I’ve been hearing a lot about the wage gap for Blacks lately and how it has persisted at the same level since 1980. Last July, Time wrote about it in The Racial Wage Gap Has Not Changed in 35 Years. Even worse, USA Today, The Guardian, Fortune and other media outlets report that Black (and Latino) wealth is estimated to be ZERO by 2053 in comparison to non-Blacks.
I don’t know about you, but I find this information alarming. And I’m not an easily shaken or panicky individual.
In fact, I detest fearmongers and those who use fear to stir people up. So, I rarely come from that approach in my work or writings. It’s also one of the main reasons that I spend so little time watching the daily news. I’m usually able to find out about the major issues within 10-15 minutes of watching. Anything beyond that begins to bring out a bunch of negative feelings like worry, dread, and hopelessness concerning the current state and future of this society and country.
I already know that there are plenty of problems. But I also know that there are PLENTY of positives solutions to some of them. Including wage inequality. And I’m personally not going to take this lying down.
This is a subject that is very close to my heart and experience. I explained how in my previous blog post How Black Women Can Overcome The Wage Gap. If you haven’t read it, be sure to check it out. Without rehashing the entire piece, I discussed the wage inequality that I encountered in jobs despite my consistently outstanding performance, high intellect, diligent work ethic and academic/training credentials. I repeatedly received lower wages and raises in comparison to equally or less competent non-Black co-workers.
This brings to mind a saying from The Godfather. You know that famous line?: “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” In a way, I can see how it applies here. And in another, I can see how it doesn’t.
It applies because this wage inequality is consciously embedded into a system. It isn’t personally directed toward one particular Black person. In other words, the fact that I’ve encountered this same wage gap at almost every job I’ve ever had, supports that it is structural. Which means that I wasn’t personally singled out to be compensated at a lower wage strictly as an individual. This was also happening to fellow Black co-workers.
Yet simultaneously, it doesn’t apply because it is personal in that the structural agreement within the entire system is to pay certain groups the lowest wages. Blacks have been, and always are, one of these groups. So, anyone who looks like or identifies with certain groups is automatically deemed less valuable and assigned lower value. Subsequently, they are offered and paid less than non-Black counterparts of equal (or lesser) skill level and education. In this way, the wage inequality is very personal. The simple fact of being/presenting as Black (or Hispanic) assures being automatically and collectively assigned a lower dollar value in this society.
I always get that feeling (you know the one) when I hear that “we live in a land of opportunity” but then see research experiments where Black men with college degrees are refused jobs that are instantly offered to non-Black men who have prison records: “Study: Black man and white felon – same chances for hire.” That report was from 2008. In 2015, The NY Times again reported on the continuation of this practice in Forcing Black Men Out of Society. The “opportunities” are greatly reduced (and in some cases, non-existent) for Black people when it comes to employment (directly affecting our income and wealth levels).
If you’re Black (like me) you may be despairing right now. To quote Bodie: “This game is rigged, man.”
But I say, create your own “game.” That’s what I’m doing.
How do you do that? Well, here are a few of my suggestions:
- Do NOT rely solely on your present job/employer for income.
Remember “Last hired, first fired?” Need I say more?
- Develop side hustles.
When I was stuck in jobs I hated, my side hustles were lifesavers. They provided extra income beyond what I got at my “main” job. And they also helped me maintain my sanity. They gave a sense of control over my economic life where I felt like I had some power regardless of what happened at my main job.
- Save money regularly.
While you have steady sources of income coming in, start saving some of your extra disposable income. I’ve worked with quite a few clients who were working lots of overtime and enjoying large increases of cash. Yet they weren’t saving any of it for emergencies and/or retirement.
On that note, do you ever look at formerly highly-paid athletes and wonder why/how they ended up broke? They didn’t save money, either. We all like to think that if we made more money then we’d be “different.” But the truth is, what you do with the money you have now is a fairly accurate prediction of what you’d do if you had millions (like those athletes). For most of us, the money train stops (or slows down) at some point. Save while the money spigot is flowing.
- Commit to putting in the work to become financially independent.
Becoming financially fit and economically sound doesn’t happen by accident. Even if you win do happen to win the lotto (chuckle). (There are countless winners who still went broke after winning due to poorly managing their money. Look it up. There was even a reality show about this at one time).
Thinking and planning for your financial future isn’t fun (for most of us). But preparing for the road ahead through finding out what you need to learn and do will be worth it 100x times over. The peace of mind and feeling of empowerment that comes with doing this is priceless.
- Learn and practice the basics of personal finance.
Start to read, research, and do the simple basic things that will help you better manage your money. Take courses and/or seek out qualified financial professionals to help you improve your money management skills or gain ones you currently lack.
Dr. Boyce Watkins offers online courses in investing, starting a business etc. By the way, I don’t receive any type of compensation or anything like that for mentioning his courses. I simply believe in what he’s doing and have taken a couple of his courses. They’ve helped me develop the mindset and determination to take control of my financial future. Plus, they’re tailored to the particular experiences of Black people.
We need to utilize the knowledge and develop skills that specifically apply to our life challenges. And learning from individuals who are successfully navigating those same challenges is how we can thrive financially.
Inevitably, the unequal wage gap is a deliberate outcome of a structured system. A system that we must find ways to work outside of if we want to have financial empowerment. Hoping the system will change is not enough. The truth is, the system will change...it’s going to get much worse for Black people.
The question is: What are YOU doing about empowering yourself financially right now?
What are your thoughts? Have you witnessed or experienced this wage gap in action? What do you think is the solution? Leave me a comment below. And if you found this piece helpful, please share it.
About Yolanda Ransom
Yolanda Ransom is a certified Financial Coach & Consultant who empowers clients to confidently master new money management skills, resulting in improved finances and financial stability. She is the CEO of Yolanda Ransom Consulting and provides personal finance coaching and training to individuals and groups. You can find out more about her and working with her at yolandaransom.com.