A groundbreaking exposé of racism in the American taxation system from a law professor and expert on tax policy
“Important reading for those who want to understand how inequality is built into the bedrock of American society, and what a more equitable future might look like.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
Dorothy A. Brown became a tax lawyer to get away from race. As a young black girl growing up in the South Bronx, she’d seen how racism limited the lives of her family and neighbors. Her law school classes offered a refreshing contrast: Tax law was about numbers, and the only color that mattered was green. But when Brown sat down to prepare tax returns for her parents, she found something strange: James and Dottie Brown, a plumber and a nurse, seemed to be paying an unusually high percentage of their income in taxes. When Brown became a law professor, she set out to understand why.
In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown draws on decades of cross-disciplinary research to show that tax law isn’t as color-blind as she’d once believed. She takes us into her adopted city of Atlanta, introducing us to families across the economic spectrum whose stories demonstrate how American tax law rewards the preferences and practices of white people while pushing black people further behind. From attending college to getting married to buying a home, black Americans find themselves at a financial disadvantage compared to their white peers. The results are an ever-increasing wealth gap and more black families shut out of the American dream.
Solving the problem will require a wholesale rethinking of America’s tax code. But it will also require both black and white Americans to make different choices. This urgent, actionable book points the way forward.
About the Author
Dorothy A. Brown is an Asa Griggs Candler Professor at Emory University School of Law. A graduate of Fordham University and Georgetown Law, she received her LLM in Taxation from New York University. A nationally recognized scholar in the areas of race, class, and tax policy, she has published dozens of articles, essays, and book chapters on the topic. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and NPR, and her opinion pieces have been published in CNN Opinion, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City, Dorothy Brown currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
“In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown brings the American tax code to life. Hands shape it and wield it like a shield in the defense of the most powerful among us. The tax code tells a story about American priorities. The news isn’t good, Brown writes, but there’s still time to change the future.”—New York
“[An] accessible and lively . . . primer on how wealth works in America.”—Bloomberg Businessweek
“This enlightening book is a vital companion to The New Jim Crow, The Color of Wealth, and Evicted, for how it reimagines everything you thought you knew about U.S. social policy.”—Tressie McMillan Cottom, MacArthur Fellow and author of Thick: And Other Essays
“This book is a tour de force. With clarity and conviction, Dorothy Brown reveals how U.S. tax policy sustains and deepens the wealth gap between black and white Americans. As I read The Whiteness of Wealth, I found myself shaking my head as I eagerly turned the pages and shouting ‘damn’ with each revelation. If we are finally to address the long history of racism in this country, we must grapple with the arguments of Brown’s powerful book. This is a MUST read for these troubling times.”—Eddie S. Glaude Jr., New York Times bestselling author of Begin Again and Democracy in Black
“I couldn’t put it down! Dorothy Brown skillfully weaves her analysis of the racial bias in tax law with compelling personal stories of both Black and White taxpayers as well as policy recommendations for how to bring equity to our tax system.”—Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
“At once passionate and analytical, The Whiteness of Wealth is a bracing contribution to the history of policy racism that takes us to the heart of taxation’s effects on patterns of economic distribution.”—Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White
“In this urgent account, Dorothy Brown incisively unpacks how racism is embedded in our nation’s tax system, enhancing White wealth at the expense of Black Americans.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning
“An eye-opening look at race-based economic biases, with reasonable steps to undo them."—Kirkus Reviews
“An illuminating exploration of how U.S. tax policies exacerbate the Black-white wealth gap.”—Publishers Weekly
“Brown . . . writes brilliantly and lucidly on systemic racism and injustice within the American tax system. [The Whiteness of Wealth] is an eye-opening, well-sourced and -argued account of tax law and economic policy at the intersection of racism and social history.”—Booklist (starred review)