Dr Boyce Watkins: If our kids don’t understand money, they will become economic slaves
I have one tiny issue with black culture. Actually, I have a few, but I don’t want to be negative. The truth is that much of what we believe to be black culture really isn’t our culture at all. For example, when kids grow up thinking that they’re supposed to give their money away to big, white corporations and throw it away at strip clubs, this is something that is taught to us by corporatized music, and this music ultimately ruins our lives, leaving our children to suffer.
I also see a lot of people, especially in their 20s and 30s, who are always financially stuck. They are one paycheck away from the homeless shelter, barely getting by with whatever they can. They hate their jobs, and feel that they are typically answering to someone who doesn’t like them. Not that I look down on those who endure this struggle (I was one of them), but we know that the American economy is rigged. However, in light of these facts, we have to ask ourselves:
What makes the difference between those who are struggling and those who find a way out of the struggle?
Why is it that some communities tend to produce bosses, owners and investors, while other communities produce workers, consumers and borrowers?
Do you think that racism is going to get any better for us if we continue to have to beg white people for jobs?
Have we not yet realized that capitalism, in its worst form, creates slavery? Do we also not realize that millions of our kids don’t have the slightest clue regarding how these economic systems work?
Much of the difference in this battle comes down to what you learned as a child. If your parents never taught you anything about money but then thrust you into a capitalist society, you’re a little bit like the kid who was tossed into the NFL without a helmet, pads, or any knowledge of how to play the game. Someone in that situation is going to be severely injured or perhaps even killed.
What I’d like to add to black culture is a deeply-embedded commitment to understanding how money works at a very early age. Understanding money and wealth is not a matter of getting rich or having more than someone else, it’s a matter of survival. I would argue that 80 – 90% of our greatest problems would be solved if we were to spend as much time teaching our kids how to start businesses as they spend learning the latest dance moves.
But here’s a fact: Not everyone is going to hear this message. Some people will never know who I am, but will instead get their financial advice from their favorite rap star. Some of us will use our cell phones as tools of self-destruction rather than vehicles for education. Some of us will walk right into the traps of excessive consumption, overspending, debt, and other forms of economic slavery. I am not sure why this toxic culture persists, but I know that I can’t stop it all by myself.
My job, as a Finance professor, is to simply do all that I can to warn and help those who will listen. Then perhaps we can at least be in position to provide jobs and support for those who struggle later because they chose not to listen. It’s the best we can do.
The race is on to see who is going to have power in the next generation. Communities that are preparing their children now are going to take the lead, while those who do not are going to become slaves to capitalism. It’s up to us to decide where we want our children to be in this race. It’s all determined by where we place our values.