“Black People Would Be Wealthy If We Stopped Buying Jordans And Weave” Has Always Been And Will Always Be Bullshit » VSB

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“Black People Would Be Wealthy If We Stopped Buying Jordans And Weave” Has Always Been And Will Always Be Bullshit



Whenever a large group of Black people happen to come together — and this could be on Facebook, at a BBQ, during a happy hour, or perhaps even while teaching a Kappa how to throw a football — conversations about economic empowerment are not particularly uncommon. They don’t always happen — sometimes you just want to talk about baked chicken and Charles Oakley — but they happen enough. And, when they happen, invariably you’ll have a few people who’ll lament the disproportionate amounts of money we spend on Jordans and weave and car leases and rims and apartment rentals; either implying or explicitly stating that this affinity for the type of depreciating assets that make us look wealthier than we actually are is what’s keeping us from actually building wealth. And perhaps, to make their point stick, they’ll even cite White people or Jewish people or Koreans as an example of who we need to model ourselves after.

It’s an argument that persists because it retains the romantic veneer of pragmatism, logic, and pro-Blackness. It’s also attractive. Building wealth — and the flexibility and freedom it often leads to — is a good thing. Also, it does sometimes seem like we (collectively) place too much of a premium on looking financially healthy instead of actually being it. And kids from the hood with $200 sneakers and women with hundreds of dollars of artificial hair in their heads (hair purchased from Koreans!) and men with $50,000-a-year incomes with $60,000 cars do make for convenient and conspicuous examples of the type of backwards and self-defeating thinking holding us back.

But as rational and empowering as it seems, this argument actually exists in an invisible morass of anti-Blackness, as it ignores the multitude of socioeconomic factors contributing to our collective lack of wealth. And it implies that the appreciation for depreciating goods is a uniquely Black pathology. Basically, we’re fucked up because y’all niggas love shiny shit more than anyone else does.

It has always been and will always be an argument based on low information and a latent belief that Black culture specifically cultivates an affinity for economic endangerment; one that was recently and thoroughly debunked by a study called “The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap

From “The Big Reason Whites Are Richer Than Blacks in America

A new study trashes most of the conventional explanations—and solutions—for the wealth gap. It’s called The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap. It’s by researchers at Brandeis University and a public policy group called Demos. The table of contents says it all:

  • Attending college does not close the racial wealth gap.

  • Raising children in a two-parent household does not close the racial wealth gap.

  • Working full time does not close the racial wealth gap.

  • Spending less does not close the racial wealth gap.

So, what about the idea that we (Black people) spend more of our income on useless assets than others?

It’s natural to assume that if blacks have less wealth it’s because they’re doing less saving—i.e., more of each dollar of income is going to consumption. The opposite is the case, according to a Duke University study published last year and cited by the authors. At every income level, blacks spend less than similarly situated whites, the Duke researchers found: “Retail desertification in racially segregated neighborhoods, restricted access to affordable credit for blacks, and consumer racial discrimination, we argue, result in lower overall spending for blacks at all income levels,” they said.

Shit, so we actually spend less money on sneakers and cars and shit than White people do? Wow. So, if this is all true, where does this humongous discrepancy actually come from?

So what does account for the racial gap in wealth? Traub admits that “we haven’t fully penetrated the mystery.” One powerful factor seems to be that whites are five times as likely as blacks to receive substantial gifts and inheritances, and the sums they get tend to be much larger. The money “can be used to jump-start further wealth accumulation, for example, by enabling white families to buy homes and begin acquiring equity earlier in their lives,” the study says.

The result is that whites’ wealth advantage—and blacks’ disadvantage—gets passed down from generation to generation. Which means that forms of racial discrimination “that happened in the past, like redlining, continue to show up in bank accounts today,” says Traub.


