Hi, I’m Alyssa Maloof Whatley. I’m an Atlanta based tax attorney and legal educator.
I spend a lot of my time educating my fellow colleagues on the law and I thought it would be a great opportunity to help some of you understand institutional racism, specifically in tax.
Why I Created This Video
I was inspired to create this video because I had seen other professions, such as the medical profession share their experiences of how people of color are affected in their areas of practice and what we can do to help educate ourselves about that disparity and how people of color are treated in our institutions.
400 Years of History
In order to talk about institutional racism, specifically in tax, we have to go back about 400 years to look at the history of our laws and how they have changed for people of color. So, sadly in America we have has a history of slavery, and this has still created issues for people of color today. And in order for us to connect all those dominoes we have to see how the law has changed and evolved from being overtly racist to covertly racist.
And so, when we’re talking about overtly racist, right we started out with slavery and then we got the 13th amendment to abolish slavery, but in that they left a small prevision that people could be forced into work if they were in prison, I would encourage anyone, if you haven’t see 13 on Netflix by Ava DuVernay… I watched it last night and it was amazing and it helps explain how all these little things are connected.
With each step, we become less overtly racist and become more overtly racist, and it’s embedded in our laws and is very difficult to see. For example in constitutional law, if we had a law that was overtly racist, that would be easy to challenge. So when we make changes to the law that are just specific enough to cause a disparity in the result, that is where we are having an issue and further dividing the gap between white Americans and people of color.
Laws That Create Disparities
Specifically when President Nixon was involved. This is when you can really see that it’s not explicit. They’re not saying they are doing this to hurt people of color. The laws in themselves create disparities that hurt people of color.
President Nixon’s advisor, he says specifically in the Nixon campaign of 1968, that they had two enemies, “the anti-war left and black people. We knew that we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” This is an example where you see something, they’re not overtly saying it, but if we become tough on crime and we criminalize certain communities, certain groups of people, the end result is that they are harmed. It’s not overtly racist, it’s covertly racist.
And this continues through Reagan’s election. I think what really bothered me, and again I was listening to these people, they are quote on the video, you can hear them say these things, and they didn’t know that these things were going to come out eventually, but one of the ones that really bothered me was Lee Atwater, who worked on Reagan’s campaign, and this is what he specifically said, and it impacts me and it all goes back to tax.
He says “racial slurs could be used to describe black Americans, but then that backfired”, so it wasn’t enough, we didn’t have slavery anymore, they could use that, they couldn’t use racist slurs, that backfired. He said “it requires you to use abstract language. Now you are talking about cutting taxes and all those things that are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
Right? And so now you are starting to make these connections. It’s not overt. It’s covert. Right? And it seems like we’re just talking about the economy and economic policies but the truth is, it creates disparities. And so, what I love about The Tax Policy Center and Urban Institute and The Brookings Institute, is we don’t specifically ask people’s race when they fill out a tax return. But they were able to take date and piece it all together, between people’s tax returns, their race, ethnicity, their household size, their incomes, and put all this data together in an easy, and concise, simple chart and graph and dialogue to help people see laws that are covert have an impact on people of color.