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A Conversation with Mehrsa Baradaran, the author of "The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap"

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The School of Public Policy hosts Mehrsa Badaran. When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than one percent of the United States’ total wealth. More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged. The Color of Money pursues the persistence of this racial wealth gap by focusing on the generators of wealth in the black community: black banks. Mehrsa Baradaran challenges the myth that black communities could ever accumulate wealth in a segregated economy. Instead, housing segregation, racism, and Jim Crow credit policies created an inescapable, but hard to detect, economic trap for black communities and their banks. Examining the fruits of past policies and the operation of banking in a segregated economy, she makes clear that only bolder, more realistic views of banking’s relation to black communities will end the cycle of poverty and promote black wealth. The long-standing notion that black banking and community self-help is the solution to the racial wealth gap are initiatives that have functioned as a potent political decoys to avoid more fundamental reforms and racial redress.