Let’s be real. America is ruled by money.
While racism does its job of keeping minorities ailing for more social power and respect, America’s classist sensibilities are also raging and contributing to the fuckery. Defined, classism is “prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class that includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies, and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class.” You know the deal about who is expendable in this country and who isn’t- so it is no surprise that the lower class is largely made up of minorities. Blacks make up only 12.3% of the population but are 22% of the people living in poverty. A good chunk of people reared in these impoverished environments are stuck in a cycle. They receive awful educations because their neighborhood schools are paid for with property taxes from their low income households. Said educations are likely to offer little to no knowledge about taxes, property ownership, investing, or wealth management- and if they do, it isn’t mandatory. These educations lead to jobs that offer poor wages or little room for growth. Of course these jobs are in the highly profitable and exponentially growing sectors like fast food and retail, industries that make obscene amounts of cash, where employees are worked like mules for crumbs. Faced with high costs of living, their financial struggles collide with child rearing and depreciating health; while their unintentional ignorance about financial growth and love for all things materialistic (healthily encouraged by pop culture and media) sinks them deeper into debt. Their children pick up where they left off and the cycle begins again- with only a lucky few washing out to make it to college or net careers as highly paid pro athletes and entertainers.
As the middle class shrinks, the lower class grows, and the top 1% continues to create and implement policies from behind the scenes that keeps the lower class on the bottom. They have the socio-economic power in this country. They also lobby for low minimum wage requirements that won’t hurt their many investments. They have access to people who regulate school curriculum. They own the companies that snatch up our culture and sell it right back to us. They own the media conglomerates that contrive who will be represented and how. They lobby for laws that are responsible for incarcerating the millions of non-violent offenders serving harsh prison sentences alongside rapists and murderers. More profits lie in stashing these offenders in private prisons that don’t even pretend to rehabilitate or help offenders from entering the life again once they return to the streets. The list goes on and on. While the top 1% own most of the American Pie, it is possible for blacks to wrangle a larger slice by prepping the next generation.
I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that might be a little shocking. Some will be obvious to most of you, but others will seem a little outlandish. Before your skepticism or prejudices makes you completely write-off any of these ideas, remember to ask if what we’ve been doing has been working (and if it will continue to work during the Trump administration). We can’t keep making the same mistakes, especially with the economy becoming more beneficial for the super wealthy by the day. When the next pie goes into the oven, it is crucial that we contribute more apples, nutmeg, sugar, and other ingredients for a higher return. Basically? We must begin taking the necessary steps to cripple the upper 1%’s dependence on us for cash flow by not only recycling our own money among us, but getting and retaining more money for us to do so. It won’t be easy- and it will take a massive scale of blacks actively trying to do better for things to sting appropriately. I’m a realist so I don’t expect this post to suddenly vaporize all of our financial problems or the systemic institutions that reinforce their existence- but if I can get at least one black person to think a little differently about money and the community so that they can pass the information along to others, I’ll be satisfied. So I present to you…. The Black Finance Plan.
1) Patronize black owned businesses so that we are more dependent on each other for money and not other races.
Black buying power in this country is around 1.1 Trillion dollars- we fill a lot of pockets. How about we fill each other’s pockets first? Thinking about buying a makeup palette? Try a black beauty brand. Wanna drop a rack on a pair of boots or a dress from a famous brand? Hit up an up and coming black designer instead. There are plenty who get scoffed at for charging three digit prices for their pieces, despite quality craftsmanship and fabulous looks. Cultivate them instead of running to brands who probably don’t want you in their clothes anyways. Forgo dinner at a chain restaurant every once in awhile so you can hit up the mom and pop spot serving some delicacies cooked with love. There are tons of websites dedicated to pointing you towards a reputable black plumber, realtor, clothing designer- whatever. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Tell the black business owners you know to work more only with black people, if they don’t already. But I already know what you’re going to say.- something along the lines of “black businesses customer service is usually shitty” or “the quality isn’t the same”, right? There are just as many business owners (white, black, or otherwise) who can and do say that “black customers are usually shitty.” We’ve gotta stop this thinking and begin to transform it. Customers, stop expecting the worst and find the black companies who are awesome- and then be loyal to them. Tip generously to your black servicemen, contractors, and business owners if they do a good job. Spread the wealth and the word. It is also fair for me to tell black business owners to do their best to accommodate their black patrons with courtesy so that business thrives. Toss the attitudes and keep business free of messiness.
