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The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

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9780674237476: The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap
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“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.”
The Atlantic

“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.”
―Ezra Klein

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than 1 percent of the total wealth in America. More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged. The Color of Money seeks to explain the stubborn persistence of this racial wealth gap by focusing on the generators of wealth in the black community: black banks.

With the civil rights movement in full swing, President Nixon promoted “black capitalism,” a plan to support black banks and minority-owned businesses. But the catch-22 of black banking is that the very institutions needed to help communities escape the deep poverty caused by discrimination and segregation inevitably became victims of that same poverty. In this timely and eye-opening account, Baradaran challenges the long-standing belief that black communities could ever really hope to accumulate wealth in a segregated economy.

“Black capitalism has not improved the economic lives of black people, and Baradaran deftly explains the reasons why.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“A must read for anyone interested in closing America’s racial wealth gap.”
Black Perspectives

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About the Author:

Mehrsa Baradaran is the author of The Color of Money and How the Other Half Banks and a celebrated authority on banking law. She is Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Robert Cotten Alston Associate Chair in Corporate Law at the University of Georgia School of Law and has advised a number of politicians on postal banking, including Senators Kristen Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren. The Color of Money was a finalist for the Georgia Author of the Year Award.

Review:

“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.”Gillian B. White, The Atlantic

“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.”Armond Towns and Carolyn Hardin, Los Angeles Review of Books

“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.”Guy Emerson Mount, Black Perspectives

“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.”Ezra Klein, The Ezra Klein Show

“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.”Robert E. Weems, Jr., American Historical Review

“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.”Beryl Satter, author of Family Properties: How the Struggle over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America

“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.”N. D. B. Connolly, author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida

“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.”Darrick Hamilton, The New School for Social Research

“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.”Andrew W. Kahrl, University of Virginia

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