The Atlantic

The Unfulfilled Promise of Black Capitalism

In her new book, the law professor Mehrsa Baradaran argues that economic self-sufficiency can only go so far without government backing.
Source: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

For generations, many black activists have looked at America’s financial system and said, thanks, but no thanks. As an alternative, they’ve promoted self-sufficiency—the creation of black wealth through black-owned banking and entrepreneurship, and patronage of black businesses. This idea resurfaces again and again, as it did recently in the #BankBlack movement and in Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.”: Black Americans ought to use their economic power to shore up their own community, instead of participating in a broader and more discriminatory system.

In her new book, , Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor of law at the University of Georgiamore wealth than the median black family. Baradaran’s book covers the period of time spanning from Reconstruction—with the promise and subsequent revocation of land, jobs, and economic independence for freed slaves—to the present. Over this expanse of history, Baradaran finds that much of the economic turmoil black Americans have faced has been the direct result of negligence, discrimination, or broken bonds on the part of both government and private entities run mostly by white Americans.

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