- Two Websites to Check Out:
2) Stop buying shit you can’t afford.
No really. If you can’t buy two of whatever it is, you can’t afford it. If you can’t buy one of whatever it is without borrowing money or giving up an intangible-food, shelter, tampons, etc- you don’t need it. Debt does not just go away because you don’t pay attention to it. It comes back to haunt you when you can’t buy a house or car. Even worse, you’re teaching your own children and other youngins bad money habits for them to emulate. It’s one thing to have debt and another thing to rack up more debt with no plans of paying it off.
3) Take over markets that exclusively benefit from us. Call me crazy, but we need to start with beauty supply stores. Black Americans have already began infiltrating the billion dollar weave industry- but the majority of beauty supply stores peppered around the hood continue to be Asian owned. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on beauty and grooming, but purchase these products in locations where our people don’t benefit. Before we tackle the larger problem of in-demand black products being manufactured by people who are not us, we have to cut out the middle man. With this same scenario being applied to other markets, its clear we’re missing out on huge money potential. Also, I feel like this is the perfect time to applaud two black California women who opened their own beauty supply store in 2016 at the ages of 19 and 21. Their store, KD Hair Supply, is a testament of black excellence. Lets open more.
4) Co-Ops. What about businesses that can be owned by a group of blacks that offer opportunities of investment with guaranteed returns? A grocery store is the first thing I think of. We’ve all got to eat- and a chain of stores that offer co-ownerships with competitive pay and food programs for the impoverished could really help the community. Starting small with farmers markets and convenience stores and working our way up is ideal. This idea isn’t limited to grocery stores though. Imagine co-opted beauty supply stores, salons, barbershops, and clothing stores. We could truly be unstoppable.
5) Know Your Financial Standing- What’s your credit score? How much debt do you owe? Are your savings actually accruing any interest? Is your bank the best option possible? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you should head over to mint.com. Not only can you create budgets and goals, but you can keep a watchful eye on all of your assets in one central place.
6) Financial Education. Most lower income schools don’t go above and beyond to teach students about finances and wealth management. It is one of the reasons why a significant chunk of our community has accrued a “nigger rich” mentality with a heaping side of debt. Too many of us confuse looking wealthy with actually being wealthy. We need to be committed to teaching and learning from each other about finances. We also need to encourage more people to open checking and savings accounts and learn about budgeting, instead of relying on check cashing places, plasma centers, and payday loans to supplement our paycheck to paycheck lifestyles. Here’s two books and two websites that have helped me to see the financial light.
- Download “7 Life Changing Money Tips” by Tonya Rapley on myfabfinance.com
- @TiffTheBudgetnista, thebudgetnista.com
- Read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T Kiyosaki
- Read “The Richest Man in Babylon” (George S Clason)
7) Rethink the Value of Strippers. In 2017 exotic dancers are the most socially accepted they’ve ever been- but in the black community there is still a foul attitude about their legitimate source of income. It’s a shame, really. A talented stripper nets thousands of dollars a week, dollars that can be coaxed into recyclable community wealth. Before you go thinking I’m encouraging black women to start stripping, let me clarify. I believe we should be actively encouraging strippers who already exist (and those who will exist without any persuasion from you, me, or rap music) to help out in the community. Instead of being judgmental of the young women who choose to strip for financial independence, we should be recognizing them for their black progression potential. Stripping is one of the few professions that doesn’t require a degree for success or high start up costs. Its convenient for women who need to have flexible schedules for school or children. Lastly, it’s a lucrative field no matter how many people denounce it. People always seem to have money for strippers. With the wealth gap continuously widening, isn’t it important to take advantage of one of the legal “easy money” avenues? I put “easy money” in quotations because any stripper will tell you the work can be quite hard. Wouldn’t it be cool if black business and finance gurus helped black strippers start their own businesses? Businesses that employed other black people and further circulated the black dollar in the community? Or what if strip clubs were co-opted with a portion of proceeds set up for local community programs? I know it seems like a reach, but treating strippers with dignity, as women who can be useful to the black community is worth considering. Shit, didn’t neighborhood dope boys used to help out the community? Why can’t strippers? Whether you like it or not, they could be a valuable resource.
