Despite the story that is typically told in the media, every year more and more African Americans are graduating from colleges and universities across the United States. African American young professionals are among the fastest growing wage-earning demographic. However, wealth is not being established at the same rate by this group. When it comes to wealth building behaviors the African American community is only 2 to 3 generations removed from the shackles of Jim Crow laws that riveted the country from reconstruction through the end of the civil rights movement. African American families face a 20+ generation late start in the wealth race. Opportunities to learn behaviors like saving, budgeting and setting financial goals have largely been non-existent. Not to mention the lost wealth that was experienced by many in the African American community as affluent Black communities across the country were burned and wiped off the map between the early to mid-1900s. The economic gains that were looted didn’t have an opportunity to be passed to future generations. That lost wealth potential for those future generations is something that cannot made whole.
Now as a wave of first and second-generation college graduates are hitting the professional workforce, more and more African Americans have the financial means to acquire material items which were out of reach for previous generations. Money is being spent at record rates by the African American community. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by wall street. Most companies that have profits driving their stock portfolios purposefully and effectively target the African American demographic with marketing campaigns. Funny how Black lives may not always seem to matter to some, but Black money seems to matter to everyone. But that is story for another post at another time.
In African American circles, we need to figure out how to socialize economic literacy. If personal finance could be as popular as some of these reality TV shows, we would be well on our way to taking back many of our neighborhoods. And when I say taking back I mean via businesses and housing. We would own the businesses in our neighborhoods. We would own the apartments, condos and homes in our communities. In many Black communities, very few businesses are owned by African Americans. And in some areas as much as 80% of housing is owned by people who live outside of the community. Dollars do not get the opportunity to be recycled throughout the community.
In some pockets, we are seeing great strides take hold. Leaders in the personal finance area are emerging with huge followings. But how do we grow these movements? Well, I say it starts in the schools. I don’t know of any public-school systems (but surely some must exist somewhere, right?) that have regularly incorporated personal finance literacy into its curriculum. In some school systems, private citizens are coming into the schools to volunteer. However, our children deserve better. When I think about the possibilities of establishing roots and teaching wealth building behaviors to an entire generation of African American children, I can begin to see us take back a couple of laps in the wealth race and make a small dent in the wealth gap.
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