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The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans--and How We Can Fix It Kindle Edition
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND FORTUNE • “Important reading for those who want to understand how inequality is built into the bedrock of American society, and what a more equitable future might look like.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
Dorothy A. Brown became a tax lawyer to get away from race. As a young black girl growing up in the South Bronx, she’d seen how racism limited the lives of her family and neighbors. Her law school classes offered a refreshing contrast: Tax law was about numbers, and the only color that mattered was green. But when Brown sat down to prepare tax returns for her parents, she found something strange: James and Dottie Brown, a plumber and a nurse, seemed to be paying an unusually high percentage of their income in taxes. When Brown became a law professor, she set out to understand why.
In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown draws on decades of cross-disciplinary research to show that tax law isn’t as color-blind as she’d once believed. She takes us into her adopted city of Atlanta, introducing us to families across the economic spectrum whose stories demonstrate how American tax law rewards the preferences and practices of white people while pushing black people further behind. From attending college to getting married to buying a home, black Americans find themselves at a financial disadvantage compared to their white peers. The results are an ever-increasing wealth gap and more black families shut out of the American dream.
Solving the problem will require a wholesale rethinking of America’s tax code. But it will also require both black and white Americans to make different choices. This urgent, actionable book points the way forward.
From the Publisher
“[An] accessible and lively . . . primer on how wealth works in America.”—Bloomberg Businessweek
“This enlightening book is a vital companion to The New Jim Crow, The Color of Wealth, and Evicted, for how it reimagines everything you thought you knew about U.S. social policy.”—Tressie McMillan Cottom, MacArthur Fellow and author of Thick: And Other Essays
“This book is a tour de force. With clarity and conviction, Dorothy Brown reveals how U.S. tax policy sustains and deepens the wealth gap between black and white Americans. As I read The Whiteness of Wealth, I found myself shaking my head as I eagerly turned the pages and shouting ‘damn’ with each revelation. If we are finally to address the long history of racism in this country, we must grapple with the arguments of Brown’s powerful book. This is a MUST read for these troubling times.”—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., New York Times bestselling author of Begin Again and Democracy in Black
“I couldn’t put it down! Dorothy Brown skillfully weaves her analysis of the racial bias in tax law with compelling personal stories of both Black and White taxpayers as well as policy recommendations for how to bring equity to our tax system.”—Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
“At once passionate and analytical, The Whiteness of Wealth is a bracing contribution to the history of policy racism that takes us to the heart of taxation’s effects on patterns of economic distribution.”—Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White
“In this urgent account, Dorothy Brown incisively unpacks how racism is embedded in our nation’s tax system, enhancing White wealth at the expense of Black Americans.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning
“An eye-opening look at race-based economic biases, with reasonable steps to undo them."—Kirkus Reviews
“An illuminating exploration of how U.S. tax policies exacerbate the Black-white wealth gap.”—Publishers Weekly
“Brown . . . writes brilliantly and lucidly on systemic racism and injustice within the American tax system. [The Whiteness of Wealth] is an eye-opening, well-sourced and -argued account of tax law and economic policy at the intersection of racism and social history.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
- ASIN : B08D8J1FP7
- Publisher : Crown (March 23, 2021)
- Publication date : March 23, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 3826 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 263 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #193,186 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on June 6, 2021
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I do have some quibbles with the education section - I think it is overly simplistic - but the gist of her argument is undeniably true. That is, after hundreds of years of explicit and horrifying racism in every aspect of society (housing, education, voting, employment, government benefits - like social security, FHA loans, GI Bill, etc), the changes of the 60s to create fairer laws has not undone what was created over the entire history of the USA. And the tax laws have gotten worse, not better, for the poor (yes, of all races). There is no doubt that our tax system is made to keep the wealthy very wealthy (and those are overwhelming white people - 91% of the 1% are white), and their heirs advantaged. Anyone who doesn't have that head start has to play catch up in a system still teaming with multiple impediments to closing the wealth gap (for blacks, but also for Native Americans, Mexicans, Native Hawaiian and the Asian and White poor)
Professor Brown lays out well and clearly what those impediments are for Black people (and leaves it to others to explore it for other races, and poor whites). I'm white, wealthy and I clearly see that all that I received - my inheritance tax-free, the stepped-up basis of my parent's house, my income (now all capital gains) taxed well below working folks, the incredible run-up of my home price in a white enclave - exists because the society has decided to give welfare (in terms of are tax code) to folks like me. It's outrageous and it needs to be completely overhauled. I plan to give the bulk of my estate - and plenty of contributions now - to those disadvantaged by our society. My wealth - hard as I did work - is undeserved and a function of my privilege and, particularly, the tax code and the luck of my birth to 2 white people who got to take advantage of things denied Blacks - the GI Bill, buying into a good neighborhood, access to good schools, et. al.
Prof. Brown makes some compelling points about the statistical advantages white people have relative to black people. It pricks at my personal narrative of being a working class (white) kid who put himself through college and grad school; there are hidden advantages in my story that put me on track for more lifetime wealth than a nominally higher-earning black family. I appreciate the illumination. But it doesn't persuade me that poverty isn't present across the spectrum.
I accept many of Prof. Brown's points, e.g. that public policy needs to study and account for disparate impacts by race, ethnicity, and gender; that we're just a few generations from overt and more pernicious discrimination in law, in employment practices, and in the real estate market; that white flight is alive and well; that for-profit colleges are predatory. However, I can't fully credit her account of the state of everyday life for black Americans--the indignities in academic and professional life, the disrespect for black ways of living that don't conform to white bourgeois values, the rampant police brutality. It's part of a popular current narrative that denies progress. While much of Prof. Brown's arguments are backed up by statistics and charts, this aspect of the book feels purely anecdotal and suffers for it. Please don't tell me to follow the footnotes; every supposition under the sun can be supported with some article or fringe academic study. If the evidence that we're still living in 1965 is compelling, put it in the book.