Tag Archives: racism

Why Black Lives Matter and the Racial Wealth Gap

Yes, this is a personal finance blog. And yes, this is a post about racism and the horrific treatment of the black community. I’m white. And I won’t claim to be the most woke white person on the block. But I know injustice when I see it. Systemic racism is real. It’s a big deal.

This post is not about looters or rioters or social unrest. This is about what has led us here. This is a post about how today a quarter of all black households would have less than $5 if they liquidated all of their financial assets (source.) White families, on the other hand, could turn to liquid assets such as stocks or bonds or other savings. The median white household had a wealth that totaled more than $140,000, while black Americans had $11,000.

Why do I have the money I have saved up?

  1. I grew up in a middle class town with access to a good public education and extracurriculars.
  2. I never had to worry about being hungry or my parents not having money to pay the bills each month.
  3. My parents were able to save enough to put me through college without loans.
  4. My parents were able to purchase a home in a nice middle class neighborhood with a regular loan and move in with mostly other white middle class families which made the value of the neighborhood go up over time.

Aren’t there poor white people too?

Yes, there are poor white people. That’s an issue as well. There are areas where white people (and people of all colors) do not have access to clean water or a good education. Talking about black systemic racism does not mean that these other issues aren’t issues. We can talk about them separately. We can focus on them one at a time and understand why the problem exists in the first place and then work together to fix them.

“Once in the middle class, it’s harder for African American’s to stay there. More than half of African Americans raised in the middle quintile fall out of the middle as adults, compared to a third of whites.”

The long history of redlining in this country is a huge part of the problem. Decades after the formal end of redlining, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to be homeowners than their white counterparts. While homeownership is not the only way to wealth or the best way to wealth, the reality is the most people do not know how to save or invest their money otherwise. Home owners are forced to save over the years, and they also see their initial downpayment increase in value as their home grows in value over time.

You know what’s fucked up?

Research shows that property values start to decline when a neighborhood becomes populated by 10 percent black residents (source.)

Black young adults are more likely to owe on student loans (44 percent) compared to white young adults (35 percent.)

Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-American wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth.

African American families were prohibited from buying homes in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, but the Federal Housing Administration weren’t able to gain equity. So, now, just 60-80 years later, just 2 generation’s later, unsurprisingly we see a whole lot of inequality in wealth building when you look at the black people  vs the white people.

My grandparents were poor first or second generation immigrant families. My mother’s parents never purchased property. She was able to move up in economic class by marrying my father. He came from a lower middle class family as well, a large working class family. But that family was able to purchase a house and send their kids to a good public school which got most of them into college where they obtained good jobs and were able to then get loans for their own houses in the suburbs and continue to move up economically. Now, I am able to do the same. This is a privilege.

Today, not only are we still segregated, we have extreme gaps in poverty and education opportunities. Yes, some kids from lower income areas are able to overcome adversity and end up at Harvard or Yale or Stanford with a well-deserved scholarship. These kids are the outliers. Most don’t even graduate high school. If I went to the schools they go to, I doubt I would have graduated high school.

Students of color in the largest 100 cities are more likely to attend schools where most of their peers are poor or low-income (source.)  Local property taxes pay for schools, and when local property taxes are low, so are the funds to pay for a decent education.

Researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.

Sadly, when you have a situation like this that feels inescapable, when you have communities held back by the racism that has torn apart their people for generations (I haven’t even mentioned a little thing called slavery which we had here in the US not that long ago) you end up with people who feel stuck and seek other ways to escape. There are criminals of all colors and at all ends of the class spectrum (plenty on Wall Street) but the ones that are punished the most by our police and legal system are those who have no way to support their own cases. Black men are sentenced to more time for the same crimes compared to white men (source.) This is not to say that we should not prosecute criminals, but we need fair and equal treatment regardless of skin color.

Black men constitute 6 percent of the US adult population but are approximately 35 percent of the prison population and are incarcerated at a rate six times that of white males.

In federal courts, the average sentence during 2008 and 2009 was 55 months for whites and 90 months for blacks.

