Monday: Financial Literacy Apps Are A B.S. Solution To Ending Poverty In Black Communities

Two celebrities have gone viral recently for investing in a “financial literacy app” designed to help “end poverty in the black community”. The celebrities in question do not in fact live in black communities and their estimated net worths are $60 million and $300 million respectively. For anyone who doesn’t know, these numbers sit firmly in the “accountants manage my money and I could throw $100,000 into the bin annually for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t matter” territory.

The median net worth of Black Americans is $9,590 which is vastly different from a net worth in the millions. I strongly doubt this is because Black Americans are mismanaging $59,990,410 throughout their lifetimes. In fact, if you take the median income of $38,000 annually and extrapolate, you’ll find out that Black Americans median lifetime earnings will be $1,300,000.

I have my doubts that learning how to have a savings account will cause an additional fifty-eight million dollars to materialize out of thin air. If that’s the case, then I’ve been doing savings all wrong, clearly. Actually, screw it. Let’s do the math. If the median household invested every single dollar they earned and their earnings compounded annually at an interest rate of 6% due to investment in the stock market, their lifetime earnings would still only be about $4.5million — again, nowhere near $60 million dollars.

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I’m sharing this to demonstrate just how easy it is for people with large amounts of money to remain totally out of touch with the lives of the average people in the Black community they claim to want to help. I wasn’t raised sucking on the teat of media propagandized celebrity worship, so I don’t feel any particular need to be “grateful” that these celebrities are “trying to do something to help” either.

Financial literacy is clearly not going to bring in massive amounts of wealth considering you could have zero expenses and never attain celebrity levels of wealth. I’m the last person who will argue that financial literacy is “useless”, but it’s not a solution to socioeconomic problems facing black communities. The solution also posits the problem as one of individual choice rather than structural issues that disenfranchise black people and black communities in general.

Government policy has gone out of its way to stymy black wealth building specifically as discussed in The Color of Law : A Forgotten History Of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, a book which discusses how black people were blocked from acquiring land and property by de jure practices of the US federal government. De facto practices also prevented Black Americans from acquiring wealth and one of the most prominent examples of this was when a white mob destroyed an area known as “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the 1920s. These examples point to a different locus of responsibility than a financial literacy app aimed at the black community would suggest.

I’ve seen an alternative theory which suggests that “all Black poor people are financially literate anyway”. This is another black and white way of looking at the problem that frankly isn’t true either. The fact that any Black people are financially illiterate is still not the cause of their poverty regardless. We don’t need to pretend to have advanced financial literacy to critique this “solution”.

It’s quite rich that people who by and large have teams of people to manage their money believe that they understand how to live within a budget of $38,000 a year — before taxes! Their solutions are quite obviously out of touch. Giving away 80% of their wealth would probably do more for “the community” than creating an app, but that’s another discussion for another day. Quite simply put, instead of coming up with detached top-down solutions, our attention would be better served by focusing on grassroots activists who spend all day interacting with people living below the poverty line or middle class people. These people know what they need and individuals who won the socioeconomic lottery are not somehow intellectually superior to them.

Believe me, if you know many rich people, you will quickly understand that having a team of people to manage your money isn’t a sign of greater intellect or financial literacy. Rich people are simply less impacted by terrible money management because they have more money at their disposal to insulate them from the consequences of their stupidity. Not all rich people are good with money, not all poor people are bad with money, and that’s the bottom line here. Instead of looking for individuals to blame, we need to tackle the systemic issues that have left the black community with a dwindling net worth and low wages. Is there any way we can get an app for that?

Friday: Personal Choice & Feminism

I’ve been officially exercising again, a big change since I broke my toe four weeks ago. It’s been a painful four weeks and I’m not comfortable with the level of inactivity I experienced. As I grow older, I’m beginning to truly realize how valuable it is to exercise and actually take care of myself. The teenage lifestyle of scarfing down Skittles and Swedish Fish without a care in the world is over. Although, I did always recognize that it was unsustainable.

This morning, I woke up to find bird guts and feathers spread all over my office, which kicked me into high gear for enjoying my Friday. So we meet now: workout complete, meditation complete, massive cleaning project complete. The best part is it’s just after 6 a.m. How do people not like waking up early?!

I’ve been mulling over one of my biggest issues with “Hashtag Activism” the past week or so and coming to the conclusion that I really need to be done with the “mainstream” internet feminist topics. This isn’t about people like Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement, which has a clear impact on not just spreading awareness on a major feminist issue, but has led to justice for victims of sexual assault. However, the few people who focus on issues like this can sometimes be crowded out by people online with generally good intentions who may not have clarity and nuance about feminist issues, so they apply broad brush analysis and understanding to what’s important in their world: whether not liking Sansa from Game of Thrones is misogynist, how many men they can and should have sex with, and other individual problems.

