Over the last few weeks, I’ve been moved to do something to further awareness and understanding of the intersection of race and personal finance. Obviously, I’m not the best person to write about this, because I’m a middle-aged white woman who grew up in a white, upper middle-class suburb and raised white kids blessed with great military healthcare, no worries about putting food on the table, and a secure housing situation.
And then my friend J.D. Roth asked a couple of other FinCon friends to write some things for his blog, Get Rich Slowly, and I decided to do the same. I poked around the military community and found Marla Bautista, an Army spouse, writer, and community advocate.
We all have room to grow. If reading this helps one person move their understanding one step, that’s a great thing. Thank you, Marla.
Financial oppression is a serious issue in our country. The financial oppression of minority communities isn’t solely derived from a single source of neglect or racism. It has been cultivated through generations of misinformation, divisive behaviors, anger, and patriarchy, among other things. Honestly, oppression is expensive. Albeit, America is no stranger to indebtedness. Our nation had a tumultuous birth. There was the discovery of already inhabited land, segregation of inhabitants, slavery, civil war, and so many other situations that bred inequality and a majority superior mentality.
In most cases, the majority does rule. However, that doesn’t mean the minority should be mistreated… Or does it? Let’s break down a few ways oppression has cost us all.
How We Got Here
Starting with the criminal justice system in America. The imprisonment of Black Americans began early in American history. After slavery ended (1865), Black Americans were freed, with no money, no homes, no jobs, and no identity. Black Code was a law adopted and enforced by some states in the south. The law helped keep a tight grip on the newly freed slaves.
Along with the Black Code, vagrancy laws and apprentice laws were also enacted. Any freed slave without a place to live or employment could be fined or jailed. This unjust action added years to the financial wealth gap between Black Americans and Whites. If found in contempt, a fee of more than $100 was imposed. Almost no newly freed slaves had this much money. Prison terms and free labor were the only way to pay for their transgressions.
The imprisonment of Black Americans in America has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. What’s worse, many of the people who are jailed prior to trial are exonerated, and American taxpayers are left to foot the bill. Since 1989, there have been at least 1800 exonerations within America’s criminal justice system. Many of those people are jailed for years at a rate of nearly $40k annually. That is more than 70 million dollars to date, an entire unnecessarily built prison, and families feeling the burden of America’s justice system mistakes. New York is one of the states with the highest cost per inmate housed. New York’s cost per inmate is upwards of $60k per year. For the Black Americans not being imprisoned or falsely accused, they face another financial disparity; unfair lending practices indoctrinated within our countries financial institutions.
It wasn’t until 1968 that the Fair Housing Act was signed into law. Imagine that. Companies had to be forced to lend to minority individuals wanting to become legitimate homeowners. Black Americans had a hard time obtaining home loans. Loan denial was due to a lack of assets, collateral, and the color of their skin did not help. What did help was the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1975. With this law, lenders were no longer allowed to redline specific neighborhoods. The act was said to be discriminatory and placed prejudice over profits.
Financial disparities are still propagated in the traditional employment realm of America today. With Blacks being paid significantly less for jobs, they are equally qualified alongside their White peers for, is blatant discrimination. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black Men are paid significantly less than White Men. The lack of income contributes to the need for more financial and health care assistance from the U.S. government. When a Black American doesn’t qualify for medical insurance through their employers, they are forced to seek other options that may affect your income taxes.
You would think the health care system in America was the one place everyone was treated equally, but it’s not. Unfortunately, stereotyping and subpar care have had deadly effects on Black Americans. Doctors were not taking health concerns of Blacks seriously, offering alternate medication because of the assumption that a Black patient may not be able to afford it, and incorrect diagnosis are all symptoms of malpractice that have attributed to costly consequences for the American health care system. How do we change this? Furthermore, what does forward progression look like?
The Way Forward
Standing up for equality goes farther than protesting or voting. Being an active advocate for those being mistreated should be a priority to all of us. Don’t know how to do that? Try this:
- If you witness discrimination, say something: There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to racism or discrimination.
- Donate to and volunteer for organizations that support Black Americans: Organizations like the Common Ground Foundation and Black Girls Code help advance education opportunities within predominantly black forums.
- Support Black-Owned Businesses: There are various ways you can support Black-owned businesses. You can purchase from them, share their company or product online, or recommend someone else patronize their business.
The cost of Oppression is America is high, but we have an opportunity to resolve this issue with evolution. Evolving the way we interact, do business with, and treat our fellow Americans is a start. We all have work to do. Together, we will leave our children a world they all deserve to live in; one equal and filled with love and unity.
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