Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Color of Wealth (2006)

By members of United for a Fair Economy
291 pages (and ~30 index)

Welcome to the second installment of Books I Had To Read For Social Problems Class at Central Michigan University. This book, subtitled “The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide” discusses how all minorities in America lag behind whites in earnings and more importantly, wealth. Wealth is not just money – it’s everything that’s tangible. Despite well publicized strides to make things better for all people, the statistics don’t bear that out.

This book is plagued with the same problem as the last one I reviewed in this series. The authors apparently want to overload us with information than compel us to read further. Granted this is probably a book for sociologists and people interested in stat after stat telling us “MINORITIES ARE DOING WORSE.”

I mean, lists two five-star reviews for this book. Both call this a must read and eye opening. Yeah, I was shocked by some revelations like – women make less than men! Blacks were discriminated against in college admissions! Asians are treated like perpetual foreigners!

No, I’m not thrilled about these truths, but it’s not exactly breaking news. This book took the long road in telling us how Indians were mistreated in colonial days, how blacks didn’t reap the full benefits of programs whites did, etc. To their credit, there were some nice bits of information like the Reagan administration’s rampant cutting of anti-poverty programs in the 80s and how some programs of that nature were altered to lower payouts.

It started off well enough, with a chapter describing the generalities and sprinkling in bits from a seminar where people of all creeds came together to discuss the truth being the racial wealth gap. It gave the book a human side, and kept it interesting amongst the raw data. After the first chapter, though, these enlightening blurbs turned into one to three page human interest stories about different minority citizens and their personal struggles. If I had actually read most of them, the pacing and message of the book would both be ruined.

As is par for the course with these books, the final chapter is a call to action, with a battle plan for fixing the injustice. Now I’m far from being the jingoistic gun-toting “this is AMURRRRICA!” sort of guy, but when you say that Latinos could be on equal footing and assimilate by allowing them to conduct business and take classes in Spanish, then you are ridiculous. The best strategy is to keep an entire group useless to the greater population by having them not speak the language?

More people would read, and hence more would care, if they took a little time to present the information coherently and in an engaging matter, rather than basically transcript a lecture over 300 pages.


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