October 20, 2006

Money for nothing

A look at 'The Color of Wealth'Americans have always had easy explanations for minority poverty, often involving alleged behavior factors such as laziness, unmarried motherhood and debt brought on by irresponsible spending. Lui used an anecdote of J. Paul Getty, one of America's first oil millionaires, to dismiss the mythic discredit poured on the poverty of minority groups. Getty revealed his "three little secrets" for getting rich, Lui said: work hard, rise early, and find oil--or in other words, get lucky.

Getty's message was that without luck, you can do everything else it takes to get rich and still not get rich. Lui, though, was pointing out that without the property unmentioned by Getty--without the asset, land that yielded the oil--even luck wouldn't have done it. The larger message here was that people of color have been deprived of assets they owned, or on other occasions excluded from owning them, throughout U.S. history.

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