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The Color of Money

Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

Author Information

BaradaranMehrsa:

Mehrsa Baradaran is J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law and author of How the Other Half Banks.

Reviews

Andrew W. Kahrl, University of Virginia:
In this important book, law professor Mehrsa Baradaran uses the history of black banking from emancipation to the present as a vehicle for exploring the origins and persistence of the racial wealth gap in America. This is more than a history of financial institutions, though. It is a probing, revelatory study of racism and capitalism in the making of modern America, one that reveals how segregation, racial prejudice, and black economic disadvantage became mutually reinforcing.

Darrick Hamilton, The New School for Social Research:
Baradaran provides a pivotal understanding of how our racialized history structured the disparity between the black and white share of the nation’s wealth and how it continues to inhibit the development of black capital and black banks. Her book puts to rest, once and for all, the trope that self-help, buying black, and black banking are the panacea to black prosperity.

N. D. B. Connolly, author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida:
Observers as different in time and ideology as Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Ronald Reagan have argued that black banks represent perhaps the best hope for securing a just society. As Baradaran powerfully maintains, however, any effort to restrict responsibility to banks alone or black people alone will always be doomed to failure. A swift, beautiful, and chastening book, The Color of Money reminds us, yet again, that black poverty is not really an economic problem, but rather a political problem requiring political solutions.

Beryl Satter, author of Family Properties: How the Struggle over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America:
Combining a rich historical sweep with in-depth analysis of the mechanics of banking, Baradaran unpacks the brutal dilemma facing black banks—how to create black wealth in the context of a segregated and unequal ‘Jim Crow’ economy. Baradaran’s brilliant and devastating analysis leads to an irrefutable conclusion: the racial wealth gap is the product of state law and public policy, and will only be reversed when the same governmental tools that created segregation and discrimination are deployed to end it.

Robert E. Weems, Jr.:
Baradaran has produced an important, sobering assessment of historic and contemporary African American banks… [She] provides an overview of American and African American economic history from the era of slavery to the present.

Ezra Klein:
Extraordinary… Baradaran focuses on a part of the American story that’s often ignored: the way African Americans were locked out of the financial engines that create wealth in America, and the way the rhetoric of equal treatment under the law was weaponized, as soon as slavery ended, against efforts to achieve economic equality.

Guy Emerson Mount:
Baradaran’s point is to show how white and Black Americans effectively live in two separate economies… As a work of history, the book contains a disturbingly coherent narrative of racist plunder spanning from the Freedman’s Bureau bank to today’s payday lenders… Baradaran’s book is a must read for anyone interested in closing America’s racial wealth gap.

Armond Towns and Carolyn Hardin:
Black capitalism has not improved the economic lives of black people, and Baradaran deftly explains the reasons why…Banking today already offers low interest loans and free services to the wealthy, while reserving payday lending and check cashing for those with the least resources. Baradaran’s lesson is that a separate system of black capitalism would intensify, rather than ameliorate, this dynamic along the lines of race.

Gillian B. White:
Baradaran…provides a deep accounting of how America got to a point where a median white family has 13 times more wealth than the median black family.

$29.95
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