There is an age old axiom in American society which falsely presents that black people in the United States will always be poor. From slavery to the systemic injustices that we still experience today, our power appears limited because it has been both subliminally and literally ingrained that we will never be more than lower middle class.
We’ve seen this axiom played out on numerous occasions around the country. In 2009, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard’s most prominent scholar of African-American history, was arrested for “breaking” into his own home. Upon arriving home from a trip abroad, Mr. Gates found his front door jammed. With the help of his cab driver, he forced his door open. After being in his home for only a few minutes, Mr. Gates was met by an officer of the Cambridge police department who stated he was investigating an alleged break in. Mr. Gates and the officer engaged in slight banter which resulted in the Harvard professor’s arrest.
The list continues where young and old African American’s are constantly harassed simply because “black people are not supposed to have money.” In clothing stores, we’re followed by store clerks in anticipation of a theft. At jewelry stores and car dealerships, we’re ignored due to the assumption that we can’t afford to buy the merchandise. Not to mention the systemic structure that assumes our failing children will end up in jail rather than become successful businessmen and women.
The assumption is, the only way African Americans in this country can have wealth is through sports, music or the lottery. The most recent national Powerball Lottery rose to 1.5 billion dollars. The astronomical amount drove millions of people to wherever tickets were sold in hopes of finding a quick road to the life of a billionaire.
“Studies done in 2010 by Journal of Community Psychology, find that lottery outlets are often clustered in neighborhoods with large numbers of minorities.” “Studies done in 2008 by Journal of Behavioral Decision Making found that participants, made aware of their low-income status, may play such unlikely odds because of a sense that there is a uniquely level playing field where everyone, rich or poor, has the same chance of winning.”
Through researching the desires and plans of those hoping to win, I’ve found that even with the chance at a billion dollars, black people still have no concept of what it means to have wealth. According to research, 90% of caucasian lottery winners propose that they will travel, buy a nice home and invest their money into a business. Majority of the African American winners proposed that they would pay their bills, help their families and set up college funds for their children. While I won’t judge that one plan is better than the other, I can’t ignore the reality that one plan exudes pleasure and longevity while the other reflects a poverty mindset.
Paying bills and setting up college funds are both necessary; but where is the joy? Where is the enjoyment and the plans to continue making money for generations to come? Why don’t our people make plans to invest in themselves? Why don’t they plan to experience the world? It all brings me back to that age old axiom: black people aren’t supposed to have money, thus we don’t know what to do with it when it comes to us.
My hope for my beautiful people is that we begin to enlighten each other by enlightening ourselves. We can be successful through the talents and abilities that we were born with. We are more than entertainers. We are intelligent. We’re not only capable of making money, we are capable of changing our communities through education, unity, and a strong sense of self realization.