This quote from MindTheGap, a feminist blog from Cardiff, UK, explains Audre Lorde’s intentions when she said the personal was political:

First, it’s important to note that the phrase ‘the personal is political’ manifestly does not mean that everything a woman does is political or that all her personal choices are political choices. In feminist terms, the ‘personal is political’ refers to the theory that personal problems are political problems, which basically means that many of the personal problems women experience in their lives are not their fault, but are the result of systematic oppression.[SOURCE]

Taken out of context, and spread as a slogan decontextualized from the original work, “the personal is political” has come to mean whatever anyone projects onto it. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I think the issue comes when people with explicitly anti-feminist agendas adopt phrases like this and propagandize anti-feminist beliefs using this phrase. A good example of this is “feminist advertising” of any kind in industries who rely on women’s low self-esteem to push products, yet may sell the idea that purchasing their particular product is more feminist than others. “Eyeliner sharp enough to kill a man”, and all that jazz.

Consumer choices have become “political” to some people, but they haven’t examined how a patriarchal society has impacted the more invisible parts of woman’s daily lives like division of labor in the household. Focusing on individual choices and our personal lives as our primary and individual concerns also removes the community aspect of feminism, where women with greater privilege can ally with less privileged women. If we think our work here is done when we purchase the correct razor, or watch the correct most feminist TV show, we don’t think about other people.

Lately, I’ve been disillusioned with a lot of the feminist conversations online which mostly involve lobbing hatred towards other women for likes and retweets and false communities that do nothing for our human need for interpersonal interaction, and leave room for despotic personalities to control political conversations in groups that they potentially know nothing about. (Not all black people, communities, islands, nations, cities, towns, and families are monolithic, so presumably, one person cannot speak for all of them.)

I’ve been discouraging myself to think of feminism as a form of individual expression. This rampant Western individualism is nearly invisible to people living within and practicing it. As such, I like drawing attention to this individualism within myself and considering whether there is a more ethical approach to social problems. It can’t hurt to consider ways we might be focused on our communities rather than ourselves.

Thursday: Thoughts On Inequality

This Thursday, I want to jot down some of my thoughts on inequality, particularly because of a conversation that my fiancé and I had this morning regarding All The Rage by Darcy Lockman. Gender Inequality, income inequality and other forms of inequality are the foundation for social justice. We seek a more equitable society where resources are distributed equitably, labor and responsibility are shared, and where every human being is guaranteed their human rights according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

With this in mind, here are some of my thoughts for the day, again, loosely organized so that I may expand on them in a longer post later. If you find any of these interesting, and want me to write more, just let me know in the comments below, because I am definitely interested in hearing what any readers may think…

  • Inequality makes both parties unhappy, including the party benefitting from the inequality. This idea is postulated in All The Rage, and within heterosexual couples at least, studies show this to be true.

  • In general, men seem to believe the trade-offs they’ve agreed to make by benefitting from patriarchy and doing nothing about it large-scale are women’s responsibility. They worry about “not expressing their emotions” but not about how they will profit off of decades of women’s thankless, unpaid labor. The two are connected.

  • One thing I don’t understand about society in general is why the concept of equality is so fundamentally repulsive to some people. What has to be so wrong with you that you cannot agree that everyone should have equal access to food, water, shelter, etc? I think about Non-Violent Communication strategies and how they could be used to address this issue quite often.

  • Inequality can often become invisible, which is one of the problems discussed in older books on poverty like “The Other America” as well as recent books like “Evicted”. One of the major issues we have is that disguising poverty has become easier, which makes the problems easier to ignore. This is particularly disturbing to think about when you think of recent cities initiatives to block out the homeless from sleeping publicly. Even if hostile architecture has an upfront cost, the long term benefit involves making inequality more invisible. The long term prognosis for solving homelessness involves more accountability.

  • I had an up close experience with inequality that gave me pause. Sandals recently purchased a large amount of golf course land in Cap Estate St. Lucia, and they’ve been ripping up the old gold course in order to plant new grass and redo the landscape. As we drove by, I noticed large pipes spraying gallons and gallons of water into dirt that was only going to become grass. Later that evening, I read a local news story about a single mother whose kids were taken away because she can’t afford to have running water in her home, and has to get some from her neighbor. The government has determined she is too poor to be a parent. These two experiences co-exist within the same 26 mile long island.

