In the past few weeks, I’ve begun to notice something. Many of my White friends and lovers have received considerable financial support from their families of origins to do major life projects like buy houses or cover their household finances between jobs or while in school. When people in my families put their pennies together to help me out, I might get a check for $50 or $100. Not $20,000 or $40,000 or more for the down payment of a house. Not a couple thousand to help ends meet this month.
It’s been really eye opening (and painful) for me to look around and notice the disparities in generational wealth between myself and some of my dearest people. There were many differences between me and other people that I attributed to my having made poor life choices, but when I looked at it, I realized that I hadn’t made life choices that were poorer than most of my White friends (who are in way better financial situations than I am).
I haven’t worked less hard. I wasn’t less intelligent. I have had less help. I have had less of a safety net. And the messages I received as a child about what was possible and what I could do or become, informed by family members who had wrestled with more explicit, overt racism (before it was frowned upon to be overt with the racism) were different from the messages that some of my dearest White friends received.
This little chart, by Dave Gilson at Mother Jones Magazine, had me cry myself to sleep last week. It felt like proof of something I had been piecing together in my head on my own. It was confirmation of my suspicions. If the truth was that the typical White family is twice as wealthy as the typical Black family, that would be huge. Instead, the median White family is 20 times wealthier than the median Black family. That is earth-shattering in its enormity.