This week, Maggie sits down with financial experts Kassandra Dasent and Sandy Smith to talk about the racial wealth gap and how it affects every facet of life for folks of color in the United States and beyond.
This week, Maggie talks with financial experts Kassandra Dasent and Sandy Smith, about the racial wealth gap in the United States, and how it shows up in every area of life for Black folks and other people of color. In this episode, they touch on issues such as redlining, COVID-19, healthcare disparities, and more. If you want to learn more about the racial disparities when it comes to financial wellness and opportunity in the United States, as well as how we can start changing the system, this episode for you.
Racial disparities in COVID-19 crisis
Harvard study on racial bias in the job search
Kassandra Dasent is the Founder of BridgeTech Enterprises; offering IT/software project management consulting services, a financial wellness engineer, and a speaker. Focusing on how emotional awareness can have a direct and lasting impact on one’s relationship with money, Kassandra provides her audiences with practical solutions to help them achieve holistic wealth.
She has been featured in numerous media outlets including Forbes, US News & World Report, Business Insider, Fast Company, Travel Noire, Yahoo! Finance and News, and Glamour.
Sandy Smith has been a personal finance blogger since January 1, 2009 when she resolved to get out of debt, or die trying. No, no, that was 50 Cent. At age 29 she was frankly tired of paying living paycheck-to-paycheck and feeling as if she would never get ahead financially. The Cheapass Blog, as it was then known, was born out of sheer frustration with the hope of paying down a $120,000 debt much faster than the average debtor without filing for bankruptcy.
From years of writing on the Yes, I Am Cheap blog, Sandy has tested numerous common techniques for getting out of debt including: debt consolidation, debt management plans, debt negotiation, working from home, the snowball technique, the envelope system, no spend challenges, extreme couponing and just about every other personal finance trick in the book. She likes to refer to herself as the “guinea pig” of debt reduction techniques.
On January 1, 2013, Sandy resolved to see just how much she could reduce her debt in a two year period. By December 31, 2014, Sandy successfully reduced her debt by over $50,000 – all during a volatile period of employment for her. During those two years, she was unemployed for six months before working as a temp for ten months before converting to a full-time employee. This achievement led Yahoo! Finance to name Sandy’s story the #3 most inspiring personal finance stories of 2014. Now a Certified Financial Education instructor, Sandy is dedicated to helping others put together their own formula for financial freedom.
Sandy is also a Senior Certified HR Professional; holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from St. John’s University and M.B.A. from Devry University’s Keller Graduate School.
Maggie Germano 0:05
Welcome to the money circle podcast, a safe space where women can learn about and better understand money so that they can take control of their finances and create a better financial future for themselves and their families. Hey there, and thanks for listening. I’m your host, Maggie Germano, and today I’m talking with financial experts Kassandra Dasent and Sandy Smith. We’re talking about the racial wealth gap in the United States, and how it shows up in every area of life for black folks and other people of color. In this episode, we touch on issues such as redlining COVID-19, healthcare disparities, and much more. If you want to learn more about the racial disparities when it comes to financial wellness and opportunity in the United States, as well as how we can start changing the system, this episode is for you.
Maggie Germano 1:01
Okay, welcome. Thank you so much. you both for being here.
Kassandra Dasent 1:06
Thanks for having us.
Sandy Smith 1:08
Yeah, very excited for the conversation.
Maggie Germano 1:10
Me too. And I really appreciate appreciate you all taking the time. So why don’t you each just take a minute to introduce yourself, say who you are and what it is that you do.
Kassandra Dasent 1:22
Alright, so my name is Kassandra Dasent and I am an IT software project management consultant. And I’m also a financial wellness wellness engineer. And I focus primarily on helping people to understand what holistic wellness and wealth is about, especially focusing on my black and brown communities, to help them understand what it means for them in their life and how they can go about creating it. That’s, that’s the long and short of it. And then, you know, I’m also a singer, songwriter, musician, so throw that into the mix. So a lot of hyphens in what I do.
Sandy Smith 2:01
I think that’s every woman like dash dash dash dash.
Maggie Germano 2:04
That said I was gonna say I love it. There’s so many hats.