8) Pay Yourself First- You pay your bills, you pay the weedman, you pay the owner of your favorite bar or club….I could go on and on. Whenever you get your check in essence you get paid, but you forget to pay yourself. Get over this bad habit and start paying yourself 10% of ANY AND ALL income. find $10 on the ground? Throw $1 into your savings. Get a surprise $500 bonus at work? Tuck $50 into your savings. There is no maximum of how much money you can save, so growing your savings should be a constant game where you’re always winning. Three sneaky ways to pay yourself include:
a)Set up a direct deposit that takes a 10% portion of your check into your savings
b)Set up a weekly or bi-weekly transfer of money that your won’t miss (I have a weekly $17 charge every wednesday that I view like an inevitable food purchase)
c)Set up a Digit account. This helpful online savings account will study your expenditures and tuck away bits of money that you won’t even realize is missing. 37 cents here, 1.05 there. Small amounts of change stack up BIG. In January alone, Digit saved me $27- money that I would have spent on stupid shit. By the way, you can link your digit account (like any other banking or credit accounts) to your Mint account, which I mentioned earlier.
9) Save. Save. Save. Invest. Invest. Invest. (In Each Other)
We have to save small portions over time- not just for a Bentley or nice house, but for our offspring. African Americans don’t really do inheritances on a massive scale, and that needs to change. This is in terms of both money and real estate for our posterity, who can keep the money trickling downward for larger slices of future American pies. Real Estate is a tangible form of wealth that can be passed down through generations, accruing property value. Additionally, a small portion of our savings should be set aside for investments that can garner even more money for investments and inheritances. Lets stop flexing on each other! It’s really not doing much for the community as a whole. If we want to be able to fund our own politicians and legislation, we’ll need the capital to do so. Louis Vuitton belts that scream hypebeast, foreign cars that depreciate in value the second you drive off of the lot, and $300 nuggets of weed that barely got you higher than the $15 nuggets you normally smoke will not be helpful.
10) Give Back.
To some of you, this might sound wilder than treating strippers with dignity. If you’re not balling enough to be handing out $100 bills to black people in need walking down the street, I totally understand. However we can all give back to the community in some small way. Remember those traps that many of our brethren are toiling away in? You can assist in dismantling them in a number of ways. Help your friends and family learn more about financial responsibility, buy 3 candy bars from that little boy pushing snacks on the train instead of ignoring him, or take on more black employees or interns at your own place of business if you have one. If you have the intellect and the time, mentor a teenager who wants to get into college. If you can invest in a young black persons start-up, do so. Don’t pull out the nobody helped me excuse. Recently on twitter I got heat from Nicki Minaj fans because I criticized her for not doing more to put young female rappers on. Most of the responses from her fans were similar in nature: that Nicki was not obligated to help other rappers because nobody helped her. This was heartbreaking because I was alluding to a larger pattern in the black community in which we glorify the struggle and neglect helping others in our respective lanes achieve success. We all want to be “the only one” or “the one who suffered the most to get his or her throne”. This is toxic. We need to be less about competition and shitting on others because it’s counterproductive.
Ultimately, I know these are all just suggestions that could be fleshed out much more elaborately but I just want to spark a dialogue because finances and community investment are things we should have more open and frank conversations about. We can march and pray for change in this country, but we will really make America listen when we move up the money chain.
Have anything to add? Find anything problematic? Leave a comment below because the road to socio-economic elevation will call for tweaking. 🙂