BloombergBusinessweek, Is The Tax Code Racist? Dorothy Brown on the Secrets of White Wealth:
A Tax Code Optimized for White Wealth Leaves Black Americans Behind:
Dorothy Brown has spent her career as a law professor documenting racism in a tax system that’s supposedly colorblind.
Growing up in the Bronx during the 1960s and ’70s, Dorothy Brown couldn’t escape racism. It was all around. Her father, James, a plumber, being barred from joining the local union. Her mother, Dottie, having to battle prejudiced teachers, including one who marked down Dorothy’s sister’s grades so the precocious child wouldn’t upstage her White classmates. Or the White cop beating a handcuffed Black man in the backseat of a cruiser, something she once observed while waiting to cross a street.
As a teenager, Brown thought she’d found a way out—a loophole in American racism. Taking an accounting class, the self-described math geek discovered the U.S. tax code, a universe governed by intricate rules where race wouldn’t matter. In tax law, she thought, “the only color that mattered was green.” The assumption carried her through an early career as a tax attorney, an investment banker, and then a political appointee in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
After that, though, Brown spent a quarter century trying to prove the opposite: that although tax laws may appear to be colorblind, they still discriminate against Black Americans. Now the Asa Griggs Candler professor of law at Emory University, Brown is preparing to publish a book that’s the culmination of years of research, titled The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans—and How We Can Fix It.
It arrives at an opportune time. After decades during which the 61-year-old Brown says mainstream tax and policy experts “either dismissed, attacked, or ignored” her, her ideas appear to be finding an audience. “People are starting to pay more attention to her work and what she’s been telling us for a while,” says Chye-Ching Huang, executive director of New York University’s Tax Law Center.
March 10, 2021 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink