There is something wrong with this community. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. My experiences and worldview didn’t allow me to see the problem. Then it hit me. The personal finance conferences I attend and even the readers of this blog are predominantly white. I felt the issue was so huge I had to write about encouraging minorities, especially the black community, to join our group. Fearful I might come across as a dick, I delayed and delayed. I started writing this post and then threw it away. It was all wrong. How can a white guy from a very white community reach out to the black community?
Then I got the wake up call. I published Overreacting Solves Nothing, where I attempt to calm the crowd after Trump won the election. A few days ago I was called out by a reader. SKG writes, “Easy for you to say not to overreact, you’re white. It’s a whole different story for people of color.” The gauntlet has been tossed and at the risk of coming across as a dick I have to reach out to this massive group of people filled with great pride in their heritage.
As white as the community I live in is, I still have a few black clients. I don’t call them black either; I call them clients. There are more Hispanic people in my community and, as a result, I have more Hispanic clients. Minorities never bothered me. My biggest problem with non-white clients is that sometimes I can’t understand them. Most Hispanics speak English just fine, but some have a strong dialect which I have to concentrate on to understand. When they see me struggle they revert to using Hispanic words because it is clearer for them.
It helps having an office manager who is Hispanic. Karen speaks the language which is a massive benefit to Hispanic clients. They and Karen really have powerful conversations while the white guy has a stupid look on his face. After all these years I have picked up a few words so I sometimes get a feel for where the discussion is going. Imagine that, the white guy was paying attention.
But what about the black community? Well, I have a few black clients, too. They tend to be business owners or professionals. Black women seem to have no problem walking into my office; the husband comes along for the ride. I serve their needs as I would any client. I don’t go out of my way to treat them better or different. They’re client! How else should I treat them?
It is so easy for me to sit back and watch the drama in politics unfold. For the black community it must be a serious body blow. I have white privilege and refuse to give it up. I like the benefits of white privilege. Rather than have white people give something up, how about extending the same privileges to minorities.
How can I come close to understanding what black people experience in this country? Racial profiling is real and the police seem to shoot and kill a disproportionate number of unarmed black men on a casual stroll to the local 7-Eleven for a pack of smokes because they looked like a suspect. You know, you guys all look the same to us. (I am not saying that jokingly either; I am saying it facetiously. To this day I have never mixed up the identity of a black client because they “looked” the same. They always look like individuals to me. Now my memory is a bit light and I may struggle to remember a name or prior conversation. Please chalk that up to honky getting old.)
There are advantages to being white in the United States. Those advantages should be extended to everyone, in my humble opinion. I like my clients, all of them. The color of their skin has no bearing on my opinion. The kind of person they are molds my opinion. I am concerned for minorities, especially the black community.
But this post is not as much about white privilege as it is about black pride.
At personal finance conferences I have attended there seem to be minorities in attendance, but there are few blacks. Blacks comprise 12.3% of the U.S. population, according to a quick Google search. There is no way in hell 1 in 10 people at the conferences I attended are black. And that is distressing.
The black people at these conferences tend to also be female. I experience the same thing in my office. Single black women have no problem working with a white-owned business. Married black women seem to have no prejudices against working with a white-owned business either. The husband comes along for the ride. Sure, I have worked with black men, but it seems more black women are open to working with my office in our very white community. At conferences, black women talk to me without any problem, but fewer black men. Do I look that intimidating? I shave my head. Do I come across as a skinhead or some other such asshole? I hope not. The black community is in desperate need of financial literacy. The added challenges, as SKG noted, of the black community means the need is greater.
I hope black people read this and are motivated. The added challenges of being black in America is not something I can do anything about. What I can do is provide solid information anyone can use. What I teach here, what other personal finance bloggers teach, is valuable information useful to everyone. Saving more of what you earn and investing in index funds is a colorblind activity. Your index fund investment performs the same as mine. No white privilege there.
But I am not the only place to get good information. I want my black readers to come away with something they can use to make their life better. I will refrain from giving Stoic advice; it would come across wrong. I would encourage black people to read Epictetus, a man who was a slave, won his freedom, and used his life experiences to make the world (and his personal life) a better place.
Black pride is real! My life experiences with black people have all been positive. I see the news, but have never experienced in real life what is portrayed there. I also realize black people have interests that expand beyond sports and rap music. If you don’t know it, there are really good blogs by black people too.
Barack Obama is our first black President and I think he was a good one. He could have accomplished much more if he didn’t face a Congress whose sole goal was to obstruct anything he did. I was always uncomfortable with clients who expressed their sole goal in life was to hold Obama to a single term. The black community should be proud of the President they produced. In time I think President Obama will be considered a good President and looked upon with favor.
The black community can also be proud of their work in entertainment. Our society, including white society, would be fundamentally different if black people were not a part of our great nation. To avoid the risk of stereotyping I will let the work of the great black entertainers and athletes speak for themselves.
Personal finance, early retirement, and financial independence are of interest to all. My perspective comes from my experiences. It is important to absorb perspectives from a wide variety of sources. If you didn’t know it, there are some really good personal finance and lifestyle blogs written by a black people. Here are a few you will find valuable:
Not Just a Girl in a Dress: Charell Star talks about beauty and fashion; she also talks about business and personal finance. Charell focuses on successful black business leaders. There are more than you think. We can all learn a lot from their stories.
The Frugal Feminista: Her byline is: BE HAPPY. BE WEALTHY. BE BRAVE. Kara is all those things and more. Living a good life is the goal and Kara nails it. Her writing is inviting and easy to read with loads of useful information. If you enjoy the Wealthy Accountant, you will love The Frugal Feminista.
