Photo: ‘Bling Empire’
‘Bling Empire’ Overview
With season one released in January of 2021, ‘Bling Empire’ is already back for round two. This reality TV show follows the lives of a select group of wealthy individuals, focusing on the “drama” of their lives. There is no doubt that the conflicts are played up for the camera, but nonetheless, they demonstrate the alienating nature of wealth. It’s actually quite entertaining to watch as the cast attempts to relate to the general public through creating drama in their love lives or within their friendships. Most of the plot of the series relies on “he said, she said” arguments. However, oddly enough it does manage to keep your attention. If anything, just to marvel at the detachment of the upper class.
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The Wealth Divide in America – Overview
Despite the recent political developments which urge citizens to reconsider their views on wealth redistribution, no attempts have been made to sponsor equity in America. Rampant wealth inequality in the United States cripples the poor and reinforces the wealth gap through systemic oppression of the underserved. This division has deeply unsettling impacts on marginalized communities.
Wealth Divide and Education
Wealth inequality in America is supported by the educational gap between the upper classes and underserved communities. Between 2001 and 2012, the federal education department issued a report that showed the funding gap between rich and poor schools grew by 44%. The richest 25% of schools spent 1.5K more per student (on average) than the poorest 25% of school districts during the aforementioned years. The funding gap increased to 32% between 2000 and 2015 in the top 1% of school districts and the 50th percentile. This data should very well be frightening. If children of underserved American school districts are denied the opportunity for quality education that will genuinely aid in their development as people and lifelong learners, then there is little hope that they will be able to find traditional success which would be necessary to pull them out of poverty. Thus, the American school system reinforces the wealth gap by continuing to neglect economically disadvantaged communities.
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Wealth Divide and Discrimination
Discriminatory practices are one of the pillars of wealth inequality in the United States, primarily due to the racist roots of the American capitalist system. Most so-called “old money” finds its roots in slavery, Indigenous land seizure, and abuses of Indigenous natural resources. However, these discriminatory practices go far beyond favoring the white and instead demeaning people of color. For example, in 1865, after the Civil War, freed slaves were promised 40 acres of land that was supposed to allow them to establish an economic presence. Though the government pulled out of the deal, leaving freed slaves to start their lives with nothing to their names. This often forced people into indentured servitude – commonly recognized as another form of slavery. Parallel to this, in the 1860s, the Homestead Act granted predominantly white settlers 270 million acres of land to “settle the American west” – this land was taken from Indigenous tribes. In another example, mobs, as well as police officers, stormed and burned down a Black neighborhood which was known as Black Wall Street in 1921. This violence destroyed upwards of $200 million in housing and businesses and displaced 10 thousand residents.
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Wealth Divide and Corporations
“Old money” gave many companies a jump start at their very conception. A select few companies within the US hold large market shares within their industries. This poses a challenge for small businesses as they are unable to accommodate the pricing expectations of consumers, forcing many off the board. As researched by J. Mauldin for Forbes, three companies control roughly 80% of mobile service, three control upwards of 95% of credit cards, and four navigate 70% of airline flights within the U.S. As for agriculture, four companies control upwards of 66% of U.S. meat production, four companies also control 85% and 75% of U.S. corn and soybean seed sales (respectively). Retail providers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target need no introduction. The volume of business that is concentrated within such a small group of companies is baffling. A small business cannot reasonably keep up with the pricing on certain goods and services without access to the same resources that these market beasts frequently utilize. A small business cannot sink billions into a new development, unlike Google. A small business cannot get away with unfairly treating employees either. The wrap sheet for the divide between big and small businesses is shockingly extensive.
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Wealth inequality in America is self-reinforcing and has historically targeted underserved communities, leaving disastrous consequences as its mark. White workers continuously out-earn workers of color. Minorities have historically been targeted in efforts to allocate wealth to the upper classes. School funding differs widely based on the school district’s economic status which hinders the education of the poor, in turn reinforcing the poverty cycle. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to be able to safely argue that the wealth divide in America is not about hard work. The real roots of such discrimination lie in centuries of systemic oppression and vicious resistance against the success of marginalized people.
There is much to be said regarding the different facets of the wealth divide in America. From educational reform to the abolition of the prison system as we know it, many changes must be made in order to establish a more equitable world for all classes.
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When it comes to reality TV, many of the cast members were brought into this world with wealth and choose not to do much good with that wealth, instead dressing in designer clothing and paying for the best luxury cars. The truth of the matter is, that no one should be making or receiving more than a million dollars on an annual basis. Wealth has never been and will never be about hard work. Wealth is accumulated through privilege, luck, and pattern recognition.
It is easy to say that someone is wealthy because they are smarter than the rest. But the question should stand, how come they were able to become smarter than the rest. It is easy to say that someone is wealthy because their parents worked hard and now they may reap the benefits of being born into wealth, but that’s luck, isn’t it? It’s easy to say that someone is wealthy because they work harder than the rest, but a single mother who holds three minimum wage jobs works at least just as hard to support her children – so why isn’t she wealthy? This logic of hard work, brains, and brawn is excruciatingly harmful. No one can earn as much money as Jeff Bezos is worth, not even Jeff Bezos. Wealth is determined by how much you’re willing to take and from whom.
By Micha Jones
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Micha Jones is a writer and aspiring television producer who is dedicated to education and equity. Writing review and feature articles for The Hollywood Insider, they focus on the ways in which media can tell marginalized stories. Through reflecting on the portrayal of social and environmental issues in TV and film, Micha aims to make positive changes in the entertainment industry. Micha’s work often carries The Hollywood Insider’s signature “mic-drop” perspectives and makes an effort to tell educational and socially progressive stories. They strongly believe in accurate representation in film and emphasize the power of the community.