COMPOUND INTEREST AND COMPOUND RACISM

I am astounded that someone can marvel at the effect of compound interest in finance while ignoring the effect of compound racism on the lives of Black American descendants of chattel slavery.

For those less familiar with the concept of compound interest, it is a financial calculation that shows the pace of your money growing as you invest. If you invest $100 and make a 10% return, you now have $110. If you make another 10%, you now have w $121, after another 10%, your money grows to $123.10, so forth and so on. The NEW money helps to generate even more money. Unfortunately, the same holds on negative interest, like credit card debt.

I will not use this post to recount the horrific conditions that brought Africans to this country nor the deplorable existence forced upon them during AND post-slavery.

I wrote this post to try to understand how anyone can look at the documented direct actions taken against Black-Americans (physically, emotionally, politically, mentally, socially, and economically) for over 400 years and believe that we have overcome because we had the Civil Rights Act, a Black President, and a relatively small number of Black individuals who have achieved professional success.

Please understand that I recognize the historical significance of these and other achievements, but just as compound interest can help generate massive increases in our financial station, so does compound racism generate extremely heavy burdens on Black Americans that unfortunately have not been fully removed.

Malcolm X said, “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound.”

To extend this quote even further, the wound got severely infected and there have been numerous additional knives plunged into our backs (collapse of Freedman’s Bank, Jim Crow, Black Codes, sharecropping, lynchings, redlining, highway system, war on drugs, prison industrial complex, police violence, lack of access to capital, etc) THAT’s compound racism. The original damage still has an effect even if the person who first shoved the knife in the back no longer exists. That wound is still infected as we are inflicted with fresh wounds. We blame the person’s pain on their own lack of self-care, as if they stabbed themselves. We use the fact that some have been able to survive the stabbings as a justification to minimize the significance of compound racism in favor of promoting hard work and education (which are useful, but still don’t heal the wound).

Just as compound interest can help generate wonderful gains financially, we must acknowledge that compound racism creates an almost insurmountable set of challenges for Black Americans. These challenges can only be addressed by an equally profound set of policies and actions that aims to not only remove obstacles and barriers that still exist today, but provides redress to heal the wound from previous damage. Only then will we have real freedom and reconciliation.

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