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A white acquaintance who grew up wealthy in the South in the 1940s had the family gardener’s son, an African-American boy, as his earliest best friend. He remembers vividly what happened when he asked his mother if his friend could join them for lunch. She put the black child at a table in the kitchen away from the dining room where the family was eating and told her son never to invite his friend again. As they grew up, the possibilities and destinies for the two boys became more and more divergent, their friendship and their lives forced apart by laws and norms of the time that enforced racial separation.
We’ve come a long way as a country since then. But when it comes to wealth, there is still a massive separation between white American families and those of color, and that gap has real-life consequences for our nation’s children — and, increasingly, for the future of America.