Newswire: Biden unveils efforts to eliminate racial wealth gap during Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial speech

Ruins of Greenwood District after Race Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, June 1921. (Photo by: GHI/Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa massacre (Universal Archive/Getty)

By: Charise Frazier, Newsone

President Joe Biden  layed out a series of ventures aimed towards reversing the wealth gap between Black and white Americans on Tuesday during a speech to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. He is also visited the historic site and spent time with survivors and descendants. Biden is the first sitting president to visit the Greenwood, Oklahoma, neighborhood, home to the descendants of Black Americans who were slaughtered in one of the largest race-fueled hate crimes, claiming the lives of over 300 Black community members while also abolishing a prosperous economic Black business district. The Tulsa Race Massacre is the greatest act of racial terror committed by whites in a United States city against an African descended community. It is a stark example of the failure of the U.S. democracy to provide justice for race-based terroristic violence – to require reparative justice – thus, condoning it. It is one of many instances where state, local and federal governments failed to acknowledge and repair the injuries wrought by terroristic violence against Black people. The failure to repair these historic injuries that have present-day consequences increases the urgency for passage of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, and like state bills. Passage of H.R. 40 is one of the policy demands from the Movement for Black Lives’ Vision for Black Lives policy platform. The Tulsa Race Massacre was promulgated by an angry, white mob that included city police and aided by the Oklahoma National Guard that flattened much of the Greenwood District, an all-Black community. The result was the death of at least 300 Greenwood residents, the exile of many including leaders of the community and the loss and destruction of real and personal property. Estimates of the total property damage have amounted to approximately $4 million at 1921 rates; $58 million at 2020 rates. On Tuesday Biden’s address covered several initiatives which include redirecting federal purchasing power to distribute aid to minority-owned businesses, allocating $10 billion to help rebuild disenfranchised communities which often house majority Black populations. Biden also plans to direct $15 billion to help boost transportation in areas that have historically faced difficulty with access to public transit. In 2019, the median wealth gap of Black households in the United States amounted to $24,100, compared with $189,100 for white households, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. “The average Black household had $142,330 in 2019 compared with $980,549 for the average white household.” One last initiative Biden plans to take is to target the detrimental effects of the housing appraisal market which routinely assigns low-cost values to Black-owned homes. By establishing an interagency to address the inequality, along with the assistance of the Office of Housing and Urban Development, the Biden-Harris administration hopes to counter these harmful practices which in totality aid in maintaining the disparities found in the national wealth gap “The Federal Government must reckon with and acknowledge the role that it has played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities,” Biden stated in a proclamation released on Memorial Day. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to acknowledging the role Federal policy played in Greenwood and other Black communities and addressing longstanding racial inequities through historic investments in the economic security of children and families, programs to provide capital for small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas, including minority-owned businesses, and ensuring that infrastructure projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.” However, Biden still faces criticism over his refusal to set forth a comprehensive effort to eliminate the student debt, an important tenant in reversing the wealth gap for millions of Black Americans. Lawmakers have urged Biden to cancel $50,000 worth of student debt for individuals saddled with burdensome loans. On the campaign trail Biden voiced he supported the number but voiced that through executive order, $10,000 would be the likely target. “Components of the plan are encouraging, but it fails to address the student loan debt crisis that disproportionately affects African Americans,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP during a call with administration officials regarding Biden’s appearance in Tulsa. “You cannot begin to address the racial wealth gap without addressing the student loan debt crisis.”