The Black Middle Class Has Been A Mirage: 3 Things You Need To Know About Tricknology Myth

The Black Middle Class Has Been A Mirage: 3 Things You Need To Know About Tricknology Myth

Black middle class
The Black Middle Class Has Been A Mirage: 3 Things You Need To Know About Tricknology Myth. Photo: Pexels

Americans are constantly complaining, especially during election years, about the middle class being squeezed out and the country becoming a state of the rich and the poor. Often, these discussions don’t include Black America — the Black middle class. And maybe the reason is there never was a Black middle class. Maybe the Black middle class has been a mirage –tricknology.

Tricknology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “techniques of deception and manipulation employed by a dominant group (especially a white majority) to disempower a weaker one (especially a Black minority).”

There are three things you need to know about the tricknology myth of the Black middle class.

1. Black middle class shut down at every turn

It has been nearly impossible for Black Americans in large numbers to amass wealth. 

One of the foundations of accumulating wealth is homeownership. “Homeownership was, and remains, the beating heart of wealth accumulation for the American middle class,” Anne Helen Petersen wrote for Vox. “You buy a place, that place grows in value, and either you trade up to a bigger place or you keep it until you can pass it down to your kids or your kids get the money from its sale. Stability gives birth to even more stability.”

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But for decades, Black people have been blocked from homeownership due to policies from the Jim Crow era that range from redlining to discriminatory lending.

“For Black Americans, the issue may not be restoring its middle class, but constructing a robust middle class in the first place,” according to economists William Darity Jr., Fenaba Addo, and Imari Smith 

2. Unending wealth gap

How can a Black middle class exist when the racial wealth gap continues to grow in the U.S.? This a question that those who claim there is a Black middle class have yet to answer.

Wealth has been far more difficult for Black Americans to accumulate than white, Petersen wrote, because of intersecting racist policies and practices such as redlining, continued school segregation, hyper-surveillance, police brutality and the policing of Black bodies.

“Wealth begets wealth. It makes it easier to launch a business or take a career risk. It’s correlated with better health outcomes, lower child mortality, longer life expectancy: everything you’d expect from a solid home life and access to health care,” she added.

Looking at the numbers, one can see how impossible it might be for a Black middle class to get established. 

In terms of economic mobility, the cost of being Black is the same today as it was in the 1870, The New York Times reported. Women have made more progress in recent decades than Black men, but they are nowhere close to equality. They still earn less for the same work, and they are still blocked by harassment, discrimination and policies from reaching the same heights as white men in many of America’s most important industries.

In 2016, the median net wealth for white families was $171,000. Compare this to Black families, who had a net wealth of $17,000. In total, Black people, who make up 14 percent of the population, currently hold less than 3 percent of the nation’s total wealth, Vox reported.

If the widening racial wealth gap continues, the median wealth of a Black family will be zero by 2053, the Nonprofit Quarterly reported.

It’s not only the numbers that prove there isn’t a Black middle class. Black people who are considered middle class aren’t feeling it.

Take Jasmyne, 29, who works for a nonprofit in Los Angeles. She and her husband, a first-generation college student who now works in STEM, have a joint income of $192,000. This, according to the Pew middle-class calculator, puts them in the upper echelon of income. Jasmyne, however, believes placing her, or anyone else, within a particular class can be tricky, she told Vox.

“I consider anything above the average U.S. salary to be middle class, but with a whole slew of caveats,” she said. “For example, my husband and I earn middle-class salaries, but we also have significant student debt and often have to support our families. We live in an expensive city, so what seems high [for housing costs] in our hometowns is pretty average here. He is saving for retirement, but I haven’t even begun.”

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3. Family responsibilities weigh heavier on Black households

In the mid-2000s, 36 percent of middle-class Black people had a parent living below the poverty line. In white middle-class households this was just 8 percent, according to a 2006 study. On top of this, Black middle-class Americans are 2.6 times more likely to have a low-income sibling than those in the white middle class.