Kassandra Dasent 2:08
Sandy Smith 2:09
So I’m Sandy Smith and I am the creator behind the blog guessing cheat calm. I also have a group called the hustle crew, close to 18,000 people, mostly women, who are either learning building or growing a side hustle or small or micro business. And then I’m also the creator of the elevate community, where I what’s the word I use? I kind of share the voices of people who speak primarily to communities of color, about money, and attached to that as a conference for those people who focus language education services to communities who reach communities of color and underserved communities when it comes to personal finance.
Maggie Germano 2:59
I love that. That’s great. And I’ve been hearing more and more about the elevate community recently, too, because it’s something that’s just so needed.
Sandy Smith 3:07
Yeah, it is. And it’s been around for some time, but now it’s kind of exploded. We’ve been on for about seven years already. But it’s nice to be new, even though you’re old.
Kassandra Dasent 3:20
The old new Yeah.
Maggie Germano 3:22
And how did each of you get into this work?
Kassandra Dasent 3:27
So I started off actually back in 2013. I was a personal finance blogger, my first site was called more than just money. And I also worked as a freelance writer in the personal finance space too. But then I took a hiatus, you know, sabbatical, whatever you want to call it and then 2018 I came back and I really came back changed just you know, life experiences, new perspectives about money, how to interact with money from a psychological perspective and an emotional perspective as opposed to just you know, the the metrics of money, or the mechanics of money, as I like to say. And I just wanted to share my experiences, especially being I’m a Gen Xer. I am my mom, my second marriage. I’m a long distance stepmother. I’m a long distance caregiver to my elderly mom. You know, I’m maintaining my career and I’m building a business small business at the same time. So like you said, all of these hats, and money money’s, you know, interwoven into all of these respective roles. And just to prove to people that money truly isn’t black, black and white from you know, a dollars and cents perspective, there’s just so much more so that’s I came back with this new emphasis on money. And, um, it’s been it’s been great. I’ve been really well received back and just seeing how the landscape has changed in personal finance to you and to Sandy’s point. You know, elevate has now really come into a level of prominence within our community where I think we’re over what 400 plus elevate alone. Yeah. So and then just seeing more women in the space more LGBTQ in the space, it’s just refreshing and it gives us hope. So yeah, that’s how I really started off in personal finance world.
Maggie Germano 5:23
That’s great to hear. And I feel like that’s something I hear a lot where it’s like, because of the own years experiences you were having. And you like you were saying Gen X and being kind of what do they call it, the sandwich generation. Where actually you’re taking care of parents, you’re taking care of kids and then you have yourself to worry about and your own future to think about and so it sounds like those experiences have really informed how you want to help others to
Kassandra Dasent 5:52
absolutely it’s, it’s just showing people that it’s it’s definitely not simple, you know, you will fail financial challenges, your life will shift in different directions and it will force you to revisit your goals and and try not to beat yourself up if you don’t hit this goal and, you know, let’s just let’s just not put so much pressure on excelling and just focus more on living within the moment and still planning for our future, we can still accomplish both, but it just may not be at this, you know, rapid pace that, you know, we’re being fed, as that’s the ideal, like we have to rush to financial independence. It’s not feasible for everyone. So I’m just showing an alternative, if you will, and it’s for some it’s not for all but at least you have an alternative here.
Maggie Germano 6:40
Yeah, I love that. That’s really important. So how about you, Sandy, how did you get into this?
Sandy Smith 6:46
So mine’s kind of similar to a lot of people I stumbled into it after realizing how much money I really owed. I, my business has shuttered during the last recession. And so I started my blog. The height of the recession on January 1 2009. And it was just a way for me to just keep accountable. And then I really decided that I really liked finance and numbers and things like that. I have been in investment banking, on the institutional side, doing research and pitches, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry, which is really hot right now, unfortunately. But, um, but that kind of finance is not personal finance, right? So even though we all have dollars and cents in our pockets, we all don’t know about money. And I decided that I liked learning about money and sharing what I was learning because I really, at the time, wasn’t seeing people who look like me really sharing the things that I was talking about when it came to money. We all have struggles, and then on top of it, like casandra, I’m also an immigrant here. So we have I had the immigrant layer on top of it and the responsibilities that we have as immigrants and for myself in particular Um, you know, the one who was kind of making it? And then child Yep. Right. And you know, the one who went to high school and college and grad school and had a business and you have that responsibility as well on top of that to take care of your family. So that’s kind of how I started. But I evolved more into realizing that the struggle wasn’t just mine. There were, as I shared more about myself, and the further I got into doing it, I realized that there’s a whole community of people who look like me who had similar issues, and they weren’t like I was I thought, Oh, it’s just kind of normal that you don’t see many brown people in the space because even working in Manhattan in finance, you don’t see very rare. So for me, it was like normal, but then it dawned on me that why why should it be normal, right, and so wanting to be more visible with it. The space so that other people could say, okay, she can so can I was really what shifted things for me about 2013. So I kind of shift my focus. Seven years, my gosh, seven years five, seven years ago, I shifted my focus to start focusing more on people of color. So, yeah, and women because I’m intersectional Why not? So that’s, that’s where I shifted and how I started.
