Today I'd like to talk about one of the things this community really, really doesn't like to talk about: the financial advances of being white.

The Financial Advantages of Being White

We were recently nominated for some industry awards! This was absolutely shocking. I have no idea who nominated us or how or why, but it instantly gave me two very strong, very different reactions.

The first was a  variation on Sally Field’s Places in the Heart acceptance speech. “I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Borrowing, of course, the original speech’s explosively manic and self-congratulatory tone. We feel tremendously hashtag blessed to have found so many warm and welcoming people in our short stay in the personal finance community. And we are truly grateful to all of our readers.

My second reaction was, “Shit. We’ve been pulling our punches!”

See, one of the reasons Piggy and I decided to start this blog was that too much financial advice ignored the hard questions and contentious issues that drive personal finance. Take, for example, this question: why do some people have more money than others? 

See, one of the reasons Piggy and I decided to start this blog was that too much financial advice ignored the hard questions and contentious issues that drive personal finance. Take, for example, this question: why do some people have more money than others?

There are so, so many potential answers to this question. People are different! They have different personalities, abilities, interests, advantages, backgrounds, opportunities, drives, beliefs, and knowledge sets that combine into a set of financial circumstances unique to each individual. The personal finance community seems inclined toward examining only a few of these differences—the ones that are easy to talk about, the ones that cast a flattering light upon ourselves.

Today I’d like to torpedo all hope of winning industry awards by talking about one of the things that this community really, really doesn’t like to talk about. That subject is race, and by extension, the financial advantages of being white in a white supremacist culture.

Today I’d like to torpedo all hope of winning industry awards by talking about one of the things that this community really, really doesn’t like to talk about. That subject is race, and the financial advantages of being white in a white supremacist culture.

Friends, I’d like you to extend me a little trust. Take my hand and follow me on a journey. I’m going to try to inventory some of the gifts given to me by a white supremacist culture. I didn’t ask for these gifts—there was no registry, and I will not be sending thank-you notes. But they also didn’t come with a return address, and there’s no way to refuse them. The body I was born with—that of a white woman—comes with undeniable financial advantages. And the legacy of these advantages is terrible  to consider.

Let’s consider it anyway!

You ready?

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You don't want to work for any of them.

Looking Weird at Work

This morning I was clip-clopping through the third floor stairwell of my office building. I don’t work on the third floor, it’s a completely separate department that I have no contact with; it’s just where the good coffee lives.

I passed someone on the stairs, and we glanced at each other and gave polite smiles. Then I heard her do a double-take behind me.

“Hey,” this perfect stranger said, “I don’t mean to be weird, but can I ask where you work within the company? My friends and I have seen you in the hallways and we keep trying to figure out where you work.”

It’s a strange question, right? But I know why she was asking.

It’s because I’m weird-looking.

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Econ Nerd Book Review: The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

It’s no secret that I’m interested in economic injustice. That’s why I wax grumpy and bitter about things like gentrification, fast fashion, clean water, and environmentalism. But I have a lot to learn about the kind of systemic inequality that keeps some people down while others float above.

Which is why I read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.

Alexander’s premise is simple on its surface: since its inception, the War on Drugs has targeted black and brown people at disproportionately high rates. This has led to a new racial caste system in the United States.

But of course, like anything to do with race in America, it’s far from simple. And Alexander seems to realize how far-fetched some might consider her findings because she spends, like, 20% of every chapter going “I know this sounds crazy but seriously, stick with me. Just look at this data.”

While I wasn’t completely ignorant of the racism inherent in our justice system before reading The New Jim Crow I am now completely overwhelmed with new and damning knowledge. The rules of this new and insidious Jim Crow state affect people socially and economically in disastrous, life-ruining ways, through every stage of the justice process from arrest through trial, punishment, and release.

Here’s some of what I learned.

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"Wealthy White Folks Welcome!"

Gentrification: Artisanal, Small-Batch Displacement of the Poor

I had just come home from work when three students from the college down the street approached my porch with official-looking clipboards in hand. “Excuse me ma’am,” (I’m a ma’am now? When did this happen?) “Can we ask you some questions for a school research project?”

Instead of hissing “Youths!” and retreating into the darkness of my lair, I obliged. I am a “ma’am” now, after all, and that comes with a responsibility to be magnanimous toward fine upstanding young people everywhere.

First question: “What does gentrification mean to you?”

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