The Poverty of Black Financial Imagination

At, the Sports Guy – Bill Simmons – wrote:

Quick tangent: You’re asking yourself, “Wait, how can a dude making $8-10 million a year live paycheck to paycheck?” Easy. First, he’s only banking 40 percent once the IRS and agents are done with him. Second, he’s probably overpaying for multiple houses and luxury cars just to keep up with everyone else. Third, he’s buying expensive clothes and dinners, chartering planes, buying expensive TVs, going to casinos, and paying for friends and family at every turn. Fourth, there’s a decent chance he’s supporting a bunch of people back home — family and extended family — and not just that, but he might have gotten roped into funding at least one dumb “investment” by a loser family member. (“Uncle Lenny, I thought you told me this nightclub couldn’t miss?”) Fifth, he is, um, “dating” frequently — even if he’s married — and if you “date” frequently, mistakes might happen that lead to hospital bills and child support payments. (If you catch my drift.) And sixth, he’s not adding these numbers up in his head because he’s thinking, “I don’t need to worry about money, I’m making $10 mil a year!” I know it sounds farfetched, but I’ve heard the Inexplicable Tale Of Financial Woe with NBA stars too many times to count … and that doesn’t include stars such as Scottie Pippen who were screwed by their financial advisers. It’s a long and inglorious list, and if you don’t think we’re headed for 15 “Real Sports” segments in the next decade with Bernie Goldberg catching up with Broke Former NBA Superstar X, you’re kidding yourself. Remember the lessons of the ’99 lockout — the players HAD to come back. And it wasn’t because they missed playing.

I have shook my head sadly at this phenomenon for almost twenty years. It is a lessons that applies equally well to black entertainers generally as well as entreprenuers in illegal activities (see The Wire or American Gangster). Worse, it works on a smaller scale for African American professionals (like my colleagues in higher education, both professors and administrators). This financial irresponsibility also applies to many white professionals (less so to white entertainers), but the macroeconomic racial consequences are less severe.

President Obama’s economic plan presents a series of opportunities to eliminate many of these racial barriers in net worth over the next ten years, but its effectiveness accepted a terrible blow with the financial ignorance these athletes, entertainers, entreprenuers, and professionals maintained over the last twenty-five years.

Best and Worst Buys in 2009

The stimulus package has become law, and there will be new money to boost the nation’s short-term economic performance. However, saving the windfall will only continue the recession. The question is, ‘where should I spend this money?’

Here are my suggestions:

Worst Buys
10. Handbag, wallet, or other textile accessories
9. Shoes
8. Fast food
7. BluRay/DVD player or Ipod
6. Clothes
5. Antiques
4. Art
3. Municipal Bonds
2. Utility stocks
1. Commodity stocks

Best Buys
10. Kitchen electronics (refrigerator, microwave, etc.)
9. Plasma television or Blackberry
8. Entertainment electronics (XBox, PS3, Family games)
7. Vacation (within 100 miles of home)
6. New car
5. Financial or Pharamceutical stocks
4. Jewelry
3. Large-Cap, Value Mutual Funds
2. Franchise
1. Rental Property

My rankings are based on how well each purchase retains value after 3 years, given the historical performance of the American market dating back to 1870. In addition, I considered the sociological ‘job multiplier’ effect to prioritize buying that generates more jobs.

Consumer purchasing must rebound for the world economy to begin to recover. Managing your windfall from the stimulus package by balancing your savings, your debt, and your purchasing is the first step out of the current recession.

