406 black landowners lost more than 24,000 acres to seizure by force or threats. Today, this land and the wealth it generates belong
to corporations or white communities.
Mending the Gap: Where can I get more information?
“Land Taken From Blacks Through Trickery, Violence and Murder.” Investigative
Report. Associated Press. 2006.
“The Civil Rights Implications of Eminent Domain Abuse.” U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Briefing Report June 2014. http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/FINAL_FY14_Eminent-Domain-Report.pdf
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. The Case for Reparations. June 2014.
Update on our relationship with the Hashemi family:
Since February of this year, Bower Hill members have been assisting an Afghani refugee family that recently resettled in Green Tree. Tafseera Hashemi is the head of this household and she fled Afghanistan with her son Ahmad and her mother. They were relocated to Pittsburgh because Tafseera has some relatives in the area. They are working with AJAPO on their resettlement. Ahmad was attending College studying geology and Tafseera was a biology professor at the University of Kabul and Director of the Human Rights Commission for High Council of National Reconciliation, Islamic Re-public of Afghanistan, when they were forced to flee the country.
Over the last few months, Bower Hill has helped in the following ways:
• Darenda Lease went shopping, using Mission Facilitation funds, for stuff to outfit 2 kitchens.
• Betsy Hohlfelder and Jean Miewald delivered the kitchen items to Carriage Park Apartments. They were invited up to Tafseera’s apartment for tea and thus, the relationship began.
• Betsy found someone who helped get some much needed furnishings for their apartment.
• The Hashemi family was able to shop at the flea market and select a number of household items at no cost (but they paid for them).
• Betsy H. has helped them with English as a Second Language (ESL) and continues tutoring Tafseera.
• Sara and Phil Neusius have helped Tafseera prepare her resume and Curriculum Vitae (CV) and are assisting with her job search.
• Alan Hohlfelder and Chris Robbins have assisted with giving driving lessons to Tafseera so that she can obtain her driver's license.
• The Mission Committee has used some Mission Facilitation funds to secure additional professional driving instruction.
While it is only one family, it is making an impact for their transition into a very new life in the United States and has been a blessing for us at Bower Hill to be in relationship with them.