I mentioned before that we have had our own share of financial privilege. This is a topic that is so deep and difficult to discuss but I’m going to talk about it some more. This community doesn’t talk about it enough but it is so vital to some of the success that people have had that it needs to be discussed. I don’t think it is ever enough to stop talking about this one.
Today I want to talk about that financial privilege isn’t just a trust fund. Lots of people HATE hearing that. This is mainly because society, especially North America, rewards the bootstraps narrative and holds that to a higher standard than anything else. Merit above all else is something to be awarded. Hard work gets people places. If people are poor they need to pull themselves up and make a better life for themselves. People who can’t get out of debt and make a better life for themselves aren’t working hard enough.
What’s worse is people who have gone from rags to riches but don’t acknowledge where they had help along the way are used as examples to shame others to not “working hard enough” to change their life. Those once in a lifetime situations are then shown as a model example of “working hard and getting ahead.”
“If I can do it, so can you”
Start booing now. I can take it.
Bootstraps Don’t Work:
I recently listened to Trevor Noah’s memoir “Born a Crime.” It was fantastic and I highly recommend it.
One of the things that I remember the most was a point where he talks about the “teach a man to fish” concept. Goes like this:
Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Noah’s question was basically, does someone give him a fishing rod? If not, then teaching him was a waste of time. Answer in short is, yes it is. Without the right tools or situation we will never be able to do anything. So why can we not acknowledge that we had help along the way that got us to where we are. Why does no one want to say that we got a fishing rod from someone else?
Privilege at its core is about getting a leg up/not having a GIANT roadblock in your way. That can be as simple as advice, mentorship or knowing the right person can help you. The advantages that many people have are subtle in nature. That combined with the fact that our merit goes down if we acknowledge that we had help along the way means that we do not even see when we are getting help.
Sure a trust fund is an obvious financial advantage but so are other not so obvious things. If your parents taught you about money and you used that knowledge to avoid consumer debt saving you thousands in interest payments that is financial privilege. If you were able to stay at home and go to school, that is financial privilege. If you are white, you had financial privilege because of the colour of your skin. Full stop on that one.
How You Can Help:
You can help change this. Some ideas on what you can do to change the conversation.
- Stop focusing on how you “did it alone.” You likely didn’t.
- Do not say “If I can do it, so can you.” You don’t know the extent of the situation and the resources that people have available to them at the time. No two people have the same experience so what worked for you could not work for them.
- Acknowledge and reflect where you had help and be grateful. Deeply accept that you could not have had the life you have without that help along the way.
- Pay it forward. Help others if you can with the same type of help you received. Give them a leg up focusing on PoC who have more disadvantages than white people.
Did I miss the mark? Share your thoughts in the comment section. I would love to hear them.
Recent amazing articles about financial privilege that you should check out:
Bitches Get Riches: