Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid. That was how I was taught to scientifically define race in junior high during the early 80s. Race, I was taught, like many other aspects of what separated certain groups of humans from others, had a biological basis. We know now that those ideas were wrong. As a mater of fact, breakthroughs in biology, such as the mapping of the human genome and DNA analysis, have proven that biology plays no part in race.
We all share a common ancestor, Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in East Africa about 200,000 years ago. Skin color is an adaptation determined by melanin production based on someone’s proximity to the equator. In other words, if you and yours were to stay in the same geographic region for about 3,000 years your descendants would all be the same shade as their bodies would produce the proper amount of melanin needed to best survive based on sun exposure.
So after all these years we finally know that all the race shit was just that, shit. The differences, as they are, are cultural.
Now comes a study recently released by the Pew Research Center that states that nearly one in seven new marriages in the United States are interracial or interethnic. That’s second only to Brazil where racism has never been as rampant or as hateful as it has been here at home. Does this mean that the colored folk among us can breathe a heavy sigh of relief, at last? Can we finally begin to dismantle the programs, like Affirmative Action, that were established to help close the gap created by centuries of institutional racism? After all, we even have a black president, now. Absolutely not.
Another recent study (Can you tell I like studies?), this one conducted by Brandeis’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, shows that over the past 23 years the average white family has accumulated $95,000 more in wealth than the average black family, a fourfold increase. Worse, a quarter of African American families don’t even have enough assets to protect themselves from financial ruin in the event of a financial catastrophe (like the Great Recession we’re in now). And folx, we’re still losing ground.
Granted, in this economy all of us are sinking, but blacks are sinking even faster. Why, after all this time and social progress are we still stuck to the bottom of the barrel? Ronald Reagan. His idea that by making the rich richer their wealth would eventually trickle down to the rest of us has not only been proven false, but as this countries current state of financial affairs has shown, dangerous. For the richest among us wealth is almost a religion. Unlike other religions, the wealthy don’t want to share their god. So when Reagan restructured the tax code to benefit the richest Americans, it naturally benefited the whitest as well. George W. Bush did his part by expanding those tax cuts, which has led the disparity between whites and nonwhites to grow at an even faster pace.
Add to that the persistent discrimination in housing, credit, and labor markets and you can begin to see the big picture. The study states:
African Americans and Hispanics were at least twice as likely to receive high cost home mortgages as whites with similar incomes. These reckless high cost loans unnecessarily impeded wealth building in minority communities and triggered the foreclosure crisis that is wiping out the largest source of wealth for minorities.
The bottom line is simple, people. Until policies are put in place that move towards closing the gap, until we are all on our way towards equal financial footing, the fact that we can marry anyone we want and have a black president don’t really amount to shit. As Rod Tidwell would say, Show me the money!
Fernando Quijano III is the former President of the Maryland Writers Association, Baltimore Chapter. His work has been featured in Welter, Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore & the poetry anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. An excerpt from his unpublished novel, Forever, Lilith was included in the Apprentice House anthology Freshly Squeezed. He has been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival, Stoop Storytelling, & The Signal on WYPR, Baltimore's local NPR station. In his spare time, Fernando volunteers to lead workshops for Writing Outside the Fence, a program for the ex-offender community, as well as at the Brock Bridge Correctional Facility. Fernando was recently awarded a B grant for his writing by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.