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A Slumlord's Take on Success

Not a day goes by of late when there isn’t some Trump administration official and member of the one percent on public airways pedaling the tired, false narrative of Black apathy, ignorance and laziness.

Yesterday’s scurrilous offender was none other than Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, who in an interview with Fox News, said that Donald Trump’s policies are aimed at breaking people out of the problems "that they are complaining about", but he can’t help Black people if they don’t want to be successful.

Prior to joining the White House, Kushner was CEO of Kushner Companies, which was responsible for 200 building code violations for apartments it owned in Baltimore, including maggots, mold problems and mouse infestation. If his virtue signaling on success includes emulating his behavior as a slumlord, then he’s setting an embarrassingly erroneous example of what success looks like.

But who is really surprised that Kushner continues to peddle racist tropes of Blacks to make himself look better? It’s something we’ve sadly grown accustomed to from many in this administration.

Said press secretary Kayleigh McEnany about Kushner's remarks:

"From criminal justice reform and record HBCU funding to record low black unemployment and record high income increases, there is simply no disputing that President Trump accomplished what Democrats merely talked about."

Meanwhile, a January Washington Post/Ipsos poll found that more than 8-in-10 Black Americans think that Trump is a racist, and 65% say that now is a "bad time" to be Black in America. In one county in South Carolina, the local Democratic Party did a text message survey of Black voters, and 96 percent said they are treated worse in everyday life than are Whites.

There’s a wealth of data that demonstrate that Black people do, indeed, want to be successful and are working hard to close every societal gap created by the systemic racism that holds us back. Here are three specific facts that disprove Kushner’s lie:

Black Entrepreneurship

Black people, particularly Black women, started new businesses faster than any other demographic in 2019 and accounted for 89 percent of new businesses opened from 2018-2019. Also, minority women are more likely to not only work, but also to have a side hustle, according to Fast Company. Then COVID-19 hit and knocked out nearly half of Black small businesses.

When working for someone else doesn’t provide you with the growth opportunity or ownership stake you seek, you channel your energy into charting your own destiny and making your own way through hard work, determination and grit. That is the epitome of success.

Black College Graduation Rate

Nationally, the six-year graduation rate for Black students enrolled full time in a public or private four-year institution is 51 percent. That rate is dismally low when compared to the graduation rate of White students, which is nearly 70 percent, according to the Education Trust. Yet the graduation rate is 9 percent higher than in 2000.

Increasingly, to succeed in America and secure a good job with a livable wage, obtaining a college education is a necessity, and despite challenges with affordability for tuition and expenses, many Black students understand this.

Continued commitment to educational achievement is a hallmark of success for most Black professionals. And although COVID-19 related job losses will likely worsen the affordability challenge, federal support for free college programs might lift the graduation rate for all Americans, not just Black Americans.

Black Homeownership Rate

Nationally, the Black homeownership rate is just 44 percent compared to nearly 74 percent for White families. Despite the comparatively low ownership rate for Black Americans, the overall rate has improved by 2 percent since 2017. Moreover, there is regional variation with ownership rates closing the gap. The Washington DC area, which has a Black homeownership rate of 51 percent, is a good example.

Decades of discriminatory practices, including redlining, race-based lending discrimination, predatory lending, as well as economic events like the Great Recession and COVID-19 continue to have a negative impact on the Black homeownership rate, which has changed ever so slightly since the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. That law outlawed housing discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin. The Black homeownership rate in 1970 was 42 percent and 52 years after the Fair Housing Act’s passage, it is 44 percent.

Still, even small increases in Black homeownership are significant because research shows that homeownership is the foundation of generational wealth. If Black Americans are making strides toward closing the ownership gap and creating generational wealth, they are succeeding -- despite the omnipresent existence of the structural racism that is largely responsible for low homeownership rates.

That progress is a significant marker of success.

It is sad commentary that this should even be a topic of discussion, but unfortunately, it is. Despite Trump's claims that he has done more for Black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln, it is abundantly clear that what Kushner said reflects precisely the president's real attitudes about Blacks in this country.

"What the hell do we have to lose?" Trump asked Black voters in 2016 when he was running for the presidency. Well, the results of his four years in office have clearly demonstrated the answer to that question.

A hell of a lot.

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