Prince Georges County was once a of beacon of hope for black America, but that all changed with the housing crisis. After the crisis, the county came to signify the bursting of the housing bubble, taking black wealth right along with it.
Across the country, in the final decades of the 20th century, minorities were moving into suburbs in unprecedented numbers. But Prince George’s County was distinct: It was one of the few places—like Southfield, Michigan, outside of Detroit; Warrensville Heights, Ohio, outside of Cleveland; and DeKalb County, Georgia, outside of Atlanta—that grew wealthier as it became blacker. Median income in Prince George’s outpaced the national median from the 1970 census forward.
But while black people were living the good life in Prince Georges County, with a median income of over $70,000, many didn’t realize that all they head was money, not wealth. Wealth isn’t present in many places in black communities, meaning blacks can’t dig deep when a financial crisis befalls them. Unfortunately, many of the folks of Prince George’s County were forced to learn that the hard way:
Even families who aren’t losing their homes have seen values drop, making it more difficult to get loans to finance their children’s education or their retirement.
If there’s anything to be gained from this economic downturn, maybe it’s the realization among black people that they are not rooted in wealth the same way as many whites and Asians are, and that since we don’t have the resources that they have, we can’t behave as they do – not yet anyway.
Maybe this downturn will create in African-Americans the desire to create real wealth, not just the faux wealth that exists in home equity and second mortgages.