Poverty is the worst form of violence. – Mahatma Gandhi
Warning: This story contains images with offensive language.
If you have not heard by now, there is a text conversation (pictured below) that went viral among #BlackTwitter concerning a (assumed African American) mother of three who asked her boyfriend for twenty dollars so her three kids who were not his could go on a field trip since their fathers supposedly did not have it to give her and she did not have it herself. Needless to say people were appalled from every angle. Many men could not believe she was asking her boyfriend to pay for kids that were not his and many women could not believe the boyfriend would not give his girlfriend the money since it was in many opinions – JUST twenty dollars. The two fathers were largely spared much critique aside, but according to the mother neither had it to give her, which is what made her turn to the boyfriend in a last resort. That four (assumed) African American adults could not come up with twenty dollars seems almost unbelievable, but there is a reality that this may have been exactly the case.
The addage that men lie, women lie, but numbers do not maybe quite fitting here. One in four of all Americans have no money in savings according to a recent study by Bankrate.com. Although the study does not break out race, it is often seen in every statistical category about wealth and income that whatever cold America has, African America tends to have pneumonia. It is fair to say that the likely percentage of African America with no savings is possibly well over 50 percent, but the numbers and story does not end there. A few other economic statistics to note:
- African American poverty is almost three times the size of the national rate at 22 percent versus 9 percent, respectively.
- African Americans are still the only racial group making less than they did in 2000.
- African American median income is $39,490, while America’s median income is $59,039 and Asian America’s median income is $81,431.
- Average savings account balance for African Americans is $1,000 versus white America’s $7,140 and Hispanics $1,500.
Now, put that last statistic against the average rent in the U.S. as of 2016, which is $1,050 and in essence African Americans exist in a perpetual negative financial existence. That none of those four individuals potentially had twenty dollars to spare is the harsh reality of most African Americans, a situation that becomes even more acute among low-income and working class African Americans whose education and job choices may leave them in a constant state of uncertainty financially. This is to say nothing of the impact that the children’s potential deficit of exposure and beneficial experience the field trip would have provided them, a serious issue worthy of its own exploration when it comes to the development aspect of African American children.
For many of us, the number could change to 50, 100, or 200 dollars and we would find ourselves in a similarly uncomfortable conversation. It also speaks to the lack of support system around this mother and her children from her own family who may also be facing financial angst. There are a lot of layers to this story that much we can be for certain. We can certainly explore the systemic issues and lack of financial aptitude that face our community and the like, but what we should not be is quick to judge any of the individuals in this situation without truly understanding the full breath of our community’s reality.