The “Black-White” Income Gap—It’s Not Rocket Science—Just Look at Amarillo, Texas

Pope Francis recently commented on the increasing gap between the rich and poor worldwide. One television documentary recently reported that the top 300 richest people in the world have more combined net worth than the bottom 3 billion people—that’s Billion. Here in America the focus is always on the gap between black and white with blacks having about one-tenth of the net worth of the average white family. Put another way if the average white family’s net worth is $100,000, the same for a black family would be $10,000. But the truth is worse than that.

One recent study showed a chart of real household median income between 1967 and 2010 by race. Asians led the pack with $64,308, followed by whites at $54,620, followed by Hispanics at $37,759, followed by blacks at $32,068. Even this chart does not tell the entire story. So, let’s look at the “black-white” income gap– based on Amarillo, Texas. Let’s cut to the chase.

Amarillo, Texas has a population of roughly 190,000 people spread over some 68,000 households. The median household income for Amarillo is $46,434 according to census data. Amarillo’s per capita income, meaning what each person earns, averaged over the total workforce is $22,357. But there is another chart out there is cyber world that charts where blacks in Amarillo live. The largest concentration of blacks is in the 79107 zip code. If you look at all the other Amarillo zip codes, you will find only a “scant” number of blacks living there. What this means is that blacks in Amarillo are by and large segregated in the 79107 zip code—the poorest part of Amarillo. Homes have economic value that contribute to total net worth—and if blacks live in the least valuable homes in Amarillo this translates to lack of total household wealth. This has been the historical residential pattern since Amarillo was founded in 1887, and since blacks first came to Amarillo. From the inception of this town blacks were concentrated first, in the “bottoms” near the area of the current Mt. Zion Baptist Church at 1st and Van Buren. If you know the history of black Amarillo then you already know the role of one Mathew Bones Hooks played in relocating blacks from “the bottoms” to protect them from police and a host of other racist abuses. The result was black moving to “the Heights” where the community grew in numbers but little else. Blacks remained segregated socially and economically—and little has changed in Amarillo in terms of black economics over the past one hundred years.

“Inside” Amarillo’s economy is where the real black white wealth gap is startling. Just look at AISD for example. There are 55 schools in AISD. Each school has a principal, assistant principal, teachers, and assorted other staff. The salary of a school principal can average $80-90,000—some salaries are even higher. If only one principal is AISD is black then that means that out of the $5 million annual salary paid to just principals, all of this money goes to other than a black household. The income gap here would be $5 million to $80,000. Now that’s a gap! But this is just one small segment. Look at the 2171 teachers in AISD who earn, let’s say $45,000 per year—or more. If only 10 or 11 of these teachers are black then this is “Exhibit A” for why the “black-white” household income gap is so large. But it gets worse. Look at Amarillo College and WT—who is in administration—who’s teaching, who works as support staff? But it gets even worse. Look at the police force, fire department, city, county, state and federal employees—look at private business—large and small—who has jobs in all these assorted enterprises all across Amarillo? If no blacks are hired or promoted to middle or upper management (or paid less) in a “thousand and one” Amarillo businesses, and Amarillo is a microcosm of the United States, then why is it so hard to understand that there is a “natural (racial) order of things” that explains why blacks are at the bottom economically. Institutional racism is alive and well in Amarillo, Texas and America. But institutional racism operates when a million people a second make decisions based on elements of race. It’s not rocket science. And, add 350 years of bigotry and racism to the mix and you have the answers. It’s a no brainer. If the prisons are filling up and being overrun with young black men, victimized by a racist criminal justice system, why is it so hard to understand the Grand Canyon income gap that this nation now faces? It’s not rocket science.

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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