Volume 8, Number 8                                                    April 7, 2005

The Farmer


Window Dressing Democracy

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan recently described the state of Black economic underdevelopment in a most succinct and poignant manner. He said that when you go to a department store and you see the mannequins in the window, if they have on the type of clothes that you might want, then you go in the store. In the Black community you have a few Blacks who have a little wealth or symbols of wealth. These mannequins will make you think that you can also get these things, if you would take full advantage of the "democracy" that America offers all of her citizens.

This is a most excellent description of the reality of Black life in America. However some might say that Min. Farrakhan is exaggerating to make a point or is just making up stuff to make Blacks angry with America. Let us see if there is data to back up Min. Farrakhan’s claims. I have analyzed some relevant economic data taken from the 1990 Census on Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in the categories of Median Income, Median Net Worth, Mean Net Worth, Median Net Financial Assets and Mean Net Financial Assets.

Net worth is the balance of what you own after debt is removed. In other words, a car or house, minus any debts, such as a mortgage or car note. Net financial asset is the value of your financial assets minus whatever debt is associated with owning that financial asset. A financial asset is a claim to a present or future payment of dollars, such as a stock certificate, government or corporate bond.

"Mean" is the average, while "median" is "most likely" or where most of the individuals fall within a given category. A comparison of "mean" versus "median" can give you an idea of how skewed or balanced a distribution is within a certain category. We will see the importance of this type of analysis further down.

As a member of a "democracy" one expects to earn money, own property and participate in capitalism. When we look at the data, it is clear that Blacks are behind every other ethnic group when it comes to income, net worth or net financial assets. Why? Are Blacks lazy or stupid?

First of all if we look at the income gap between Whites and Blacks, we see that Blacks are "most likely" to earn about $20,508 or 61% (.61) of what Whites earn ($33,600). However, most Blacks are much further behind Whites when it comes to net worth. According to the 1990 Census the common Black has a net worth of about $6,127.26 or 12% (.12) of the most common White's $52,944.01. These disparities get much worse when you look at net financial assets. The most typical Black owns about $100 in net financial assets, while the most typical white owns $7,400. The most typical White owns 74 times more financial assets than the most typical Black. So, basically Blacks do not participate in this portion of the "American way of life".

Furthermore, there are only a few Blacks who participate in owning financial assets at all and those "few" among Blacks is a lot less, percentage wise, than those "few" among Whites. Let us compare the median to the mean of net financial assets between Whites and Blacks. The median for Whites is $7,400, while the overall mean or average is $56,199. This indicates that although most Whites have very little, there are a few Whites who have a lot. In fact if you divide the mean ($56,199) by the median ($7,400) you get about eight (8). This figure does not tell you a whole lot unless you do the same calculation with Blacks and make the comparison.

The mean net financial assets of Blacks is $7,600 while the median is $100. When you divide $7,600 by $100 you get the number seventy-six (76). Now when you compare this distribution ratio of 76 for Blacks and 8 for Whites, we find that the distribution is more skewed for Blacks than Whites by a factor of 9 (76/8). This means that within the White community, although you have a few "haves" and a lot of "have-nots", within the Black community you have even fewer "haves" and a lot more "have-nots".

This tells me that the "system" allows very few Blacks to participate in capitalism or the "money-making-money" sector of "democracy" in comparison to Whites. Yet these same Blacks can be pointed to by those who want to demonstrate that "some have made it". However, these "some" that have made it only window dress the underlying reality that most Blacks are dirt poor when it comes to financial assets, net worth and even income.

Therefore, the statistics when analyzed properly demonstrate the absolute truth of what Minister Farrakhan has said. A few Blacks are used as "window dressers" or mannequins in the storefront of democracy to make the other Blacks believe in a false hope that somehow, one day they can play at capitalism too.

It is most interesting that when you do the same analysis of the distribution of  net worth and net financial assets for Hispanics and Asians, Blacks still have the most with nothing and the least with a lot. This reminds me of the historical anecdote about the "uncle Toms" amongst Blacks who were given a few more biscuits and legs of chicken than the other slaves so that they would do "massa’s" bidding. Recently a few Black preachers were invited to have "dinner" at the White House by President Bush. I wonder if "chicken and biscuits" were served. Also, take a look at Genesis 47:22 and study the Biblical precedent for the new FBI or "Faith-Based Initiative."