Money Talks: Money, Socioeconomic Status & Race
J.Cole, bell hooks and Yale professor David R Williams bring up some valid issues about the intersection of money, socioeconomic status and race in the world today. J.cole is known for infusing his tracks with knowledge and wisdom in a way that can reach the mass. His recent track “Mo Money” off the Born Sinner album hits some valid issues about race and the desire for money.
How mama gonna teach you how to save your money?
When she barely on the boat got stay afloat money?
Blacks always broke cause we don’t know money
Spend it before we get it and could never hold money
No wallets, nah, nxgga we’d rather fold money
Money control nxggas, white man control money
Laughing like “yeah yeah my nxgga get your money”
Poverty and economic struggle does not have one particular face. It is not tied to a group of people. However the bitter reality is that many African Americans and other groups of color are still suffering the consequences of historical choices made in our country to disenfranchise non-White groups.
Real estate is a great example: “The changes in real estate in New York City are even more evident….. Every year there is less and less housing for poor African Americans. This was the long range plan by the white ruling class carried out by the Koch administration” excerpt from Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks
In addition, not only do people of color have to work extra harder to be at a playing field with the dominant group here in America, but we are all showered with media messages that encourage us to spend our money and submit to the consumer culture.
“Acquiring material objects that bring status was offered to the poor and underprivileged as an antidote to the “shame” of poverty. In poor communities this shift began with clothing. One could live in povery, lack a well-balanced diet, but come out of the house or welfare project, wearing expensive fashions” – Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks
It’s like a cycle. So what do you do when you are living in a culture that perpetuates a message of materialism, consumerism, and the constant desire for more?
“About ninety percent of all crimes are committed because of money…and about eighty percent of people in jail are there because of money related crimes. Money is a very significant reason for people being in jails…Maybe one way of stating it is that their aspiration for money and their ability to accumulate it are radically different. People who commit a crime often reach a state where they want money so badly that they are willing to take a higher risk than most other people are” – bell hooks
Who is the largest group of people caught up in the system? African Americans! Check out another great book by Michelle Alexander called “The New Jim Crow”
Thirty years ago, fewer than 350,000 people were held in prisons and jails in the United States. Today, the number of inmates in the United States exceeds 2,000,000. In this book, Alexander argues that this system of mass incarceration “operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race.” The War on Drugs, the book contends, has created “a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society.” Mass incarceration, and the disabilities that come with the label “felon,” serve, metaphorically, as the new Jim Crow. Everyone who reads this book will come away seeing the War on Drugs and mass incarceration in a new light.
These attitudes trickle down to the masses through media, and guess who owns media? The wealthy. Like many commentators who write about money, the issue of economic justice is usually avoided and makes it appear that anyone who works hard can easily earn money.
So what happens when African Americans and other groups of color are able to socially mobilize? Yale professor David R Williams brings up some additional challenges.
“The Black middle class does not enjoy as good health as the White middle class…You still have higher levels of stress, you live in worse neighborhoods, you have higher levels of job insecurity, the unemployment rate is higher among college-educated African Americans than their White counterparts, the level of wealth is lower, and you carry the higher burden of providing financial and material support for poorer relatives. A higher proportion of our income is going back to help the community from which we came. Middle-class Blacks have a lot more poor relatives than middle-class Whites…”
So what can we do? There’s only wasted time in being stressed and hating the system. However, there are things we can do to help change the situation. Educate yourself on financial literacy, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Richest Man in Babylon are just a few books to get that journey started. The more you can learn about budgeting and managing your money…the better. Think Rich, Spend Poor. Invest, Save, Create goals, and help spread the knowledge to your friends and loved ones.
Just because things have been a certain way, does not mean they cannot change. Control money, don’t let it control you.