By Cody-Leigh Mullin
Diversity Editor

In the midst of a rapidly growing wealth divide between different races, activists such as Meizhu Lui are taking strides to educate the nation about the true source of wealth and the allocation of the nation’s finances.

Lui, an activist of over 20 years and co-author of “The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide,” will visit UC Santa Cruz on April 23 to speak out against the growing economic division within the United States and how it subsequently affects all races. Five women of different ethnicities and backgrounds penned the book, giving insight into the history and present-day issue of wealth in America attributed to race, age and socio-economic status.

In congruency with the book, Lui travels across the nation to address college campuses, grassroots organizations and labor organizations with her presentation “The Color of Wealth: Race, Economic Justice, and the Future of America.”

“Everybody is interested in wealth. We have a society that is just so into wealth,” Lui said. “Everyone is thinking about it and everyone wants to be a millionaire, but there is actually little understanding about what wealth is, why it’s important, and why it’s distributed the way it is.”

Each co-author of the acclaimed book speaks to a specific race and economic background, uniting the five major races within present-day United States. Lui, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Barbara Robles, Rose Brewer and Rebecca Adamson collaborated to give voice specifically to African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

After becoming a single mother unexpectedly, Lui felt the weight of the wealth divide while trying to provide for her child on a single income. This firsthand experience motivated Lui to delve into the racial issues that affect division of wealth in the U.S.

Lui plans to address the common misconceptions that the younger generations hold about income, wealth, and which of the two is more applicable and fundamental for building and maintaining a stable future.

“We think a lot about income, and it’s huge, but it turns out that the wealth gap is even bigger,” Lui said. “The reason I emphasize wealth is that is isn’t usually brought up enough. And by wealth I really mean assets and what you own and owe. So even if you have a job, you still may be going into debt.”

Fellow co-author Robles represents the Latino community in their book and is affiliated with United for a Fair Economy (UFE), where Lui served as executive director. UFE, a national nonpartisan group, campaigns against the growing income and wealth divide and urges to take action to reduce national economic inequality.

“Governmental policies make a difference in wealth-building across all communities,” Robles said. “Such policies can amplify wealth-building and if not inclusive and equitably enforced, can hinder wealth-building especially in communities of color. Our historical perspective brings to light the policy record of U.S. government actions and how those actions can be modified in the 21st century to cultivate asset-building in communities of color so often left out of the policy conversations, design and eventual enactments.”

Leondar-Wright wrote from a white female perspective, and in doing so, researched the laws and governmental biases that have taken place throughout the history of the United States.

“A lot of people’s belief is that racial inequality has been narrowing, which in some ways it has,” Leondar-Wright said. “But the wealth gap has not yet narrowed and that seemed really important to us. Few people knew about it.”

Lui’s presentation, which takes place April 23 in the Colleges Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room at 7 p.m., will address the many ways that wealth, or the lack thereof, affects members of each race, class and gender. Lui hopes that students will come away with a personal idea of income, the economy and where they fit within the wealth divide.

“We like to say that we don’t have an aristocracy and that we favor equal opportunity so that those with talents and skills can rise to their full potential,” Lui said, “but right now our policies and practices are making that harder and harder. For our American democracy to live up to its promise we really have to look carefully at the direction we are going.”