How You Can Help Close Racial Wealth Gaps

Before I start this article, please let me say this. I am a wealthy white woman, raised in predominately white communities, who has gone to school and worked in predominately white spaces. I am limited by my own privilege.

I will almost certainly say something wrong in this piece. If you are a person of color, it is not your job to educate me. Yet, I want you to know that if you call me out on my mistakes, I will not question you. I will do my best to listen openly and correct my errors. Thank you.

The last few weeks I’ve walked around with this knot in my throat. That knot has been the knowledge that I’m not doing enough to support the black and brown people in our communities. And I’ve been frozen in that place, not knowing what to do next.

When I first read the headline of Breonna Taylor’s death, shot in her own home, I broke into big, ugly tears. But the bigger hit came later, when talking to my husband. When I recognized my own pattern.

These stories of police brutality. The beautifully written and deeply painful stories of mothers of color having to talk to their kids about racism and safety. The stats about the shockingly high maternal mortality rates of black mothers. I feel each of these things deeply. I feel my anxiety mount and I want so badly to make things better. And I know it’s nothing to what black communities are feeling.

So, I take small steps – donating to organizations that support racial equality. Voting for people and policies that support people of color. Working to amplify diverse voices on the podcast and at Mamas Talk Money. Providing our boys with books and games by diverse creators and with diverse characters.

I don’t mean this as virtue signaling. I really don’t. In fact, writing these things out makes me more than a little disappointed with myself. Because each of these things are me doing just enough to keep myself from having to feel truly uncomfortable. I can do them quietly, from the safety of my bubble where no one can question my words or actions.

I’ve turned away to protect my own mental health. I’ve turned away, telling myself I already do more than others. That I can’t keep focusing on all the things I can’t fix. (Yes, I know how problematic that thought is.)

I’ve turned away because I’m terrified I’ll do or say the wrong thing. That I’ll make things worse when I just want to make things better.

And therein lies my white privilege. I get to turn away.

That realization put a knot in my throat that I’ve carried over the last few weeks. I’ve looked for what else I can do and tried to chart a way forward. And I kept coming back to this platform. To the voice I have in this space.

At first, I couldn’t identify how we best tie everything that’s going on into our purpose at Smart Money Mamas.

And then I saw this tweet from Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finance.

And seeing that message from Tonya, I remembered what I tell our community in almost every podcast episode, every blog post – money touches everything.

She’s right. Wealthy, successful black women and families are the last thing oppressors want. And that’s something that we can talk about and, more importantly, do something about.

The racial wealth gap we see in our country today is part of the foundation of our nation. It started when we built an economic powerhouse of a country on the back of slave labor. And then, when we finally abolished slavery (mostly for economic reasons), we transferred essentially zero wealth to those who created that economic prosperity.

And then sharecropping trapped black families into unescapable debt.

And segregation meant limited access to quality education and employment for black families. 

Then redlining made it almost impossible for black families to secure mortgages, forcing them to keep renting and taking away the opportunity to build wealth by owning homes.

All the way up until today, when significant racial income gaps remain. 

Source: Brookings Institute.
Source: Brookings Institute.

This was a super high-level overview of the history that excludes many, many important moments and factors. If you want to learn more or if the concept of racial wealth gaps is new to you, I highly recommend this episode of Jamila Souffrant’s podcast, Journey to Launch, with guest Shawn Rochester. It was eye-opening for me and included many concrete ideas on how we can move forward.

We talk often here about gender wage gaps, but while non-Hispanic white women earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to white men, black women earn just 62 cents. Latinas earn even less, at 54 cents.

When it comes to fighting for racial justice, we have to keep voting. Systemic, broad-based change needs to happen. We have to call our local representatives. We have to read lists like this one that have thoughtful, excellent ideas on how white people can take action. We need to listen to people of color, honor their experiences, and give them the help they’re asking for.

But we can also take action quickly and daily by voting with our dollars. We can put more wealth into the hands of people of color, creating more opportunity and leveling the playing field.

4 Ways You Can Help Close Racial Wealth Gaps

This list refers to how we can best close wealth gaps between black and white Americans. The gaps are rooted in so much ugly past and with what is being brought to light today, we want to focus there. But know that these ideas can extend to all minority groups.

We mentioned above that the gender wage gap for Latinas is wider than it is for black women. There are wealth and wage gaps for the differently-abled, LGBTQ, Native Americans, Hispanics, and many other minority groups. And those gaps are wider for those who exist in intersections – those who identify with more than one minority group.