Of course, this truth is much harder to swallow than the notion that the only thing between us and financial freedom is a $300 pair of Black Cement Jordan 3s, so I get why that argument is so seductive. Its also much easier to scapegoat the people around you than the largely invisible factors causing the gulfs in wealth. (And those endless lines and fights for new Js aint the best look at all.)

But this type of dangerous and subtly classist anti-Blackness — rooted in falsehoods and dependent on a notion of specifically Black pathology — is just as racist as the conditions causing the wealth gap.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • THANK YOU!!!

  • Yes to all of this! I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast recently that acknowledged these same facts…indirectly. Basically the economists proved that children born into low income households are going to be low income themselves, just because of the circumstances they’re born into, unless they move into an higher income area while they’re young, like elementary school aged. It was interesting. Here’s the link is anyone wants to check it out https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/freakonomics-radio/id354668519?mt=2&i=380156472. This is all motivation for me to build wealth to break the cycle in my family.

  • I had to explain to the barber shop while getting my biweeky fade that saving won’t matter if blacks don’t have access to capital, and structural racism prevents access to capital. I’m buying a house and almost got stiffed by a .10% interest rate that this bank says “always happen.” This happened in a part of the nation where a bank, BancorpSouth, got dinged for redlining.


    • A.G.

      BancorpSouth is my home bank (I’m from MS). But these other banks (Wells Fargo, etc) aren’t that much better.

      • If you’ve taken a loan with BancorpSouth or applied for any sort of credit, you want to check in with the government or lawyers to see if you’re entitled to some money back.


        • A.G.

          Ooooh thanks for the info. I only have a debit account with them though, but that’s crazy.

          • Other_guy13

            Weekly check in….how you b?

            • A.G.

              Weekly check in!! I have the flu, so I took the day off to recover…how are you??? Having a good week?

              • Other_guy13

                Yikes….get better. And yes…weekly check in…I’m trying to find my life at the bottom of a Jack Daniels bottle due to the Falcons loss. Other than that…same ish different day. Need more allowance like the Beets on a Doug cartoon.

  • For my more academically inclined, a recent report (published yesterday, I think) on the exact stuff Damon was talking about.


  • Jodi Harris Williams

    Damon you provide an introspective like no other. Thanks!

    • Panama “Gorgeous Champ” Young


      • Cheech

        BT you’re gonna make Champ go @RealDamonYoung on you.

        • Panama “Gorgeous Champ” Young

          You aint famous ’till someone uses your likeness as their Avi.

          I think I should receive a plaque of some sorts. Or at least a coupon to Popeye’s for my exemplary service.

  • The two go hand in hand. Historical discrepancies in treatment and economic wealth have left most black people in this country at a disadvantage that chugs along into generations that follow them. At the same time, the spending trends, albeit less than white counterparts, does nothing to improve the inherited wealth of future generations. This is not to criticize anyone for spending the money they’ve worked for in the way they choose, but just to acknowledge that while it might not be the cause, it does help the persistence of the issue.

  • Valerie

    The only time I care about a man buying Jordans is if he asks me to buy them for him. That’s the only time I’ll judge him and of course say no.
    I personally support black owned weave companies (KRS Hair Group) when I need a good protective style because let’s be honest I have black hair therefore the texture needs to blend with my thick hair lol

    • Panama “Gorgeous Champ” Young

      No? But my feet look so nice in them. If I wan’t already married/ in a serious relationship I would have serious questions about all of this. But #Taken

  • Hugh Akston

    I had this discussion with one of my close two years ago:

    It was Black Friday and he was in town for a gig we went out to chat catching up etc and then we started talking about money

    I was explaining to him how I was trying to live off of one paycheck while the other goes into savings and investment accounts…etc he was asking me what’s the point? So I pulled out my phone to show him where the money goes etc he was getting ready to go buy some fresh kicks and clothes and I told him why not split what he was going to spend on the clothes and put some into an investment account?

    His rebuttal? Well he was a school teacher so there is a pension for him later on down the road…but I persisted what if something happened? There is nothing to fall back on…and not only that what did your parents have for you? We were in the same boat building ourselves essentially…there wasn’t a 10k gift from grandad…and I asked him what does he plan on passing down to his kids?