Then, we have events like what we’ve witnessed these past weeks:

George Floyd –– whether or not he tried to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes is irrelevant. He was murdered by 4 police officers for maybe using a fake $20 bill. Really? What kind of justice is that? They murdered him in broad daylight. Many of us have seen the video. He called out for his mother. It is heartbreaking. Many other black men and women have died at the hands of police without being documented on video. We have a major problem with our police system. I support the police and think there are good cops but there are many bad ones and there needs to be psychological testing and training and misconduct reviews and firings to stop this mistreatment and murder.

Breonna Taylor — a bright young 26 year old EMT, who was in her own apartment when the cops came busting in, in the middle of the night, with a no knock warrant for someone who didn’t live there. Her boyfriend thought they were robbers, he shot at them in the confusion, they shot back and shot Breonna 8 times. She died. The cops have not been arrested.

Ahmaud Arbery — a 25 year old black man went jogging to get some exercise one beautiful day in Georgia and three white guys chased him down and murdered him. They were not arrested immediately because they claimed self defense and said he matched the profile of a robber in their neighborhood. They hit him with a truck and then shot him point blank.

This is the story of George, Brenna, and Ahmaud. It is also the story of every black man and woman who have to live their life in fear because us white people are too scared to get a little uncomfortable and admit there is a problem. A big problem. The system is set up to protect us. Yes, there are horrible cops who will be assholes to people of all colors. But the numbers don’t lie. Black people are the target of more police brutality and violence than any other race.

Between 2013 and 2019, police in the United States killed 7,666 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. Once these figures are adjusted for the population size and demographics, in nearly every state, African Americans face a significantly higher risk of being killed by police officers than white Americans (source.)

So what can we do? I’m asking myself that everyday. I don’t know the answer. I post articles like this, because it’s important to educate ourselves. I’m looking into organizations to donate to, like CampaignZero, to fight a lack of police oversight. I’m having conversations with every person who will listen. There’s so much more to do, but this is a start. This isn’t a democrat vs republican issue. This is a human rights issue. This is an American issue. And everyone deserves the same opportunities and same freedoms and same protection from police as everyone else. That isn’t how things work today. And we have to do something to change that.

Have an idea how we can make a difference? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Black Lives Matter and The Concept of “Woke”

I always get myself into trouble talking about this subject (because it’s rather controversial no matter what you say about it), but as a privledged white woman living in the US today, both due to my skin-tone and childhood socio-economic status, I often wonder what I can do to help minimize the inequality within our own borders.

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation (ok, maybe more like heated debate) with a few people on Facebook who said that racism (in the US anyway) was purely a “white people problem.” While I disagree (everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, according to the musical Avenue Q) – I do know that being white and being black (or a person of color, for that matter) is an entirely different life experience in this country no matter how much money you make or where you end up living. Continue reading Black Lives Matter and The Concept of “Woke”

More Thoughts on Ambition, Depression, and An Otherwise Ambivalent Life

When I was a child, I was remarkably judgmental. My parents raised me as such. For them, having grown up in households with parents who were not college educated, who were bluecollar workers or clergy, who lived only slightly above the lifestyle afforded by poverty, I understood their hatred of all things they worked so hard to escape. Although my town was quite diverse, as a child I always felt better than many of my peers. My parents created and reinforced this notion. I never felt better in the sense of actually liking myself or better in that I was able to make and maintain friendships, but I was told time and again that there is a large faction of others in the town, and while I was allowed to be friends with those people they were not like us.

To be clear, this was not a racial issue, as my parents looked down upon people of all ethnicities – though, of course others “like us” – Jewish families, typically got a pass. It was horrible, and yet at the time it made sense –  was our shared values of education and working hard to achieve goals, with a general disrespect for cultures that, by stereotype and outcome, didn’t have the same type of lifestyle. It wasn’t their fault, or at least it certainly wasn’t the fault of the children, and yet there was still this sense of sameness and otherness that pervaded our view of our town. It is how I, despite being miserably depressed and empty as a child, was able to find some solace in going shopping with my mother and purchasing hundreds of dollars in Nordstrom Brass Plum shirts and pants and skirts and dresses. It is how I managed to push myself harder to get where I am today, because deep down I was terrified of becoming one of “them.” I could never truly envision myself a starving artist or struggling parent. It wasn’t in the vernacular of my limited foresight. It was the only truth I knew, which now I know to be no more truth than any other dream or goal.