Consider the below ideas in your spending practices. Think about what and who your money is supporting. Every time we buy something, we’re making a choice and a statement about what we value.

Shop at Black Businesses

Seek out businesses owned by black and brown individuals. That means doing more research on who’s behind the companies you buy from online, finding businesses and restaurants owned by black individuals in your community, and thinking about the services you use.

If you have to call a plumber, remodel a room in your house, do your taxes, or buy a house, have you taken the time to look for a professional who is also a person of color?

This is only a moment’s extra work. But it can make a huge difference, as our implicit bias often makes us overlook businesses and professionals that don’t look like us.

You can find directories of black businesses near you at Official Black Wall Street and The Black Wallet

Support Black Creators

Black authors, artists, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, game developers and designers, you name it – find more black creators then enjoy and help amplify their content.

We’re talking about how we use our money here, but there are other ways to support these creators as well. Especially new creators or entrepreneurs.

Share their content on social media. Leave reviews on their products. Request their books in your libraries. Recommend them as speakers for events. Help amplify their message.

Purchase Books, Games & Toys with Diverse Characters and Perspectives

As a white family in a predominately white community, I try to think carefully about the messages we’re sending our boys. And that means when we buy them books, board games, or toys I pay attention to the characters.

Especially for your kids, look for stories written by black authors. Make sure their games, TV shows, and books have heroes of multiple races and genders. Share different perspectives with them.

Look at the books available in your child’s school and in their curriculum and encourage more diversity.

This list has new authors of color in the children’s space. This list has over 75 books with characters of color. 

In the financial literacy space, I recommend:

Black Creators to Follow in the Personal Finance Space

There are so many incredible black bloggers, YouTubers, and podcasters in the personal finance space that I can’t possibly list them all here. But here are a few of my favorites to get you started and if you want more, check out this list of over 90 African American personal finance bloggers.

Hire, Mentor, & Sponsor Black Employees

If you are in a position at work or in your own business to hire employees, stay aware of your implicit bias and seek out candidates of color. Ask questions of your HR departments on hiring to make sure the “top” resumes sent to you don’t exclude people of color due to bias.

If you aren’t in a hiring position, you can still help by offering to mentor and sponsor black employees. Mentorship is the act of offering feedback, teaching, and guiding someone earlier in the journey than yourself. Sponsoring is taking that support to the next level, advocating for that person for key growth opportunities or promotions.

This can extend outside the office to trade groups and networking events. Stay aware of ways to use your connections to support people of color in their careers or businesses.

Donate to Organizations that Promote Racial Equality

The last strategy we’ll cover today to help close racial wealth gaps is perhaps the most obvious, directly sending money to organizations that are supporting equality or helping people in the most dire need.

There are many worthy organizations out there – Charity Navigator has a list of the highest-rated charities promoting black health, education, rights, and community development. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation also has an excellent guide that includes grassroots organizations, academic institutions, and national advocacy groups.

Not everyone has enough financial security in their own lives to give significantly to charity. But every little bit helps. 

Use Your Voice & Financial Power to Promote Racial Justice

The way things are in the world today is unacceptable. Changes have to be made.

If the ideas I talked about here feel so small, if in the face of the level of injustice, you’re wondering if these steps even matter, then I’ll say this. No, these steps aren’t enough. They can’t be the only steps they take and it won’t solve all our problems. But just like in all areas of personal finance, it’s the small things that we do consistently that make the difference.

And if there is anything I believe in, it’s the power of women and the power of money, of economic freedom. We talk about both of those things here, so it’s important we talk about and take action to create racial justice too.

Mamas, remember the concept of “community mothering.” It’s more common in minority communities today, but it once existed almost everywhere. 

It’s the idea of women – whether or not they had their own children – thinking of the next generation as our collective responsibility. That we have to protect all children, create systems and spaces that provide opportunity and love to all children.

Whether or not you have a black child, the safety of all children is our collective responsibility. Make sure you’re standing up for them.

Use your voice and financial freedom to make the world a better and more equal place. It might take practice. It might feel uncomfortable. It might take a moment’s more thought or choosing to spend a few dollars more than you would at Wal-Mart.

But it’s worth it to create an inclusive, safe, equal community that represents our values. And, goodness knows, we’ve been quiet for far too long.

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