MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid Says “Most African-Americans Are Not Poor” Because She Doesn’t Understand Poverty

by admin | March 7, 2016 8:28 pm

by Yvette Carnell

Last night during the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders said “when you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto…” and now Clinton operatives are trying to bury him with the comment.

Throughout this presidential campaign, black people have been highly critical of Sanders for not discussing race, and when he finally does, they’re critical of him for how he discusses it. Sanders can’t win, but the woman who is 1/2 of the political power duo responsible for escalating mass incarceration of black men, welfare reform, and deregulation? She’s sailing through the primaries and headed for the nomination.

After Sanders made his comment on black poverty last night, MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid popped up whack-a-mole style to ‘read’ the white, Jewish U.S. Senator from Vermont:

Here’s the full Bernie Sanders quote on “racial blind spots” from the #DemDebate[1] in Flint.[2]

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 7, 2016[3]


Not sure how the Sanders line that white people in America “don’t know what it’s like to live in the ghetto” will land. #DemDebate[1]

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 7, 2016[4]


Of course, many white Americans know exactly what it’s like to “live in the ghetto.” Many, including immigrants have, do and did.

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 7, 2016[5]


And most African-Americans are not poor. The AA poverty rate is too high, of course, at about 28%, but that’s not most or all.

— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 7, 2016[6]


Let’s begin by noting that the percentage of black people below the poverty line, 28 percent, is already higher than the number of blacks with college degrees.[7]

Furthermore, anyone who says “most African-Americans are not poor” doesn’t understand poverty. Here’s why:

poverty thresholds

Since only 28 percent of blacks fall below the poverty line, Reid concludes that only 28 percent of blacks are poor. This reasoning doesn’t go far enough, however.

For a four person family, the poverty threshold stands at a measly $24,300. Would you conclude that a black family of four with earnings of $28,000 is not poor? What about $32,000? The point is that the poverty guidelines aren’t an accurate snapshot of black poverty in this country.

You can be well above the poverty line and still be burdened with economic insecurity, hence economic security, and the structures and customs that buttress that insecurity, are a far more efficient barometer for poverty than the federal poverty line.

A 2010 study published at Democracy New[8] ,for example, found that the median wealth for single black women is $100, compared to $41,000 for single white women. Is $100 in the bank anyone’s definition of not poor? Census median net worth for all black households was about $6,000 in total, as Antonio Moore explained in The Decadent Veil: Black America’s Wealth Illusion, [9]and it only gets worse in comparison to real wealth:

A group that is 13 percent of the U.S. population and built one[10] of the the wealthiest countries the world has known as slave labor controls less than 1.75 percent of that country’s household wealth. With a massive amount of the small slither in the hands of a small black elite. According to the Pew Research Study[11], 35 percent of Black households have Negative or No Net Worth. Another 15 percent have less than $6,000 in total household worth, that’s nearly 7 million of the total 14 million black households that have little or no security.

Like Joy-Ann Reid, black people tend to forget they’re poor because we can now buy Jordans with our paychecks and eat at Applebee’s with friends. Your position on the financial hierarchy, however, is largely determined by how quickly you slide back into poverty once your cashflow dries up.

Even poor white people have a societal structure that buttresses them if they lose their job. White people can often tap into their whiteness when times get hard, which is why a black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school dropout.  [12]African-Americans, descendants of slaves, don’t have any leverage here, which is why we’re not just broke, but the underclass in this country.

It is also true that black people don’t experience poverty in the same way as whites, further eroding Reid’s premise that poverty can be gleaned through one piece of federal data. According to the Washington Post, [13]poor whites actually live in richer neighborhoods than middle class blacks or Latinos:

A black household with an annual income of $50,000 lives on average in a neighborhood where the median income is under $43,000. But whites with the same income live in neighborhoods where the median income is almost $53,000—about 25 percent higher.


Meanwhile, white families with an annual income of just $13,000 on average live in neighborhoods where the median income is $45,000—slightly higher than the precincts occupied by middle-class blacks and just below that of middle-class Hispanics.

If Reid needs a refresher course in black poverty, she could learn a thing or three from her ex-colleague, Melissa Harris-Perry, who, according to Fox2Now,[14] said the following:

“Starting around Thanksgiving, I began asking, ‘Does anybody know if the show is going to be on air in 2016?” Harris-Perry said.


Holding back tears, Harris-Perry said that she worked hard to support her family, her kids and her mother.


“I support everyone in my family, and I asked, ‘do I have a job?’ and they wouldn’t answer me.”

What does it say about black poverty that a black woman who had a national television only a couple of weeks ago is now worried about her economic security? For me, it says that Harris-Perry understands, far better than Reid, that the overwhelming majority of blacks, even those who earn six figures, remain in a precarious financial situation.

Even if you’re black and have money, you’re surrounded by friends and relatives who don’t. This is further exacerbated by the fact that we don’t own our income sources and thus, have no control over our cashflow.

Reid would be better served by sitting back and soberly reflecting on what transpired with Harris-Perry rather than using one piece of data to play gotcha with Bernie Sanders. If Reid actually stops acting as a surrogate for Clinton, she might learn something about her community and its needs. Being members of the working poor is something most black people have in common. For the most part, we are poor, regardless of what the poverty line says.

I try to address many of the issues discussed in the video below:





  1. #DemDebate:
  3. March 7, 2016:
  4. March 7, 2016:
  5. March 7, 2016:
  6. March 7, 2016:
  7. higher than the number of blacks with college degrees.:
  8. Democracy New:
  9. The Decadent Veil: Black America’s Wealth Illusion, :
  10. built one:
  11. Pew Research Study:
  12. a black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school dropout.  :
  13. Washington Post, :
  14. Fox2Now,:

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