Personal Finance, Politics, and Race

Yes, personal finance is political.

If you know me, you're well aware that I do a lot of work around how various policies impact people's money as well as their lives. It's nice to say something like, “Focus on personal finance and stay away from politics!”

However, the policies enacted by city, state, and federal governments impact how people interact with money, what choices they have, and so much more. By nature, these policies are political. (Not partisan. That's a whole different discussion.)

In the last few months, we've seen how different policies affect how people are impacted by COVID-19. And in the last couple of weeks, we're seeing, in real-time, what happens when people come awake to some of the realities others are living with.

A whole lot of people have done amazing work around these subjects, so I thought I'd share interesting resources around the idea that personal finance is political, and how race has long been a part of the equation.

Let's Start with the Elephant in the Room — Race

They don't owe us their emotional labor, but they've expended the effort to educate us, so I hope you'll take the time to pay attention and learn.

One of the best explanations about race and personal finance is from Candice Latham.

Not only that, but Michelle Jackson offers an incredible podcast episode that pulls no punches as she talks about race and America. She also goes into depth about inequality in education and opportunity. This is a must-read. Take some time to listen to this podcast episode.

Here are some other great resources on personal finance and race:

When you dig into history — especially when you read the piece on economic violence — it becomes clear that political policies have been designed based on race.

Indeed, almost all of our systems are designed to promote racial financial injustice, including the American credit scoring system.

And, unfortunately, as Tanja Hester writes, just the way we talk about personal finance upholds racist systems.

Note: If you're looking for more African American personal finance bloggers and influencers to follow for amazing content related to all things money, Jason Butler has put together a big list over at My Money Chronicles.

Personal Finance is Political — It Really Is

It's not just about race. While that's a big part of it, really, everything about personal finance ties back to money. Think about it. Taxes? Impacted by political policy. The fact that the stock market is doing really well, even with tens of millions out of work? Political policies designed to prop up the Dow.

Hell, I wrote a post about how public policy is one of the reasons for me to make a financial choice related to reproduction.

One of the most consistent (and best) writers when it comes to the subject of personal finance and politics is Matt Lane. He also has a fantastic Twitter account. If you want analysis of how personal finance is political and how policy impacts your wallet, that's a good place to start.

However, another eye-opening resource is a panel from the most recent STATEMENT event. This panel was recently made public, and it features stories women in money media, and how they tell their stories. If you want to see how the intersection of politics, money, and power is very real, this panel is well worth the little more than an hour you'll spend watching it.

We can't pretend that the decisions made by politicians don't impact us. We can't pretend that the systems in place in this country don't affect our finances.

Finally — Let's Work Toward More Equity

Let's work toward more equity. In the world of personal finance, that means recognizing the fact that race is part of the equation. For many of us, that means making the move from just being not racist to being actively anti-racist.

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Y. Davis

For many of us, that means unlearning some of our biases. Are you probably explicitly biased? No. But you probably have implicit biases. (Harvard has an project aimed at helping you identify your implicit biases.)

One of the best resources for moving forward and progressing through the work of becoming anti-racist is a scaffolded list of resources. On top of that, in this resource, there are links to places where you can put your money where your mouth is.

Because if you're going to do this work and you have financial resources, you can help by sending money to organizations that can make a difference. One of the biggest ways you can make a difference is by donating to bail funds. For real. My friend Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax lawyer, has a comprehensive explanation of how bail is an issue of financial social justice.

If you're wondering, here are some solid organizations to start:

Another thing I did recently was Venmo some money to a friend. He works for a non-profit, but that doesn't mean he always gets to fundraise for himself. It wasn't much, but I sent him some money he could use for whatever. I don't really care what he uses the money for. He's doing work on the ground and I hope what I sent him helps.

And you know what? That's another way personal finance is political. Participation takes resources. One of those resources is money. Another is time. But do you have the time if you have to work two minimum-wage jobs?

Finally, I'd like to leave with an image posted by Jason Butler (mentioned above). It really inspired me because we're all at different places where we can help. We may not know what to do right now. We may be struggling. But we can all do something to make a difference.

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