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OBG: b&b186 AFCPE pt. 2 Keynotes: Racial Wealth Divide

A discussion with four members of the Closing the Racial and Gender Wealth Gap Panel:

Thomas Shapiro is the Director of Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Melany de la Cruz-Viesca is the Assistant Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Managing Editor of AAPI Nexus, a nationwide journal focusing on Asian American & Pacific Islanders policy, practice, and community issues.

Sabrina Terry, MS is the Project Manager, Wealth Building Initiative, ORAL at the National Council of La Raza. She focuses on advancing financial and economic inclusion of Latino immigrants through integrated financial capability and legal services programs.

Schane Coker is a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau coach for the Armed Forces Service Corporation, and a member of the Diversity Task Force which the  AFCPE started last year.

Episode Highlights: 

Thomas Shapiro: It’s just not a difference in numbers of dollars between one group of people and another: it’s about life chances, it’s about history, it’s about legacy.

Thomas Shapiro: one of the key learnings [of the study] really is how too-easy it is for a family that has really worked hard and “done everything” and played by all the rules–how one mishap, what for us may seem like a minor mishap (maybe it’s, in the Northeast, your car breaking an axle in the winter because the city didn’t pave the potholes) throws folks into debt, and it’s really tough to recover from that.

Thomas Shapiro: The Social Security Act excluded specific occupations. It excluded domestic worker. It excluded railroad workers. It excluded agricultural workers. And, oh, by the way, that’s where African Americans and Hispanics in the 1930s were concentrated in the workforce so this so-called universal system was developed without people of color.

Melanie De-laCruz Viasca: Usually when the Asian Americans get reported out we’re all lumped together as one group, when there’s actually 21 different Asian ethnic groups that fall under the Asian category.

Melanie De-laCruz Viasca: The more we can do to desegregate the data and look at ethnic groups, the more we have a better understanding of what’s really happening with the racial wealth divide.

Melanie De-laCruz Viasca: The US has a very interesting Racial Frame that no other country really has.

Melanie De-laCruz Viasca: For immigrant groups like Chinese immigrants, Korean immigrants…that’s a different story and the language barrier plays into it, and so they tend to own small businesses because it’s harder to enter the workforce.

Melanie De-laCruz Viasca: We have to distinguish between income and wealth because when you look at income you have various families contributing to the median household income, and so when you look at wealth that includes your home, it included your car, it includes your stocks, pensions, whether you have retirement security and your income. And so all these things together is why wealth is a better measure of economic inequality and financial security.

Sabrina Terry: The racial wealth divide is…further marginalizing [Latino Americans] within the United States.

Sabrina Terry: What’s also the broader issue that’s at risk is our civil liberties. I think that when you don’t have that wealth and when you don’t have that power in a capitalist country, you really are subject to the ruling class or the people who can make those decisions. I think as a country we really do tout a democracy, a democratic process, but we’re seeing that that process doesn’t always…serve communities of color in the same way it does our white counterparts.

Sabrina Terry: It’s similar to before women had rights, and women were allowed the right to vote, and women were allowed to be in the workplace. You had a whole half of the country–half of the population that wasn’t allowed to really contribute.

Sabrina Terry: Communities of color are in the same place where we’re really being held back and it’s gonna hurt–it hurts us, we see that it hurts us–but I think we’re getting to a point in our country where it’s also being obvious how it hurts the country. We’re also no longer leading the world when it comes to our productivity, when it comes to our influence, when it comes to our sustainability…we have growing debt.

Sabrina Terry: There’s a lot of privilege in being able to innovate versus just trying to survive and help your families.

Sabrina Terry: We need allies to step up, we need people who have wealth and who have privilege and who have these things to also step up and say how this is not only good of us as communities of color, it’s good for the nation.

Schaune Cooker: Only the top 1% of everyone in grad school is black.

Schaune Cooker: It’s not just the information. It’s the right information that’s so crucial to be able to talk to some client who doesn’t look like you.

Schaune Cooker: A lot of AFCs and FFCs want that education about how do I talk to this client that doesn’t look like me, that comes from an urban area.

Schaune Cooker: Know who you are. That way you can know how to not just defend yourself but how to express yourself.

Schaune Cooker: Financial stability is for everyone. It’s not just for a particular group.

Schaune Cooker: The dream for a lot of minorities is not to be in debt.

Schaune Cooker: Unfortunately you wanna strive for more, you just wanna pay those bills and not have to worry about someone repossessing your car or being thrown out or being taken to court or something.

Schaune Cooker: Debt…knows no race, no color

Schaune Cooker: My dream is to be able to pay my bills and not be in debt.