My Fab Finance: Tonya’s blog won the 7th Annual Plutus Awards: Best Personal Finance Blog for Women. Don’t let that stop you guys. Tonya focuses on: Money, professional development, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle. She has a “never quit” attitude. I love her already.
The Finance Bar: Marsha comes across more relaxed than many bloggers. There is a Member’s Area, too. You can enjoy all Marsha’s expert advice in her blog until you are ready to use her powerful program to take you to the next level.
Amazing Black Bloggers: Rather than talk too long, I have included a link to an awesome list of black bloggers in a variety of genres. My favorites are above. You might enjoy some of these other blogs, too.
One thing I noticed is the dearth of blogs by black men. Black men! Please share! Your world experiences are needed. At the risk of sounding like a dick, channel your white-guy. Plenty of white guys write blogs. [Note to my black male friends: writing a blog is a chick magnet. I’m telling ya. The ladies think it is so hot when a man exposes himself, ah, wrong choice of words. The ladies love a man who shares his thoughts. Back to our regular programming.]
The Biggest Dick
Yes, I am playing a stereotype with words. My concern is black people will be turned off before they read this far. I hope not. I know I am coming across as a white prick. If I knew how to say this in a more appropriate way, I would.
The message is pure. The information solid. Black people must engage regardless the disadvantages. As bad as it is, there are many black people finding a way to move up. White privilege breeds arrogance; black pride does not. Your community has so much to offer; so do you. As a nation, as a people, we need you to step forward into the light. There are plenty of challenges. Nothing I say or do will change that. You still have to do it. Racism and violence will not end without effort.
Any community that can produce a Martin Luther King Jr. has a lot to be proud of. Don’t let the dream die.
Please set the record straight in the comments below. If I hit the nail square, let me know. Where I am wrong, equally let me know. Personal finance and the good life are not exclusive to whites. I have no problem with an integrated personal finance community. Segregation died in the 1960’s (kind of). Please do not engage a self-inflicted segregation in this vital area of living. Share. Thank you.
Wednesday 20th of December 2017
Keith, you are officially in my book of 'cool people'. You nailed it. Perfect blend of truth while also being sensitive to the feelings of other people. I'm a black guy and I will start my blog and podcast in 2018. I'm encouraged that people like you are silently cheering me on in the background. I was at FinCon 2017 and I'm sorry I didn't meet you. Rock on!
Wednesday 20th of December 2017
It's an honor, Travis, to have your voice added to our community. Please share your blog and podcast info here so my readers can follow you. Also make sure you list on Rockstar Finance. They are an awesome resource I waited too long to use.
FinCon18 is a bit in the future, but let's make a point to meetup there and share stories.
Sunday 24th of September 2017
I am late to this post but thank you for addressing the issue. I know that this was hard to put out there because some of your clients probably believe that there is no such thing as white privilidge; I will gladly take their privilidge and drive cross country without worrying about being pulled over ;)
I too noticed to how the FI community is lacking in URM and would like to see us represented. Every person of color I have known professionally has had to put up with some sort of racism; It is really deflating the momeny you realize that you were pases over for promotion because of who you are and most of us are never the same again. I think attaining FI and then starting your own busibess is a viable option to preserve your sanity and dignity. However, when I bring it up to many of my black and hispanic friends, their eyes glaze over when they realize I am referencing blogs by rich white or Asian guys. Then it becomes a conversation on either how they have an advantage or why is writting about frugality suddenly cool and profitable when white people do it? Anyway, I will check out the other blogs!
Friday 16th of December 2016
thanks for writing this post. It must've been very hard. It's a tricky topic to write about. It's sad that after all these years that America is still a racist society and the last election proves it. Life has definitely become more dangerous for people of color and people of different religions. All Americans need to resist this culture of hate and intolerance in any which way they can.
Saturday 17th of December 2016
skg, there is an old philosophy from the original Star Trek series from the 1960s about the Vulcan people: IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. What IDIC means is that strength comes from a healthy mix of all peoples of race, color, and creed. Our differences is what makes us powerful. Where one community is weak another is strong. Together we are greater than the sum of their parts.
I was concerned about the possible reaction. Instead, I have received only positive responses, skg. To date, not one person has given me a negative review of this post. I am hopeful.
My original thesis is correct. We must integrate, no matter what it takes, all people into our community. Some women of color attend, fewer men of color. We need more. Our group is weaker as long as these men and women are not a part of us. There is much work to be done. One day at a time. That is all any of us have.
Monday 12th of December 2016
I think there is a confusion over the term minorities, majorities, and whites. Mainstream culture is celebrated everywhere, throughout all facets as society. Much of mainstream culture is american culture and the majority of americans are white. Literally every facet of entertainment is a celebration of american culture. When every facet of society is a celebration of your culture, then you don’t need to make special events to openly take pride in and celebrate your culture, because by default every event is a celebration of your culture.
Sunday 11th of December 2016
I'm glad to see you addressing this issue in this post, it's something that's always bothered me about the early retirement/ FI community. It seems to be largely populated by white men who are engineers or have some other lucrative profession. I think there is a real lack of minorities, lower income people and women, which is a shame because, in my eyes, this community is really about financial empowerment and sticking it to the man.
Sunday 11th of December 2016
I would have no problem leading a movement, cc, for everyone left behind by the FIRE community. There is nothing minor about minorities. Our society must include non-white males and women. It would certainly be something I never expected this little experiment to lead to. It would also be an honor.