All Blacks Are Not the Same–Even When it Comes to Money

I was once teaching a class of high school boys how race plays out in our financial experience.  To make the point,  I had a White Jewish boy, a black Haitian boy, and an African American boy come to the front of the room.

I asked the class who they thought would get a better deal if they walked into a car dealership.  Immediately, the class echoed that the Jewish boy would get the best deal.  When I asked why, they said because ‘he’s smart about money.’  A car dealer would not try to “get over” on him.

As I was about to use their comments to launch into a discussion about how blacks get higher rates for cars, loans, etc. because of the stereotype the class just described, another boy said he would also give a good deal to the Haitian boy because he probably had more savings than the African American boy. “‘Those people’ come to this country, get good jobs and save their money,” he said.

This launched the class into a lively debate about the financial characteristics of ‘the different flavors of black’ people in our society.   It was fascinating to hear the young men discuss the different behaviors,  patterns, and practices woven into the colorful tapestry of black in this country, a discussion that gets lost in the background due to the ways in which Americans like to simplify race by making it a matter of black and white.

According to a study by Pew Research, there are 3.8 million black immigrants living in the United States, and their share of the black population is projected to rise from 9% to 16% by 2060.  In addition, black immigrants are doing better economically than blacks born in the U.S.  Household incomes for foreign-born blacks are, on average, $10,000 higher than U.S.-born blacks. And black immigrants are less likely to live in poverty (20% vs. 28%).

The ‘different flavors of black in the U.S.’ are largely ignored by many who provide financial services and products. It’s unlikely that the car dealer I used in my example and that the students imagined so vividly would differentiate much between the Haitian young man and the African American young man when they came looking for a car. spoke with Dr. Tracey Laszloffy, a licensed marriage and family therapist and an expert in race relations about this issue. What are some of the dangers of ignoring the different cultures within black America from a social standpoint, and what are the dangers to individuals?

Race is a social construction, but because we have all socially conspired to treat it as if it is a biological reality, a very real social structure exists that creates very different realities and access to resources and power,

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