This is an auspicious time for our nation. After a decade of peace, prosperity, and progress, we are met by the unexpected. Not just the peril of terrorism and war. We face the peril of self-delusion as well.
A few weeks ago, a newspaper in Washington carried a four-part series entitled "Black Money". It said that life for African-Americans has never been better, suggesting that the quest for racial equality in America was complete.
In fact, that is what most Americans believe. In a major national poll last year, a majority said when it comes to jobs, income, health care, and education, black Americans are doing just as well as whites.
Well, we looked at the facts. We asked, "What would life be like if the majority of Americans were right? What if the racial gap was closed? What would we gain?" So we did the math.
If Americans had racial equality in education and jobs, Afican-Americans would have two million more high school degrees, nearly two million more professional and managerial jobs, and nearly 200 billion more in income.
If America had racial equality in housing, three million more African-Americans would own homes.
And, if America had racial equality in wealth, Afican-Americans would have $760 billion more in home equity value. Two hundred billion more in stock market. One hundred and twenty billion dollars more in retirement funds. And $80 billion more in the bank. That alone would total over $1 trillion more in wealth.
These gaps demonstrate that the long journey of black Americans from an enslaved people to full participants in our
society - a journey that began well over 140 years ago - is far from complete.
We have come a long way. We have not won the equal rights to education, to employment, to housing, and to success. The racial gaps persist. Why is that? How can we close the gaps?