We were never rich, but my mother dreamed of great wealth and my father wasted away his life eating himself fat and working long hours to provide for our family so we could maintain our illusion of happiness in the shape of comparative success. My mother would frequently go on and on about how she wished she had married someone richer, not once considering returning to work herself. That was somewhat normal of a train of thought at the time. My father, meanwhile, earned a rather high salary for his middle management consulting role, and we lived a very comfortable life. My father liked to purchase “nice” things, although I didn’t always agree with his taste. My mother, for the most part, liked to purchase whatever QVC or the Clinique woman happened to be selling her. And I grew up with this painful sense of privilege compiled by the guilt of knowing none of it was deserved. Through each year, that guilt grew stronger. When my mother made an off-putting comment about a friend at school whose parents rented instead of owned, I cringed inside, knowing that criticism was completely unjust, especially against a child who had no choice to whom she was brought into this world.

I do believe that so much of your ambition is tied to how your parents wired you for reward. My reward came from meeting and surpassing expectations of this illusion of our stability and relative superiority. If I wasn’t to be a math genius, I was to be a great painter. I had to be something better than the others. I had to be special to matter to my parents at all. They certainly didn’t appreciate when that special came with a fragmented mind and a hyperactive, mess-creating child who longed so desperately for the attention and approval of others, unless, of course, this need for approval resulted in something they could brag about.

As an adult now, having been through enough sociology classes and life to know that everything that I thought was real as a child is a complete clusterfuck of a post-war generation and immigrant family mentality tossed down through the ages, I want out of this. Out of trying so hard to prove something to someone when no one is even listening anymore. Sure, my mother still shares every thing I post on Facebook as if I had won the freaking Olympics, with pride acceptable for a 12 year old daughter, perhaps, but not a 31 year old. And in my little puddle of psyche so empty and ambivalent I kick myself together trying to find the shape of a person who has some motivation, some drive, some reason to exist beyond merely existing or earning a paycheck. And I can’t find it. I can’t find anything that tastes real anymore, except the incredible and overwhelming love which my alter-ego of a boyfriend – warm, quiet, sensitive, needing no attention or approval – bequeaths to me in ample supply.

But one cannot live on love alone. And I often think if I didn’t have this love right now, I would be so fragile, I’d have nothing to keep me going. Thank god for his kind heart, his deep compassion for all the people of the world and all that is unjust and cruel. I am happy to have a safe place to go, wrapped in his arms, far from the judgmental warfare of my suburban family home.

I don’t want to just set out to help others when I’m not ready for it yet. One can easily do more harm than good. If I fuck up in business it’s terrible for sure but, at least in the communications side of things, a fuck up here or there never killed anyone. But to dedicate my life to helping others, I don’t want to do it for selfish reasons, because that won’t go over well. I need to find something deep within me, something so true, which I can become passionately obsessed with, something which can become my intention for life. It could be motherhood. It could be psychology. It could be design. It could be writing should I ever muster up a plot, realistic dialogue and the tenacity to draft more than eight pages. For someone who writes so much as I do it should be easy, but my stunted empathy has made it quite impossible to dream up others. I’m still trapped deep within myself, this little, weak, shell of a human being who attempts to claw out of her flesh to find her guiding light.

Hi, My Name is Her Every Cent Counts, and I’m a Racist

There are two types of racists in the world — the ones who blatantly hate on another race for being different, and the ones who just would prefer to be around people who are more like them. Most people are slightly racist. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. As the musical Avenue Q puts it – “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist Sometimes.”

