It didn’t take me long to figure out why the recent Supreme Court rulings that struck down Affirmative Action and President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness plan bothered me so much. It’s because it continues a legacy of racial policy that has restricted the ability for Black people, particularly the descendants of former slaves, from building wealth.

More than 200 years of racial policy in America has hindered the ability for Black people in the United States to generate wealth.

Removing the ability for colleges to consider race removes in part the ability to address a history of unequal treatment. Lydon Johnson at the onset of Affirmative Action said:
"You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ " Howard University Commencement Address (1965).
Educational achievement has long been linked to income and wealth. So it pained me to see a policy meant to assist in closing the education gap be hobbled by one of our country’s founding institutions. 

Median Household Income and Percent Change by Selected Characteristics. Income in the United States: 2021

​​​​​​​Student loan debt is a drag on wealth and Black Americans are more likely to take on debt when attending college. Loan forgiveness is not a solution to the growing cost of higher education, but it would have reduced a source of drag in wealth generation for many Americans. 
Words like “drag and hindrance” do not capture the magnitude and consistency for American laws and policy (or the lack thereof) to disproportionately impact Blacks. One such failure was the original attempt at creating black wealth. Special Field Order №15 by General William T. Sherman near the end of the Civil War was the infamous “40 acres” and a mule promised to newly freed slaves. However, this was rescinded after President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 by his successor Andrew Johnson, a Confederate sympathizer. Every generation since has had to overcome the downstream effects of that policy.

Staff Sergeant Herbert Ellison explains the G.I. Bill of Rights to the African American members of the Quartermaster Trucking Company. How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans.

Just prior to the turn of the century, a series of Jim Crows laws and policies in the South and across the United States vastly reduced opportunities for Black Americans. Redlining policies from the Federal Housing Administration reduced home ownership opportunities after the Great Depression in 1934. Then following World War II, Black soldiers returning home faced lending and education discrimination, even though on paper the G.I. Bill of 1944 was meant to benefit all veterans.

U.S. State and Federal Prison Population, 1925–2021, 50 Years and a Wake Up: Ending The Mass Incarceration Crisis In America

More recently, the War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration policies from the 1970s through the 2000s contributed to generations of single parent households, which is another negative indicator of wealth. Then, Black ire against the legal system only worsened after 9/11 in 2001 with the further militarization of police. These issues had only begun to be addressed in 2010 when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act and restricted the 1033 program. The latter was undone by President Trump. Now in the last few years with the rise of the Opioid Crisis, more Americans are realizing drug addiction is a health issue and not a criminal one, something that the Black community could have told you during the Crack Epidemic of the 1980s.
This militarization, mass incarceration, and social injustice towards Black Americans is exactly what Colin Kaepernick was kneeling in protest against during the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2016. I thank him for his activism and his sacrifice, because that peaceful form of protest directly paved the way for the more active protest and even riots during the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd.

Colin Kaepernick, center, is joined by Eli Harold, left, and Eric Reid in kneeling during the national anthem before a game in October 2016.

“…a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “The Other America” speech at Stanford University in 1967.
In some form, change did occur. The civil unrest and the Trump Administration’s respond to the Covid-19 Pandemic ultimately led to the election of President Joe Biden. However, without the assistance of 60 members from the Senate, voting rights reform by way of the Freedom to Vote Act (formally the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) failed to pass. Improving voting rights and election policy is fundamental to improving the Black experience and American democracy as a whole. The fact that this didn’t happen left a lot of us feeling, once again, unsatisfied. 
As a consolation prize to Black America, Juneteenth was recognized as a national holiday in 2021. Though I would’ve preferred a National Voting Holiday on Election Day, I still use Juneteenth to commemorate the end of the Civil War and reflect on the arc of the moral universe
Juneteenth, the court decisions, and the timeline of American History continue to reveal to me how much more work we as a nation still have to do. We have to pursue policies that support wealth generation and prosperity in five key areas of the community system i.e. work, home, education, recreation, & transportation. We have to support and pass election and voting reform. We have to continue to call out injustice and pursue discourse, because silence signals acceptance of the current system. I am not a lawmaker, executive, or a Supreme Court Justice. What I say or do hardly registers when weighed against the plights of a nation, but what I can do at least is tell you why I’m upset.
Extended Timeline of Laws, Policy, and Events significant to American History and the Black Community:
  • End of Civil War (April 9, 1865) 13th, 14th, & 15th Amendments
  • The Compromise of 1877 & the end of Reconstruction
  • Disenfranchisement of Black Voters 1890
  • Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) “Separate but Equal”
  • Start of Jim Crow Segregation Laws (cerca 1900)
  • 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre & the Burning of Black Wallstreet
  • Redlining & the Federal Housing Administration (National Housing Act of 1934)
  • G.I. Bill (the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • 1968 Fair Housing Act
  • Nixon “War on drugs” Drug Enforcement Administration 1973
  • Regan “Just Say No” (Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984)
  • Mandatory Minimums & the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 
  • Clinton Mass Incarceration & the 1994 Crime Bill (Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act)
  • Obama elected to presidency (November 4, 2008)
  • Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
  • Colin Kaepernick Kneels (August 14, 2016)
  • Trump elected to presidency (November 8, 2016)
  • Charlottesville Unite the Right rally (August 12, 2017)
  • George Floyd Murder and Summer of Protests (May 25, 2020)
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day Act 2021
  • Failed Freedom to Vote Act (formally the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) January 2022
  • Affirmative Action Rejected Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (June 29, 2023) 
  • Student Loan Forgiveness Rejected Biden v. Nebraska (June 30, 2023)
Disclaimer: This timeline is an incomplete and subjective selection of significant events. Minority groups across America have faced racially discriminating laws and policies throughout our nation’s history. These should be acknowledged and studied to find solutions to help all people. 
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