A New Beginning

January 20, 2009 marks a new beginning for the United States. The year itself will become an historical marker for the nation much like 1607, 1776, 1865, and 1945. The English settlement at Jamestown in 1607 marked the possibility of new contacts among a variety of human beings and the onset of multiple crises that tested the culture and knowledge of every person involved. Divisions among British citizens on the island and the new continent showed the product of that initial possibility nearly a century and a half later. Unresolved debates among the body politic in 1776 exploded into internecine warfare that forged the broadest definition of human equality as law, ever. The consequences of the nation’s new commitment to democracy and equal protection compelled a new vision of the world that defeated the ideology of fascism in 1945. As the world debated the viability of democratic free markets on a global scale, a generation of human beings who understood our interdependence endorsed the leadership of a new kind of American president whose insights and policies will guide humanity forward starting now.

President Barack Hussein Obama embodies the joined possibility of Asian, African, and European intellectual achievement. The worldwide acclaim and national political election of his person as world leader is a result of the struggles for human dignity that connected Mohandas Ghandi, William E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchu. His opportunity in the face of unprecedented global economic, military, and political emergencies will stretch his understanding and praxis of the inheritance he has taken from the greatest leaders who preceded him. By balancing his prodigous abilty to reason with his unparallelled ability to intuit, Obama may chart a course towards a future better than any previous federal executive could imagine.

He could win the War on Terror over the next four years by enlarging the world military commitment to defeat Al Qaeda and its sympathizers. As a reward for military service, soldiers and officers might receive federal assistance to begin new business ventures in the developing world, particularly transportation, communication, and recycling enterprises rooted in an energy-efficient global economy. Creating stronger connections between the World Bank, United Nations, Red Cross, and International Monetary Fund would improve the efficiency of those institutions and increase their collective accountability to the most vulnerable and impoverished nations in southeast Asia, central America, eastern Europe, and central Africa. Canadians, Mexicans, and his own constituents may rally to a vision of the world citizen where engagement in their communities requires connection to the larger world. Educational reform in the European Union and throughout North America could develop methods and strategies of conglomerate and political leadership that began with sacrifice and concluded with a more inclusive idea of profit.

President Obama represents the largest potential turning point in human history over the last five hundred years — the possibility that not only Americans can unite to confront their problems, but that humanity can find more common ground and inspiration to achieve excellence in our lives. I hope he will embrace the largest possibilities of his power in all its facets. I hope that he will remember the restraint and consent that he will need to convince his supporters around the world to do the hard work that lies beyond his ability. Tomorrow, our hope must become work. The reward for our labor will be the achievement of humanity’s First President’s vision.

KING: The Substance of Our Soul (PA): January 19-30, 2009

If you haven’t called already, leave your message celebrating the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling 1 – 888- 887 – 3127.

You will need to enter the Channel Number (25481) and a Password (1234) to record your message. Spread the word!


Ursinus College presents

“The Substance of Our Soul”:

A Celebration of

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, January 19 ~

Friday, January 30


Monday, January 19, 2009

Ecumenical Service


Chapel, Bomberger Lower Level

Candlelight Vigil


Unity House with procession to Olin Plaza

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day Celebration


Lower Lounge, Wismer Hall

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sheree Renee Thomas, author of Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction

Campus Lecture


Black Box Theater, Kaleidoscope

Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter is an interesting mix of reprints, original stories and essays. Seventeen of the stories are original, with eleven reprints dating back to 1887. Steven Barnes, Samuel Delany, Due and Butler have established reputations within science fiction and Hopkinson has made quite a splash in the couple of years since she made her first appearance, winning the Warner first novel contest with Brown Girl in the Ring. Other authors have names which may be familiar, but which are generally associated with other fields of writing, ranging from Walter Mosley’s mysteries to the history and sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Profiles in Excellence: Student Leadership at Ursinus College”

Join this panel discussion on the importance and intellect of collegiate activism. Panelists include Sabrina Clark (’09), Dane DiFebo (’09), Danielle Harris (’10), and Geovanni Velez (’11).


Musser Auditorium, Pfahler Hall

Friday, January 30, 2009

“The Substance of Our Soul” performance event


Lenfest Theater, Kaleidoscope

Ursinus College’s best singers, dancers, artists, and leaders come together to celebrate the connections between the legacy of Dr. King and the start of Black History Month.