Looking for an apartment, my racism comes out in full force. Neighborhoods around the Bay Area are very neatly divided along color lines. There are areas for Mexican-Americans, areas for Chinese-Americans, Indian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, Cambodian-Americans, African-Americans and so on. Continue reading Hi, My Name is Her Every Cent Counts, and I’m a Racist

Election’s ’08, Holding My Breath

Tuesday is a very important day. It will decide a great deal about our nation’s future, especially in terms of the years of my life when this sort of stuff matters.

That is, as a child I was relatively oblivious to politics, financial market upsets, and while I understood what war was, it didn’t effect me personally. Now, as a soon-to-be 25-year-old adult, all of this is very relevant in my life. If Obama wins, I may have health insurance again. If McCain wins, well it’s 4 more years of Bush. I don’t mind McCain, it’s Palin I’m afraid of.

I believe in the constitution, and strongly believe in social and economic freedom that, for the most part, goes unregulated by government. Because government is usually wrong. But when it comes down to things that make the people of our country better – healthier, smarter, and prepared for the competition in the international marketplace, the government needs to help out. Look at China – its people may not be doing all that well, but economically they’re thriving. America is no longer the big shot nation. We’re one of many. And before we fight for democracy, we need to prove why it is so great. We take care of our people. That means providing quality education, health coverage, and mental healthcare. The school system should have a class in finance, explaining why sub prime mortgages don’t work. We can’t bail out banks, because that defeats the purpose of capitalism. This isn’t Mario. You can’t just be like, oops, do over. (Though, apparently, you can.)

It never ceases to amuse and confuse me that those who believe strongest in liberty and freedom from centralized government are the same exact people who speak out against gay marriage. In California, there’s Prop 8, which will add an amendement to the state constitution saying that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Now, regardless on your opinion on gay people, isn’t that kind of ridiculous? After all, if we’re fighting for our freedom – freedom to spend as we please, teach our children what we believe, do what we think is right, then shouldn’t everyone have those freedoms? The biggest hypocrisy is fighting for freedom, as long as people agree with your beliefs.

Sorry to go a little off topic here, but this issue really irks me. All the people who are so set on defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage, in itself, is a religious concept. I personally believe that the government should remove itself from the marriage process, and that everyone who wishes to be married can sign up, legally, for a civil partnership, and then let people define marriage as they please. I went to a wedding this last weekend, and while it was lovely, all the traditions and everything were a religious ceremony – that’s what marriage is. Two people can love each other and be together forever without being “married,” the only difference then is the lack of rights. The lack of freedom to have these rights.

The last thing I have to say about this is how if every marriage between a man and woman were perfect, then maybe it would make sense to say that marriage is this special thing that must be preserved. But look at the marriages in our country. Many end in divorce. Many that don’t remain abusive. My good friend just eloped so she could have her fiance’s health benefits. This is reality. And letting two people who love each other get married, whether they have different genitals or not, well, that really shouldn’t matter. Marriage is about a commitment to someone you love, to share your life together, to be there for each other in sickness and in health. It’s not restricted to a man-woman relationship. That’s all I’ll say about that for today.

I’m feeling good about Obama’s standing in the polls, but still worried that McCain will pull ahead. I remember election day 2004, when the results were coming in and it was clear that Bush was going to win. Well, it was never really clear, except I knew it because he did a great job of scaring people into thinking if anyone else won the terrorists would infiltrate our country. Fear is a great campaign to run on. McCain is trying it too, but people are maybe a little smarter now that they’ve seen what Bush has done.

Obama isn’t perfect. But he understands this country. He understands what we need. He may be liberal, he may believe in equality for all, and that may scare a lot of people in this country who, on the extreme, think that America needs to be white in order to still be America. I’m worried FOR Obama, it’s obvious that him being African American makes him the target of tons of assassination attempts. He is the next JFK, he inspires hope, and scares the shit out of people who don’t want things to change.

But that’s really it, why Obama still may not win. The fear, the fear of a president who isn’t white, and even more so, the fear of a president who’s middle name is Hussein. My mom is voting for McCain because she thinks Obama will not side with Israel. People think he’s too soft. He’ll let the terrorists walk all over him.

You know what Obama is? He’s human. He’s a real person. He’s smart. He’s really smart. And that’s what we need as our president. Not someone like this…

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