  • Inequality manufactures a sense of perpetual dissatisfaction. The two go hand in hand with each other and I wonder how much happier people would be if we dedicated our lives to pursuing equitable living for all people rather than hoarding resources for ourselves (uhh, if you happen to be a resource hoarder that is and not struggling to make rent next month. I’m not sure who is reading this.)

  • What’s the most personal level we can practice reducing inequality on? Is it giving to people who have less than us without strings attached? Is it taking the time to help our neighbors with something? Is it sharing our skills and wisdom to empower someone to leave a difficult situation? Maybe the only way to tackle inequality is via practicing some kind of active politics?

I’ve had some experiences recently that fall in line with many of my life experiences involving privileged people. I feel disturbed at the lack of contentedness I see amongst the people who hoard resources, or exploit labor at the expense of others. I wonder if they feel empathy towards other people. Or maybe empathy is only reserved for stray dogs, and only other inferior creatures who don’t run the risk of getting uppity.

When I see water, fresh water, that people in this country need, getting sprayed into the ether so a multi-millionaire on a golf vacation can see useless ineffective sprawling lawn and leave a three star review on Google, it’s hard to feel patient, hopeful or idealistic about the world. But I do. Because despite all of that, I know the truth is that we, the caring, kind, compassionate people are many, and the greedy, selfish, hoarders are few. For today, I need to believe at least that.

Sunday: Constant Feedback

As an Amazon bestselling indie author, I have to publish my books, read reviews and manage social media and email which exposes me to a near constant level of feedback. Everyone has something to say about every step of the journey. Intuitively, the more you handle likes, comments, emails, etc, you realize there’s something abnormal about the way our society is not only exposed to constant feedback, but people are encouraged to give constant feedback. A negative mindset naturally leads to feedback being equated to criticism for most people.

Can there be any kind of balance in a world where we feel the need to constantly judge or in a world where we are constantly receiving judgment? In either case, I like to remind myself that I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what it is that I do. This means that if other people give “negative” feedback, I can’t control them and I don’t try to do so. What I do is if I feel the need to throw my “opinion” into the ring, I focus and highlight the positive.

These days, opinions have been exalted to a near god-like status. Many people think that the “First Amendment” is carte blanche to be a complete asshole to strangers. It’s only their “opinion” — not verbal abuse, cyberbullying or being a dickhead. What purpose does it serve to constantly share your negative opinions? I think it’s a fair hypothesis from the trends associated with heavy social media usage, that this negativity encourages a negative cognitive bias where you interpret information in your environment in a more negative way.

Maybe our “opinions”, judgments and feedback create an unnatural environment where we are overly critical of ourselves and others. This kind of environment makes it difficult to be a mentally healthy person. What do you think? Have you noticed more negativity when you focus on the negative on social media or have you never given it a second thought? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday: Thoughts & Questions On Internet “Activism”

Why oh why did I create a new Twitter account? I used to go days and even weeks without a hint of awareness of “What Y’all Mad About Today” ™️. In an effort to spread the good word about my blog revival, I’ve been indoctrinated once again into the cult of Internet outrage, mad for the sake of mad, or the more delightful alternative — mad at everyone for being mad all the time.

Perhaps it’s a delusion that I fall into the latter category and not the first.

(Let me cook!)

Today I want to compile some thoughts about Internet activism, so buckle up. Comment down below which of these you think I could turn to long-form analytical blog posts please. 😊👇🏼

💖THURSDAY QUESTIONS💖

  • Why are sex & dating the primary fields of our lives where online activism is centered? And, why does class analysis not seem to apply? With regards to gender, race and sexuality, is it honest to say that sex/dating/relationships are where this oppression plays out the most?

  • Many daily arguments on social media can be easily solved by falling back on your culture’s specific etiquette and/or accepting others differences. I follow a lot of etiquette experts on social media and books on etiquette are $7.99 on Amazon. Stop arguing and realize the decisions have been made! If you don’t want to follow what is appropriate, it’s your right, but just know that the standard has been set.

  • Many leftist theoreticians warned against a cult of personality as being dangerous to progressive movements. Yet, it’s rare you hear people who make progressive posts and have a large following publicly acknowledge this. Personal branding — by definition capitalistic — becomes intertwined with activism and creates an unhealthy dynamic around interacting with progressive ideas and values.

  • Social media has many negative effects and currently, we aren’t sure how to cope with all of them since it’s all new. I can’t Help but wonder how our technology use might change to become healthier or less healthy over time. What do you think?

Getting back on social media has brought these questions to mind. What about you? What have you been thinking of lately? Leave a comment below .