White Readers: We Need to Talk About Race

You may have noticed that I temporarily discontinued my regularly-scheduled posts on my blog and Instagram. Instead of creating content, I have been focused processing, sharing, protesting, and educating myself and others on the racism and police brutality that has been plaguing our country for hundreds of years before COVID-19 had its name. I felt that my personal finance advice would add unnecessary noise, detracting from the more important national conversation. And truthfully, I couldn’t have given less of a shit about debt or investing these past days.

I’ve decided to start posting my own words once again, starting with this post about my own thoughts on allyship and race in personal finance. There’s much to say about everything in this space, more than I can fit into a post, so this will consist of the pressing information you need to get started in this work.

WAYS TO BE AN ALLY

Start by educating yourself. If you’re here, you’re someone who is willing to self-educate about an extremely tough topic: personal finance. If you can do this, there is no reason why you can’t self-educate about issues that affect our nation and world at large. And today, self-education is as simple as watching Netflix. Here are some resources that address anti-Black racism in the US specifically:

  • Netflix: Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap (available on YouTube; only 16 minutes long), 13th, When They See Us, Who Killed Malcolm X?
  • Books: How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (I’m reading this currently– send me a DM if you’d like to discuss!)
  • Listen to Black people when they tell you about their experiences. Believe them.
  • Contact me. I’m happy to have this conversation with you.

Have courageous conversations. Talk to your friends and family, speak up when someone makes a racist comment, make race a part of the conversation. Part of the reason racism is so nefarious is because so many people deny that it exists, perhaps even refusing to see race (note that being “colorblind” contributes to racism). Not talking about race perpetuates the existence of racism, so we need to be having these conversations with the people closest to us.

Use your platform. Especially if you are a teacher, you have the power to either contribute to a racist society by ignoring race in the classroom and not checking your own biases, OR you can choose to be an anti-racist educator by being culturally responsive, self-reflective, and amplifying POC in the classroom. I want to be clear that it’s not about bringing politics into the classroom– in fact, you never have to mention politics to be an anti-racist educator. But it’s not just for teachers– if you have social media, YOU HAVE A PLATFORM. Dispersing information, starting conversations, and amplifying POC creators is so crucial; this is how we get most of our information in today’s world. I know that many people see this as “virtue signaling,” and I can concede that not everyone has the exact right intentions when posting about racial injustice, but I believe that being silent is far more dangerous.

Donate & vote with your dollar. I’ve talked about the concept of voting with your dollar before, mostly in the context of buying sustainably. But you can vote with your dollar to fight racism, too, by opting out of companies with histories of racist policies and buying from local POC-owned companies. When we spend your money on companies that reflect our values, the demand for these type of companies rises. When we opt out of companies that do not support our values, the demand for these companies falls.

And finally: protest and vote.

Remember that you can do any combination of these things to practice allyship, but they all start with education.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PERSONAL FINANCE?

In a word: everything. Not only does each race face a different wage gap and wealth gap, but the way we use our money matters (see: voting with your dollar). Additionally, necessary spending on the same categories varies across race. An example I often cite is that I spend almost nothing on haircare as a personal choice, while Black women must spend massive amounts of money on hair products and styling in order to be seen as “professional” in academia and the workplace. There’s a whole policy campaign called the CROWN Act working to change this.

But there’s so much more than that. Notably, the beliefs of some of the biggest names in personal finance have kept the conversation whitewashed, ignoring the ways race affects our money.

If you have been following me for a while, you know I used to be an avid listener of Dave Ramsey’s podcast. I ultimately stopped listening because his beliefs did not sit right with me. He would often say that race, gender, sexuality, etc. didn’t matter in personal finance. To paraphrase, he frequently said something along the lines of “everyone has their little pet “ism” they hold onto as an excuse. Racism, sexism. I’m bald so I have bald-ism!” Comparing actual systemic issues to his own lack of hair, as if they were even remotely similar, is what really did it in for me.

A sentiment that was meant to be empowering was, in practicality, just really ignorant and false. This “no-excuses” mentality ignores the reality of the cycle of poverty and how that intersects heavily with race. It ignores the very distinct wage gap and wealth gap among each race and gender. And Dave is by no means alone– many voices in the personal finance community espouse the same “bootstraps” sentiment, as if we all start out on an equal footing. In our racist, patriarchal society, we don’t.

You also may know that last year I attended the biggest personal finance conference in the U.S., FinCon, and got immense value from the experience. Well, about a week ago, The founder, Phillip Taylor AKA PT, tweeted some tone-deaf comments which essentially said the media was the reason everyone was so upset– as if a national pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the police brutality rampant at protests was not what was so deeply disturbing our nation. After this, it came out that he had harassed multiple women in the personal finance space and offered a Black woman 25% of what he offered a white woman for the same keynote speaker position. Allegedly, white men were offered even more for the same position. The fact that a personal finance conference actively perpetuated the race and gender wage gap shows just how much the conversation of race in personal finance is necessary.

(As a side note: PT has stepped down as CEO, though he apologized ONLY for his tweets. FinCon has created a diverse panel to work through their discrimination. The jury’s still out on whether or not I will personally attend again).

Black Lives Matter.

As a country, it is a disgrace that we have not yet learned that black lives matter.

We need to fight for equal representation, education, financial wellness, healthcare, and more. This alone is deeply shameful, but the fact that we are still fighting for every person to have the right to live, the most basic of all rights, is more than shameful. It’s inhumane and disturbing.

I’ll leave you with this: white people are crucial in the war against racism. It can’t be won without our allyship, so we can’t ignore the injustices we see. Don’t look away.

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