Blackness is synonymous with poverty. Too extreme? Let’s not be fooled by the images of celebrities we see on television. That coon of a man is likely as poor as you and I. Also, let’s make sure to differentiate richness from wealth. That rich man, for example, was given money by a wealthy man. The rich man’s money is likely owed back to the wealthy man eventually and is even more likely already spent on the items that lead you to believe he isn’t impoverished in the first place (jewelry, car, home, etc). He represents an extremely small exception of black experience, however it is made to seem more common to you through his repeated coverage and portrayal in the media. The statistical truth of black boy/girl to successful athlete (for instance) is closer to the range of 1 in 3030, slightly more unlikely then being struck by lightning before the age of 80. Us normal folk are far from that representation of “black person” used in the media. Lastly, to a wealthy man (such as the one paying the coon), the rich man is foolish and poor. Not only do his riches pail in comparison to the wealthy man’s, but he has no financial literacy. His money comes and goes, whereas the wealthy man’s grows. Perhaps only to the black impoverished does the blacks=poverty statement sound offensive or incorrect. From another culture’s perspective, the synergy between poverty and black experience is a well-known stereotype, an expectation assumed until proven otherwise.
Historically, blacks were brought into capitalistic society as slaves. We were not considered whole human beings. This experience disallowed most economic and financial growth for blacks in the Americas. Legal segregation wasn’t lifted until as late as the 1950’s in America, allowing blacks to attend the same schools, restaurants and restrooms as the rest of the population. The isolation and racial segregation that came hand in hand with the black experience in this time created a financial disconnect as well. An inability to access the same resources and information as those using said resources and knowledge to achieve in the current economy. (mind you, the history of the black experience and the countless other ways blacks were set on bad footing is an even longer essay within itself. I will leave the responsibility of acquiring that knowledge to you, for now) That cultural segregation, although legally lifted, remains in the psyche of our society today. The footing in which blacks started as a race in western society is in many ways similar to our footing now.
Earlier I mentioned working in a much more upscale environment than the one I was raised in. There was an outrageous contrast between the world I lived in and the one I visited on a regular basis. The people spoke about different things. They had different worries and assumptions about life. I found myself greatly appreciating things that the people around me in this new world took for granted. They didn’t see the blessings in their community in the same way as I did. The safety, the treatment and service by store owners, landlords and government, the cleanliness, the lack of infestation, the well groomed parks, the simple sight of it. I eventually decided that my family deserved this quality of life as much as anyone else. I knew that when it was time to uproot and plant my flag elsewhere, I would be moving here. Now, I am quite aware of racial discrimination. I have experienced my share of obvious mistreatment on the basis of one’s presupposition at the sight of me, but I was not fully mentally prepared for the sheer difficulty and the amount of energy it would take to be accepted into the community. Perhaps I felt (and this is considering how pessimistic my opinions can be) that we as a species were a few steps further than we actually were. Nearly every single home I attempted to apply to shut me out. I started wearing my suit and tie, carrying work attire on my days off, simply to show my best side when viewing a potential home or filling out an application. I would show up fully equipped in business-wear, bag with reputable company logo, ID, paystubs, work letters, references, rental history, proof of no NSF fees, first and last in draft form, co-signers that made triple my income… one by one, every application would come back declined. Regardless of my previous upbringing and what I was accustomed to, I had grown to a point financially in my life where these places were well within my means. I was not reaching for the stars. So, why couldn’t I live here? I could understand people having legit reasons for a few different scenarios, but I could not conceive why I was being declined for every single place that I applied to. Sometimes I would get a call within an hour of leaving the residence informing me of the unfortunate news. Other times I would be told over the phone of a home’s availability only to be told that it was not available in person. I would be asked why I was looking for a home “here”. I asked the first few landlords to provide me with a reason for my declined application, elaborating that it would be beneficial for me to know what I was doing wrong so as not to make the same mistakes on future applications.They adamantly refused to explain. Let’s not jump to any conclusions. What I will say is that I had NevR experienced this amount of difficulty renting a home, nor had I ever met so much unexplained opposition. I began to think after some time that this place was not for me. This lifestyle, this quality of being, to live in a community of doctors, bankers, lawyers and all of the like. I was to settle, to accept my predestined fate.
Truthfully, the idea of the hood being full of minorities and the hills not being as multi-ethnic is not simply an idea or opinion. It is fact. Statistically sound. Our neighbors are not bankers, doctors and lawyers. Our parents didn’t make over $30 000 annually. We did not have generations of guidance to foster our lives financially. Those of us who make up the bulk of black experience in western society are not in very close proximity to this other world, where financial literacy is an unavoidable second language. This geographical segregation of race comes from the cultural segregation mentioned earlier. When blacks are historically unable to access the same resources as those (more) native to western land, the entire race in general is forced into a different social class altogether. Today, with that sort of blatant segregation illegal we are separated by something not so far off; classism. Remember what I said earlier, about black experience being synonymous with poverty? There may be specific reasons why it was unsuitable for me to live in each and every one of those residences applied for, but it can not be ignored that the community itself does not house many of my kind. Could it be that the sight of us assumes a specific social status to certain minds? Or is it simply coincidence that so few of us made it in? Perhaps it’s just our credit scores, and who is to blame for that other than ourselves, right?
…rather than end on that sarcastic note, I will conclude by saying that my wife and I did eventually find a landowner who took us seriously. We gave him all the documentation that his peers rejected and he saw no reason whatsoever to send us away. My 5 year old son has had an RESP open for some time now, alongside his very own SAV account with card and pin. He meticulously searches for and saves loose change to roll and deposit at the bank. He sits with financial planners every now and then who speak to him (in his language) about his money and his options. All of the children in our home will learn the language of finance from this young an age. I am personally growing my own portfolio and edge closer to maintaining a perfect credit score no longer tarnished from years passed. Remember, Credit Rules Everything Around Me. This is not a lost art, just muffled knowledge. Everyone has access to it. Granted, for us, we need to reach a little farther…