    I related to him back in college in my finance classes I felt out of place because almost all of the kids in that class knew about stocks bonds etc some were talking about what their folks had aside for them and once they graduated they’d inherit xyz amount…one even told. The story of how his dad retired in the late 90s by selling most of his stocks that his friend convinced him to buy in Microsoft

    After much conversation we went back to the hotel room grabbed my laptop (always have my laptop) opened a fake account on updown and showed him how things work and the risks involved and I did a quick analysis with him from the 2008 to that point

    Two weeks later we were on the phone trying to open a tradeking account

    You’re right in the sense that buying a Jordan doesn’t make much difference
    In terms of wealth but I can’t deny investing 500 bucks somewhere would go a long way there are risks of course but life is a risk itself

    (Think I wrote tew much lol but I’m off and stuck in the house with this snow)

    • Epsilonicus

      Over the last month I learned some stuff you can do with your whole life insurance policy. No one ever taught me. It is crazy

      • Hugh Akston

        Funny you mentioned that because when my job was talking about life insurance my response was “I’m not old yet so don’t need it”

        Ignorance you say? Yeah it’s a struggle when you don’t know that you don’t now certain things but do tell what can you do? Lol

        • GeeKayGee

          Always get life insurance AND disability insurance.

          • Hugh Akston


            The disability insurance is a good one too also short term and long term but we have to read the fine prints

          • Cheech

            But the term life insurance is a way better deal than the whole. (Can some finance type jump in and explain why? I’m sure my explanation would be halfazz.)

            • mr. steal your costco samples

              whole life has a bunch of weird extras attached to the insurance that you overpay for and could get cheaper elsewhere. term is just insurance.

              whole life is inefficient bundling + super high commissions and fees generally

              • Zil Nabu

                Whole is best for high income earners who are looking for long term tax advantaged savings vehicles. The cash value is often taken out during times of market downturn so stock losses aren’t realized. Not all policies and companies are created equal when it comes to whole life insurance so read the fine print. It’s also fine to have multiple policies. I have both term and whole.

      • Deige

        *Starts searching google*

      • miss t-lee

        Cashing it out?

        • Epsilonicus

          Imma butcher it but a guy I know basically used it almost as a college savings account. Plowed extra cash into it because it got better returns than a college saving account. Then used the cash to cover college expenses.

          • miss t-lee

            Interesting. I did not know that.

            • Epsilonicus

              Me neither. He also was saying how he leveraged it to start a few businesses. He basically borrowed the money from himself and not a bank

              • miss t-lee


              • mr. steal your costco samples

                do not do that dumb thing. whole life straight up trash.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      Individual solutions versus class solutions

    • Negro Libre

      That’s one of the things I was pointing out to a friend of mine who is really into Boyce Watkins stuff and was trying to get me to read up on him and some of his material at his school. Say what you want to say about Watkins views and everything, but he is a Finance guy. Come to find out it was typical Kiyosaki-Finance talk, where they talk to you about everything having to do with finance except risk (which is literally what everyone who is educated with finance has to deal with).

      People should invest, and in fact they should get educated on finance (the reason why Jews usually are so good at Finance, is because of their history under European oppression, they literally culturalized finance and risk management into their way of life…this is why it’s almost futile for people to just assume it can be easily be copied). But they should also be wary of all the vultures that are out there, and my God are they many.

      • GeeKayGee

        Boyce Watkins is such trash when it comes to giving financial advice. His advice begins and ends with “start your own business.” Everyone doesn’t need to be a business owner to be financially comfortable, rich or even wealthy. Also, everyone doesn’t want to and isn’t cut out for being a business owner. It’s garbage advice. If you want to know finance and you’re new, read Suze Orman, Ric Edleman, Kiplinger, Motely Fool. All are good jumping off points, especially when you know nothing (like I once did).

