Yours, Mine and Ours
Affluent African Americans are more likely than non-blacks to share wealth with family.
The majority of affluent African Americans feel a sense of financial responsibility for younger adult and elder family members, compared with a minority of affluent non-blacks who feel the same way.
According to a report by investment management firm Northern Trust, while more than half (52 percent) of affluent blacks feel at least partially financially responsible for adult family members, just over a third (36 percent) of wealthy non-blacks feel the same way. Moreover, more than half (52 percent) of affluent blacks, says the report, provide financial assistance to their parents.
Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW, associate professor at Simmons College School of Social Work, says the findings are not surprising.
“For generations those who had ‘made it’ in the African American community also knew the stories of so many others whose dreams had not only been deferred for them to succeed but had also been denied,” he explains.
Previous research supports the notion that African Americans embrace African values of community over the individual.
“The work of Dr. Wade Nobles indicates the concept of the African sense of communal responsibility; more the ‘we’ than the ‘I’—or the seminal work of Dr. Chester Pierce which also focused on the interconnectedness of people of African descent [who possess] a sense of shared responsibility,” Bailey says.
The dynamic of wealth in the black family, he adds, “is more fluid and less linear,” and the attitude towards money is that it is “more ours than mine.”
Moreover, affluent blacks reportedly feel a greater sense of responsibility for their family members’ financial well-being than wealthy non-blacks, Bailey adds, because of the understanding that acquiring wealth can be a complicated and challenging process.
"[There is] a sense of luck and of opportunity which often one cannot take for granted nor has financial wealth necessarily accumulated across generations,” he notes.
The report speculates that the communal sense of financial responsibility is a function of first-generation wealth. Will future generations of affluent blacks continue, or abandon the tradition of sharing the wealth?
”I think that as African Americans across future generations have the experience of accumulating financial resources they may indeed begin to be more removed from the traditional sense of shared responsibility, but I doubt it,” Bailey maintains.
The African American historical experience has created such deeply established community values that just as current affluent black men and women demonstrate responsibility for family, so will future generations, he contends.
“Post-emancipation, countless numbers of freed and I might add, poor former slaves were responsible for the building of the majority of one-room schools across the South and other parts of the United States to ensure that future generations would have the opportunity that they had not,” Bailey concludes. “The concepts of tithing and of communal responsibility indeed are the hallmarks of ‘it takes a village’!”
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