The Real Roots of ‘Black Capitalism’Roundup
tags: African American history, capitalism, Nixon, black power, Black capitalism
Ms. Baradaran is the author of “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.”
The tax bill President Trump signed into law in 2017 created an “opportunity zones” program, the details of which will soon be finalized. The program will provide tax cuts to investors to spur development in “economically distressed” areas. Republicans and Democrats stretching back to the Nixon administration have tried ideas like this and failed. These failures are well known, but few know the cynical and racist origins of these programs.
The neighborhoods labeled “opportunity zones” are “distressed” because of forced racial segregation backed by federal law — redlining, racial covenants, racist zoning policies and when necessary, bombs and mob violence. These areas were black ghettos. So how did they come to be called “opportunity zones?”
The answer lies in “black capitalism,” a forgotten aspect of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Mr. Nixon's solution for racial ghettos was not economic justice, but tax breaks and incentives. This deft political move allowed him to secure the support of white Southerners and to oppose meaningful economic reforms proposed by black activists.
You can see how clever that political diversion was by looking at the reforms that were not carried out. After the Civil Rights Act, black activists and their allies pushed the federal government for race-specific economic redress. The “whites only” signs were gone, but joblessness, dilapidated housing and intractable poverty remained. In 1967, blacks had one-fifth the wealth of white families.
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