In a 2002 Charter Day speech at Howard University, Franklin D. Raines, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fannie Mae, laid out the raw numbers:
We gather at an auspicious time for our nation. After a decade of peace, prosperity, and progress, we are met by an unexpected peril. Not just the peril of terrorism and war. We face a peril of self-delusion as well.
A few weeks ago, a newspaper here in Washington carried a four-part series titled, "Black Money." It said that life for African Americans has never been better, suggesting that the quest for racial equality in America was complete.
In fact, that is what most Americans believe. In a major national poll last year, a majority said when it comes to jobs, income, health care, and education, black Americans are doing just as well as whites.
Well, we looked at the facts. And then we asked, "What would life be like if the majority of Americans were right? What if the racial gaps were closed? What would we gain?" So we did the math.
If America had racial equality in education and jobs, African Americans would have two million more high school degrees...two million more college degrees...nearly two million more professional and managerial jobs...and nearly \$200 billion more income.If America had racial equality in housing, three million more African Americans would own their homes.
And if America had racial equality in wealth, African Americans would have \$760 billion more in home equity value. Two hundred billion dollars more in the stock market. One hundred twenty billion dollars more in their retirement funds. And \$80 billion more in the bank. That alone would total over \$1 trillion more in wealth.
These gaps demonstrate that the long journey of black Americans from an enslaved people to full participants in our society -- a journey that began 137 years ago -- is far from complete.
We have come a long way. We have won the equal right to education, to employment, to housing, and to success. And yet the racial gaps persist. Why is that? How can we close the gaps?
One trillion dollars! One way of looking at this is that this is the wealth "missing" from the Black community. But once you examine the history of our nation, from the invention of whiteness and slavery in the early 1600s, to present-day housing segregation, predatory lending and employment discrimination, you start to see the outlines of something else. Something more sinister and ugly. Something far from the American Ideal.
What you see is one of the greatest thefts in human history. The theft of land from Native people, the theft of personhood in order to build a nation on that land, and the theft of labor from Mexicans. The theft of wealth on a grand scale with a vector pointing from non-white to white.
Please keep this in mind during your next local discussion of affirmative action.