Closing the Financial Gaps in Literacy for African Americans

In the United States, there is approximately $1.757 trillion in student loan debt. According to recent analytics, the majority of consumers are responsibly managing their student loan debt, and the rate of debt accumulation is increasing. Even when purported  by “statistical” data that does not explain why having an understanding of financial literacy is so important for the development of individuals and communities, analytical approaches fail to demonstrate the myriad disparities that exist. The goal of financial literacy education is to give students the knowledge and abilities they need to manage their personal finances wisely, accumulate wealth, and end generational cycles of poverty. Additionally, it should give people the ability to speak up for their own interests and those of their communities regarding financial policies and procedures.

The 2019 North Carolina House Bill 924 mandated the State Board of Education to require all public high school students complete financial literacy courses. This means that all public high schools in North Carolina are now required to offer financial literacy courses to their students. The goal of this mandate is to ensure that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed financial decisions throughout their lives. This is a positive step toward improving financial literacy and promoting financial wellness in the state of North Carolina. The implementation of such curricula requires significant resources and training for educators, which may not have  been adequately provided or made readily accessible. Additionally, the effectiveness of these curricula in achieving their intended goals is often unclear or inaccurately measured, especially in communities of color.

While financial literacy courses can be helpful in educating individuals on personal finance management, they do not address the systemic and historical factors that contribute to the racial wealth gap. To truly address this issue, policies and initiatives that address structural inequalities and promote economic justice are necessary.

Financial literacy is one key to empowering African-Americans to make informed financial decisions and to build wealth. It is imperative that we invest in financial education programs and resources to ensure a brighter future for the black community. This must occur simultaneously at the local, state, and federal levels of society. This requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort from policymakers, educators, and communities to address systemic racism and ensure equal access to quality education for all students. It also involves acknowledging and correcting the historical injustices that have perpetuated educational disparities among racial and ethnic groups.

 It is crucial to have representation and diverse perspectives in decision-making processes that impact the African American community. By including and inviting members of the community, we can ensure that our voices are heard and our needs are addressed. Closing the racial gaps that have existed since Jim Crow will happen when we acknowledge and address the systemic racism in our society and actively work toward dismantling it. This requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, and institutions to promote equity and justice for all.