The Myth of Black Property Ownership in the United States
Examining the complexities of Black ownership and ‘what belongs to us’
The Black-White wealth gap in the United States is not a myth, and Black property ownership has often felt like a mirage. Shortly after the end of slavery, one of the ways in which freed Black people exercised their new rights was to acquire land. But as many of us know, the quest for property and wealth in the United States was often met with threats of violence and destruction (see: Seneca Village and Greenwood District).
Eventually, the attempts to thwart Black ownership would become more systemic and structural (see: redlining, credit discrimination, and gentrification). Recent renewed interest in the laundry list of inequities Black people face has seen many examining how we tackle the issue of ownership and the struggle to accumulate wealth, and whether or not we need to set a new bar or have an alternate understanding of “what belongs to us.”
“According to the Census Bureau, in 2020, 47% of Black people own their homes compared to 76% of white people. This gap is by design, perpetuated through decades of redlining, credit discrimination from banks, and a lack of inherited wealth,” Nicholas Russell writes. “Nigel Chiwaya and Janell Ross, reporting for NBC News, illustrate that one of the reasons Black neighborhoods are deprived of the chance to take out loans, build good credit, or save for down payments is because Black neighborhoods are less likely to have a bank branch. ‘On-time rent payments aren’t tallied into credit scores, while late payments are, creating a system that punishes misfortune while ignoring positive behavior.’”