Thursday, March 11, 2010

Got Five On It

Turns out that if you're a single black women, your net worth is probably about a nickel bag.

Yep, according to this story the median net worth for single, black women is roughly the same as what you need for meager blunt.

Well damn.

Check out the link, read the story. Of course the $5 figure seems shocking at first glance, but when you see how the researchers determined that figure, it starts to make sense. When you start to consider that the mythical, well-to-do, upwardly mobile, professional black woman so common in popular culture by no means represents the majority of black women, then it makes even more sense.

Life ain't easy for brothers, but it's no cakewalk for sisters either.

We talking about $5 y'all. Not $1,000, not $500, but $5. That's that same as one of those little Taco Bell boxes Charles Barkley is hawking now, or a footlong from Subway.

That means that when your car breaks down, going to the mechanic probably means not paying the light bill or gas bill. It means that when you get sick, your kids might not eat. It means a vacation is two-hours window shopping at the mall if the buses are running on time.

It means you live everyday on the very precipice of disaster, and even the slightest nudge can send you spiraling into the abyss.

Look, I don't want to be too fatalistic. I understand that a "median" figure is the figure in the middle of all figures. So, I imagine that Oprah is at the top of the list, and some random crackhead is at the bottom. That's a lot of space to get yours in-between. I understand that reality.

Still, this article, and these figures, are scary. It once again underscores why hard times hit black folks and other minorities hardest. We simply don't have a safety net. Some folks might blame that on poor financial planning, or a lack of thrift, but I see something else. I see a group fighting an uphill battle to acquire and maintain the American Dream, and I'm once again reminded of the fragility of that dream.

I mean, I know what might happen to my family if I lost my job. I trust God to allow me to provide from them even without this job, but I expect that there would be hard times. I can only imagine going through the same thing as a single woman of color, particularly one with children. Because with the massive out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community, I'm sure that many of these single women with minuscule net worth are also mothers.

Sadly, the article does a good job articulating the problem, but doesn't have much in the way of solutions. There is a notation that the median income for a married woman, or co-habitating woman, is about $31,000, so that's proof that stable relationships improve finances. There are some platitudes about the government doing its part for black women, but I don't see much merit in them. I don't believe the government is coming to the rescue of black folks any time soon, and I'm pretty sure that we need to be careful that more protections and rights aren't stripped from us by that same government.

All I can offer is the idea that first step has to be increasing the number of folks getting and staying married. Then we have to teach folks about money management, provide them with job skills development, and, most importantly, introduce them to God. Then we have to continue to fight for equal pay for equal jobs for people of color of both genders. We have to hold our elected officials accountable for our failed schools, and failed cities in general. We must understand that a holistic approach that is anchored by God is the only way to create a world where $5 is cost of lunch, not a net worth for many black women.

'Cause $5 is just sad.



LisaMJ said...

Well, I'm sure part of this is due to the fact of blacks not having the same historical advantages like getting access to the GI Bill and VA home loans in the mid-20th century, not getting land through land grants and other historical governmental programs that discrimated against blacks which results in overall lower rates of wealth redistribution from generation to generation. But since no one wants to talk about or even do much to ameliorate that, I guess your suggestions will help. Though given all of the hand-wringing articles in the mainstream media and the blogosphere about how black women will never get married and no one wants us, we are screwed. At least according to the PTB. SOmetimes my conspiracy theory side wonders about how much these articles are used to make people aware and maybe to change things or just an excuse for pathologizing black folks and voyeristically gazing in on us like we are zoo animals or something.

Big Man said...

trust the conspiracy theory side. it can save your life. lol

Blackgirlinmaine said...

Good post. I blogged about this as well. The piece did a good job on shedding light on this issue which frankly I am not surprised to learn. But like you stated and Lisa mentioned there are a whole lot of reasons why this gap exists in the first place. I just wish when folks wrote about this they talked about all the whys...since alone it makes it sound like Black women are not capable of having or handling money. Yet when you start the race an hour after everyone else its hard as hell to play catchup.

Shady_Grady said...

I think the biggest source of wealth for most Americans is their home. Because of discrimination in housing Blacks are less likely to own homes or to have as much in the way of home equity to pass down.

That's not going to change any time soon.

Some solutions would be to teach people-all people not just black women-about the true costs of credit, how interest can work for you, how important it is to save, how to stop being a hamster on the consumerist running wheel, etc.

It's especially important for Blacks to avoid the payday loan and rent-to-own places.

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