Black Families Need Their 40 Acres

The ticket to black success is property ownership, says Gates
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2007 3:22 PM CST
Whoopi Goldberg talks with reporters at Universal City, Calif., in this July 18, 2006, file photo. Goldberg, officially named the new moderator of "The View" on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, as the daytime...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – With a poll last week showing that African Americans no longer think of themselves as a "single race," Henry Louis Gates Jr explores causes of  the widening gap between middle class and poor blacks. His study of 20 highly successful African Americans, from Oprah to Whoopi to a pediatric neurosurgeon, shows most were descended from former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920. Ownership, he argues, is the answer.

Gates makes a distinction between income and wealth: Those who “own property,” he says, “feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society.” A bold approach to the problem of black poverty would be programs to turn tenants into homeowners, a steep challenge in the wake of the subprime crisis, but critical to ensure the next generation of black Americans—69% born out of wedlock—has an “ethic of success” and not of despair.