I’ve learned through age, maturity, meditation and Lisinopril to not allow myself to be bothered with certain things that might have irked me 10 or even five years ago. Basically I’m learning to give less fucks because fucklessness is a form of self-care for me. But there is (at least) one strain of conversation that annoys me even more now than it has in the past, and the level of annoyance rises each time I see it happening.
It’s when a black person chides other black people for not having their financial shit together, saying things like, “If we stopped buying weaves and Jordans and started buying land, we’d be free.” There are myriad reasons that this argument is problematic, offensive, dangerous and even racist, but for the sake of time, I’ll quickly list four:
- It’s a classist attempt to shame lower-income people, as if they don’t deserve a nice pair of sneakers, implying that their financial decisions are the only thing keeping them poor/broke—that they’re only poor/broke because they act like poor/broke people.
- It implies that homeownership is the end-all, be-all to wealth accumulation, when there are numerous resources now suggesting that it may actually be better for your financial well-being to rent.
- It implies that wealth accumulation is the end-all, be-all to any sort of happiness or relevance or even maturity.
- It completely ignores the fact that in order to buy a house in America while you also happen to be a black American, you need to either be extraordinarily perfect or extraordinarily lucky. Or perfect and lucky. And even if you’re one of the special, perfect, lucky niggas, it might not even matter.
From “The Race-Based Mortgage Penalty”:
An alarming new study by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s online publication Reveal found that African-Americans and Latinos were far more likely to be denied conventional mortgages than whites even when income, loan size and other factors were taken into account.
The study examined 31 million mortgage records and found disturbing evidence in 61 metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio. African-Americans faced their worst obstacles in the South — Mobile, Ala.; Greenville, N.C.; and Gainesville, Fla. — and Latinos in Iowa City. Black applicants were disproportionately turned away, as compared to whites, in 48 metropolitan areas, Latinos in 25, Asian-Americans in nine and Native Americans in three areas. In Washington, D.C., the study found that all four groups were far more likely to be denied home loans than were whites.
In Philadelphia, whites received 10 times as many conventional mortgage loans as African-Americans during 2015 and 2016, even though the two groups reside in the city in roughly equal numbers.
“Whatever,” I can imagine some of y’all thinking. “This shit only applies to working-class black people. If you have money, it doesn’t matter.”
Well, um ...
Upper-income black people were even more likely to be denied loans, as compared to similarly situated whites, than lower income black people were to their white counterparts. This underscored yet again that African-Americans cannot escape economic discrimination simply by becoming wealthier, especially when financial institutions persist in punishing them for living in majority minority neighborhoods. A destructive bill pending in the Senate would deepen this problem by exempting 85 percent of banks from reporting mortgage data that allows regulators and fair housing groups to ensure that home loans are being issued in a nondiscriminatory way.
Of course, financial responsibility is a good thing, and measures taken to work toward that should be encouraged. But there’s a way of doing that without also ridiculing the purchases made by black people who aren’t as fortunate. Because there’s an entire industry—an entire fucking country with an entire 500-year history—standing in the way between us and homeownership and accumulating wealth. And if you did happen to achieve these things, you’re probably not all that special. You just had your fingers crossed.