U professor’s book looks at wealth gap dividing races

Rose Brewer will read from and discuss her book Thursday at a local bookstore.

by Jim Hammerand

African American and African studies professor Rose Brewer is back in Minneapolis this week to promote her new book, “The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide.”

The book examines the effects of government policy, like the GI Bill or the New Deal, on the wealth chasm separating races in the United States.

She will read from and discuss her book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Arise! Bookstore, 2441 Lyndale Ave. S.

Brewer spoke with the Daily about “The Color of Wealth.”

How did the book come about?

The idea germinates from the mission of (United for a Fair Economy) and my own research – I do social inequality and social stratification – so this is an issue that I’ve been interested in for a while.

We began talking about this in relationship to the more general work on wealth, and about three years ago, we decided it would make a lot of sense to formalize this in the form of an actual manuscript.

Four other authors (Meizhu Lui, Bárbara Robles, Betsy Leondar-Wright and Rebecca Adamson) worked with you on the book. How were you able to combine five different ways of thinking?

We all, in a collective sense, thought through the argument. We tended to, however, focus in on our areas of interest as well as our cultural backgrounds. So we have women who are from each of those groups bringing that particular expertise to the entire project and thinking very collectively about how the argument would unfold. For example, I worked very specifically on (the chapter) “Forged in Blood” and talked about my experiences growing up in one of the sites where there was destruction of black wealth in this country: Tulsa, Okla.

How do you bring your past and your research together?

Given my long-term concern with racial inequality and who has what economically and politically in this society, that kind of broader sense of being in the world has always shaped my work, and this is just a reflection of that long-term interest.

The Tulsa case was especially relevant simply because this is a concrete case of where actual wealth was destroyed in a population that was, of course, vulnerable.

That being my home city, as well as it connecting so directly to the issue of who has wealth and why, then it made a lot of sense to bring those experiences together.

Is the book historical, or does it deal with the present?

It’s both. We opened up the discussion with the current statistics and data on wealth inequality.

We set up the framing in that contemporary context and began locating some of the precursors in the historical context.

Then we come full circle and try to explain the current positioning of these groups.

Why should students read this book?

It’s important for all of us to recognize that we all benefit, I believe, when there’s fairness in equity among all the population.

It’s a good policy to have all Americans pretty much on the same equity page, and we make the case that it just makes good sense.

Brewer will teach AFRO 3251, Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class and Gender, and AFRO 1902, Black Radical Imagination in the African-American Experience this fall.