My father has always been interested in economics/money/business issues, and being a black man, has of course dealt with those issues as they intersect with race. So a couple months ago, when I saw that Latoya was reading a book called The Color of Wealth: the story behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide, I knew it’d be something he should read. So I recommended it, and he bought it, read it, and loved it. I wanted to read it, too, and by the time he was done with it – he definitely wanted me to read it.
So I started the book last month. It’s only 291 pages, so I could get through that fairly quickly – except for the subject matter.
The book begins with an overview: an introduction to the premise of the book, why it is important to look at the racial wealth divide in this country with a more critical gaze, and spotlights how ignorant most of us are about the facts behind the current state of US wealth. I could totally get down with this. I learned a lot, and got to laugh a little.
I was actually on a plane [with my mom] at the time, and I kept stopping to show her things, because it was so interesting.
Then I began to read chapter 2: Land Rich, Dirt Poor: Challenges to Asset Building in Native America. A few pages later I got to the section on colonization and treaty making, and I got tears in my eyes. I tried to keep going, but I couldn’t.
I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for a month.
Dad kept asking me how things were going with the book, I kept telling him that I hadn’t really looked at it in a while. I told him how upset I was when reading about the atrocities of the US government against Native Americans. This one chapter was bringing out a lot of uncomfortable feelings for me.
Finally, last week, I picked up the book again. Made a little headway, and put it back down – still not done with chapter 2. This morning, I told myself to just read it and get through it…and to write about why it was so hard to do.
Anger, hurt, guilt. Angry with the gov’t and the social/racial powers-that-be that allowed and encouraged the decimation of people and cultures. Angry with myself for not knowing, not learning earlier, not doing anything. Hurt that the country that I love – and I do – would deliberately do this to people. Even though I’ve always known the basics of our history – always known that the land was ripped from the hands of those who lived on it, and worked by people [my own ancestors] who had been ripped from land they had lived on. Still, I am hurt by how much was done, hurt that I didn’t know, hurt that it is such a minority of people who are even telling the truth about this. And guilty because I feel complicit. I don’t think about Native Americans every day. Sometimes, the fact that I own a home on land that was stolen gets to me. I rationalize and figure that there’s not much that can be done about that now, but Native Americans are still getting less than what is fair for what they have given up. I have privilege at their expense.
And who wouldn’t get uncomfortable with all of that rocketing around in their head?
I don’t know the answers. I’ll start chapter 3 today, which I think will be easier for me to take because I’m better acquainted with black history and culture. I can’t remember reading something that disturbed me so much – because of the injustices recorded – since…The Culture of Make Believe. (which I also recommend)
I’ll update as I go through the book, but I had to write about what’s been going on in my head so far.