Black people care about our futures. It’s why our lives matter today, so that we can fulfil our dreams tomorrow.
The whole world is waking up to the reality that racism and anti-blackness are real. Not only are they real, but they are ugly and pervasive. And we’ve seen that they can have lethal consequences. While the shock and horror of seeing a black man killed at the hands of law enforcement officers has propelled the world into righteous outrage, protests and demands for change, another reality has become very clear.
People of colour, and in most cases black people, live hugely unequal lives to those lived by their white counterparts. By now we should all be familiar with the fact that black people tend to get paid less, are affected by unemployment more and generally have less wealth than their whites and other ethnic groups. To see it on paper is shocking.
According to a 2017 survey by the Center for American Progress, black people have one-tenth the wealth of white Americans. The study found that while white families on average had a net worth of $171,000, black families owned about $17,600 in assets on average. This is just a staggering number, not simply by comparison, but because of what it means. When a family’s wealth is limited, then it is less able to deal with unexpected job losses, medical emergencies or other major life events. But they are also less likely to build and pass on their wealth to future generations. Here are some other shocking facts:
- Black households tends to have lower personal savings, which makes them more likely to go into debt when emergencies arise
- Black households have more costly debt — such as larger credit card balances, as well as student and car loans
- Black households tend to not have retirement accounts, and when they do own such assets, their values are lower than whites
“It’s such a burden, having to worry about money and whether future dreams can be realised if the financial resources just aren’t there.”
To be honest, from personal experience I didn’t need to see these numbers to know that black people are enjoying less economic prosperity and seem to endure more hardship. I, along with my siblings, saw my parents struggle to pay our university bills. I’ve seen a fair share of fundraisers for medical expenses. And I’ve seen the difficulty that many within the black community face when trying to become homeowners. It’s such a burden, having to worry about money and whether future dreams can be realised if the financial resources just aren’t there.
“The UK Government’s racial disparity audit found that black people tend to be unemployed twice as likely as whites, and blacks are less likely to own their own homes.”
Although the statistics I quoted are focused on the United States, this phenomenon of wealth disparity between black people and other groups is seen elsewhere. For example, in the UK, the Runnymede Trust found that Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people “face persistent and extensive economic inequalities”. Furthermore, the UK Government’s racial disparity audit found that black people tend to be unemployed twice as likely as whites, and blacks are less likely to own their own homes. These trends exist in many countries where histories of racial segregation and oppression have left black communities much lower on the economic ladder.
So, that’s where we are today. The race riots, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn have all created a perfect storm of frustration, angst and calls for action. For those of us in the black community, wherever we are in the world, none of these things come as a surprise, because we’ve been dealing with adversity for centuries. And the calls for systemic and institutional change by both black people AND our allies, are loud and clear.
For me, one of the major changes that needs to take place is access to financial education. Time and time again, I meet people who are just not sufficiently educated when it comes to dealing with money, and as we’ve seen, that can create a spiral of low savings, large balances of high-interest debt and no financial cushion to soften the blow of life’s unexpected emergencies. In my opinion, it’s not only a good thing, it is NECESSARY that black people get tuned into the way the world of money works. Leaving aside the need for income gaps to be closed so that black people, on average, are earning more and therefore able to have disposable income; it is imperative that we start placing special emphasis on teaching the fundamentals of personal finance.
It’s one of the main reasons that I’m doing what I do. When one individual wakes up to their wealth-building potential and starts putting what they learn in to action, then 2 important things happen:
They start to build wealth. There is just no denying that following the fundamental principles of personal finance leads to accumulating wealth. No magic, no secrets, no schemes. Just basic principles that have been followed for centuries
They teach wealth to others. We learn and develop our money habits from what we see around us. Many of the reasons people face financial difficulty are due to habits formed over years and years, influenced by our surroundings and circumstances. The more we see people around us with behaviours that lead to wealth, the more we find ourselves modeling those behaviours.
This is why Black Wealth matters. I know that it won’t necessarily fix the scourge of systemic racism, but when black households are able to generate and sustain greater wealth, then their chances improve. Their quality of life improves. Their access to better education, health care and housing improves. The stability of future generations improves. And the resources to tackle social injustice and inequalities vastly improve. These are all important to ensuring that the black community is taking care of itself, building economic strength and resilience, even in an unequal society.
I so much want to see people flourish in their lives, and I really believe that this can be done by making simple and sustainable changes. This starts with self-belief, which leads to activities that honour your ability to create abundance, such as earning more, protecting your income through saving and growing it through investing. This is a challenging time for all of us, and particularly people of colour who feel especially stressed. I am hopeful that by shining a light on these challenges and getting greater commitments for a more equitable society that black people will finally start to see some real changes in our place in society.
Let me know what you think!