“Without Progressive Consensus” (NJ) : Friday, November 14 at 1pm

This Friday, November 14, Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey is hosting a major conference on race and its importance in the twenty-first century.

I will present my paper “Without Progressive Consensus: Black and Gay Relations in Asbury Park, New Jersey, 1970-2000” that afternoon at 1pm. Panel location and directions to campus are located at the website.

If you are in the area and have a few minutes, it would be a pleasure to see you there.

Here’s the link …

True Triumph

Congratulations to all American voters for fulfilling the promise of political independence that stretches back centuries on this continent. The 2008 election campaign transformed the will of a global society to take responsibility for the ideas and actions of its leaders and conglomerates. It also reaffirmed the goodwill of most human beings towards a nation that represents the best ambitions of humanity in its commitment to the rule of law.

Barack Obama has achieved the first step in the process of reuniting and redefining the United States of America for the twenty-first century. However, he is most correct in his assertion that the victory belongs to the people he is elected to serve. As you watch the news and read the blogs over the next six months, mark the shifting rhetoric that the President-Elect’s opponents will employ to enforce their will on his agenda. The same advocates who claimed a political mandate for a permanent majority in 2004 (with a 3 million voter margin) have already attempted to negate last night’s margin of (at least) 5 million votes. Outlet after outlet continues to dissect the results by gender and ethnicity to begin the formulation of Obama’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

All Americans — not just those who voted for the winner — should recognize these habits of partisan politics. In the face of challenges in our economy, world climate, and the wars on terrorism, we cannot allow business as usual to continue. Our conversations and lines of thought must change, and those processes begin with questions — not the standard guesses at analysis. More than anything, the 2008 election result opens the door for the American people to hear and take advice from the scientific and intellectual professionals who serve our country.

Their voices rarely pierce the blogosphere (what does?) or the broadcast media. You can find them in many places, but one particular favorite is the series of H-Net discussion lists at . Take one step today, and join a list that looks interesting to you, so you can be more informed about the major decisions you face over the next year.

The new President will only be as successful as the American people who understand, debate, and embrace the policies of change that his campaign and election symbolize. It is quite possible that your listening, reading, and talking with the people on your jobs and in your lives will dictate the political outcomes of federal and state healthcare, investment, and energy debates. Now, more than ever, YOU have the power to command the direction of new laws and the use of public money.

It is this accountability that is President Obama’s greatest gift to American democracy in the twenty-first century. Across partisan divides, continuing racism, and the legacy of patriarchy, he opened the door for all people to take control of the political forces in our lives. The forces of the status quo are already gathering to stymie this singular opportunity for regular people. Only with your vigilance and commitment to new ideas can the tree of freedom finally bear its greatest fruit.

Please respond and share the web resources you use to learn about the most difficult issues we face. Your advice and guidance will go viral through networks of filmmakers, educators, financiers, and students to redefine the meaning of change in 2009. It is our world, our nation, our state, and our town — together, today, we manifest a new process and product of global democracy.

Yes, we can.

Can You Compete? (Africana Economic Standards)

Hi, everyone,
Here are a few basic assumptions about our financial pursuits of happiness. Your questions and comments are welcome.

INCOME (2008 estimates; household, annual)

under $60k … poor
$61k-$125k … working class
$126k-$320k … middle class
$321 and over … wealthy

NET WORTH [Assets minus liabilities] (2008 estimates; individual)

under $12k … poor
$13k-$260k … working class
$261k-$500k … middle class
$501k and over … wealthy

the wealthy category can also be subdivided here. In the interest of providing goals, here is my sense of wealth stratification at the top. These figures are also based on 2008 data for individual property owners.

$501k-$2m … marginal
$2m-$10m … new wealth
$11m-$50m … established
$51m-$100m … global investor
over $101m … citizen

Yale University, 2006. 

Yale University, 2006.