"He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors.  To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.” – W.E.B. Du Bois (Souls of Black Folks)

As black people, how can we truly gain equal footing with our counterparts, after years of intimidation, manipulation, and segregation?

Now, while you think of a response to that question, I’ll say that it has weighed heavy on my heart for some time now with the recent and past killings of our brothers and sisters, and also with all of the chaos surrounding the recent transition of power.

As a community, most if not all of us stand behind the movement of wanting our lives to matter to the world.  But, have you really considered what steps to take to make that our reality? Acting beyond protests and political debates in favor of black interests, we need to uncover the root/history of the problem in order to move forward and to provide a solution to the inequities that we’re experiencing today.  

Now, I can address a variety of different factors that have led to us being on the lower end of the totem pole as it pertains to socio-economic status.  But, for this particular discussion, I want us to zero-in on the aspect of land/property ownership.

Get This: According to a report done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the five largest white land owners in America together own more rural land than all of black America combined. Black people own just under 8 million acres, which is under 1 percent, whereas white Americans own 98 percent of land accounting for 856 million acres.

So, you may be wondering what’s the correlation between our reality of second-class citizenship and land ownership.Well, here it is plain and simple: If you don’t have anything to bring to the table, you can’t sit at the table. It is a harsh reality, but it is the truth.

In the U.S., land ownership holds great significance in social, cultural, political and economic affairs. It is an indicator of power and influence in our country. Without control over it, we have no choice but to become subordinates to those in power. 

Now, I'm sure that you have some sort of idea of the abuse and disenfranchisement that our ancestors have endured through the years; so I won't waste time going into great detail about that, but I want to make very clear if it isn't already obvious, that from the time our ancestors stepped foot on this American soil, they have been held back day after day from reaching their full potential. And, because of that now hundred's of years later,  the distance between us and our counterparts from an economic standpoint, is becoming greater and greater.

There are two primary ways that white Americans have been able to maintain wealth, power, and land ownership:

1. Inheritance (Typically titles, debts, assets or property that is passed on to an individual or group after the death of the owner)

2. In Vivo transfers (Typically gifts that are rewarded to adult children from their living parents)

To break that point down even further, most of the wealth in the white community comes from the transfer of assets from the older to the younger generation. Due to us being cheated out of our land and property, we were not able to institute widespread generational wealth, which has had damaging effects on generations to follow.  

Given the information above, let's try to achieve some real clarity on what have been some of the barriers that have prevented us from maintaining our ownership and wealth on a large scale:

1. Slavery


Photo: History.com

Black people were considered property themselves, so they had no rights to owning/acquiring land.   

2. "40 acres and a Mule"

Photo: Google Images

General William T. Sherman issued an order titled Special Field Order No. 15, on January 16, 1865. It was supposed to serve as reparations for the "freed slaves". The order was intended to give 40 acres to each person on, "The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice-fields along the rivers for 30 miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida…"  But, the deal was soon overturned after the assassination of President Lincoln. His successor Andrew Johnson reversed the order in the fall of 1865, which ultimately returned the land to plantation owners.

(** This deal would have been historic if maintained because it would've afforded black people with the opportunity to govern themselves, and lay the seeds needed to create generational success.)

3. Jim Crow era

Photo: Encyclopedia Britannica

During this era, in a lot of cases, black people had their land/property violently seized from them, and documents destroyed. The severity of these instances varied, but one of the most extreme acts were the lynching practices. Government programs such as the G.I. Bill and the Federal Housing Authority worked to help white Americans with access to education, jobs, business loans, etc., helping them to move into the "middle-class." Whereas black Americans weren't afforded the same opportunities. Policies such as redlining were enforced, which restricted black people from homeownership, jobs, and getting access to things like healthcare and banking. Leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, these practices furthered the economic/equality gap between black and white Americans

4. Urbanization (20th century)

Photo: Google Images

In an attempt to escape the perils of the south, a large amount black people moved to large cities like Chicago, Detroit, and New York, in search of a better, more equal life. But, unfortunately, the racism still remained with some restrictions on living in the suburbs, unequal wages, and troubles with finding good housing.

By presenting the facts mentioned above, by no means am I trying to victimize our race. What I want to do is inform you so that moving forward you know how to operate in a manner that will help to establish your future family and community.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let's chat below.