        • “Boyce Watkins is such trash when it comes to giving financial advice. His advice begins and ends with “start your own business.”

          Isn’t that the Dame Dash model too?

          • Epsilonicus


          • GeeKayGee

            It is. Dame has no space to be giving out financial advice, though.

            • When I saw Dame on the Breakfast Club saying this stuff I wondered about his business acumen.

              • GeeKayGee

                I knew Dame was nonsensical back when he was on Cribs showing that he wears a brand new white undershirt each day and then discards it.

        • Wise Old Owl

          Dr. Watkins advice is far less trash than discredited man-Hating Suze Orman…

        • mr. steal your costco samples

          Edelman is the only radio guy worth a hill of beans

        • Furious Styles

          Ramit Sethi’s “I will teach you to be rich” is a really good one also.

        • Zil Nabu

          The key to wealth is income producing assets. Owning a business (or at least having ownership stake in a business or two) is one of the easiest ways to acquire this type of asset. Dividend paying stocks and real estate are also low hanging fruit. Very few people get truly wealthy just from earning a salary. Ownership is the key to wealth.

      • Hugh Akston

        Started listening to him recently but I tend to not go to ghf extreme

        But yes you’re definitely investing isn’t risk free the first thing I showed him was the 2008 2009 crash “look you can wake up tomorrow and everything is gone”

    • GeeKayGee

      This right here: “and I asked him what does he plan on passing down to his kids?”

      I’ve come across far too many Black people who intend to leave NOTHING to their kids, even if they can do so. They be talking about “it’s my money and i’m gonna enjoy it!” or “if I had to struggle, they need to, too.” It’s infuriating. Some of us who can start to pass down wealth choose not to do so.

      • Hugh Akston

        “Some of us who can start to pass down wealth choose not to do so.”

        It’s frustrating indeed especially when conversing with family members who are in good positions financially but their mindset is exactly “my kids need to suffer to appreciate what they have”

        • GeeKayGee

          It makes me unreasonably mad. lololol Cause it sounds like it’s done out of spite for their kids. Also, a whole lot of upper-middle class and rich kids that got/get inheritances don’t turn out to be spoiled brats. Many are good people. Lastly, this idea of “struggle builds character” needs to be tossed out like a VHS player.

        • Blueberry01

          African mentality.

          • Hugh Akston

            What you mean?

            • Blueberry01

              “It’s frustrating indeed especially when conversing with family members who are in good positions financially but their mindset is exactly “my kids need to suffer to appreciate what they have”

              This is the mentality of many Africans that I know.

    • Blueberry01

      “there are risks of course but life is a risk itself”

      …says the one who’s scared to take the risk of entering a relationship…

      • Hugh Akston

        I miss you too Blue :)

        • Blueberry01

          You have no choice, HA…?

  • GeeKayGee

    Another thing re: “they’ll even cite White people or Jewish people or Koreans as an example of who we need to model ourselves after.”

    Many 1st generation and beyond Asian kids, who later become middle and upper middle class adults move into predominately White neighborhoods. They do not continue to live in predominately Asian neighborhoods.

    • La Bandita

      The majority are AW marrying WM. They’re making a financial power move.

    • Epsilonicus

      Example of that in MD is Koreans moving out of Baltimore into Ellicott City and Columbia.

      • BatmansExWife

        Interesting…haven’t been home to MD in years so I’m just hearing that it’s constantly changing. PG county, and B-More

    • Amber

      Yep they are able to move into a level of whiteness that even upper class blacks cannot.

  • Bob Sacamano

    This needed to be said, and I’m glad you said it. SAY THAT!!!

    • miss t-lee

      You screen name though.
      *thumbs up*

      • Bob Sacamano

        I’m almost ashamed to say how familiar I am with the minutiae of that show…almost. :-)

        • miss t-lee

          Don’t be ashamed…lol :)

    • Janelle Doe

      He spoke his speech

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