Maggie Germano 9:29
That’s great. And it seven years ago, that was also when you started the elevate community as well.
Sandy Smith 9:34
Yes, yes. I had an epiphany because I read Prudential had a study that it was like the financial state of black America or something. And now they do for different communities than they do for LGBTQ they do for Latin America, cyber, but at the time, the one study up on two was on black America. And I thought that I was struggling because hey, I’m an immigrant in this country. I’m a woman, whatever, it’s it’s me. I’m in New York, wherever expensive as normal. But as I read through the stats, and I realized just how bad people of color in general were doing after the recession, I realized that it wasn’t just me like this was an epidemic that was very wide epidemic like it was normal. And in my head, like, why is this normal? Why should this be normal? And they had some solutions to what they thought could be helpful for people of color. One of the major things that they said was that people of color trusted other people who had similar experiences as that because they felt like, you know, Joe Wallstreet wasn’t going to talk their language, or they weren’t going to understand why they live in the house with them, their mother, their cousin, their brother, whatever, and we’re judged them differently. Right. And one of the solutions was that there needed to be more financial professionals of color so that the users would be more comfortable going to them and leaking them and understanding, you know, their situation not being judged. So I said, Okay, um, somebody’s got to do this. And I looked around and I say that somebody is probably me. It’s me, I know enough people within personal finance, why can’t we kind of get together and start being more visible and start shining a light on the financial state of black America and trying to be the ones that are changing Little by little, you know, it wasn’t all on our shoulders, we thought but if you know enough people learn something. They told a friend they told a cousin whatever. That’s it was enough of a wave. We thought that we’re having some kind of effect some way. And you know that one little pebble can turn into a wave. So that’s what we hope to accomplish all those years ago, and it’s taken some time but I see it definitely building for sure.
Maggie Germano 11:54
That’s great. And I love I love those epiphanies too, when you see something’s wrong and especially like You were saying how you thought maybe it was just you. But then you realize, no, this is a systemic issue that most, if not all people of color are dealing with in one way or another. And it’s like built in. And so what are the ways as individuals, we can work to try to change it as well as you know, on the broader scale as well. So that kind of brings me into the topic for today, which is talking about the racial wealth gap, which Kassandra, you had been posting about that recently on your Instagram and talking a little bit about it. Beyond there, but could one of you talk a little bit about what the racial wealth gap means and how that kind of shows up?
Kassandra Dasent 12:47
So simply put, right it’s it’s, it’s a result of systemic racism and white privilege that has persisted over centuries and throughout the Americas and And as a result, it creates this chasm that keeps widening in how whites and people from other races such as Latin x blacks, Asians, indigenous populations are faring in terms of income in terms of building intergenerational wealth, access to health care effects you not only from a dollars and cents perspective, but really throughout every layer of society, how we interact from a monetary perspective. So I believe I posted graphs from Bloomberg that stated that the median black household holds about I think, 10% of the wealth of the median white household. And if you think about it, blacks in America represent I think about 13 to 14% of the current US population, but we actually control less than 3% of the wealth. Right? So how does it show up for me, it shows up, as I said, throughout every aspect of your life from how And where you shop, how and where you travel? Where do you go to school, and the need for blacks and browns to borrow more money in order to fund their college experience in education, because they already started off with a greater financial burden from their families, right, that resulted in the meetup alone. And then even you know, from what companies do you work for, and then what roles do you hold within that company, you’ll see that the majority of black Americans are in the retail sector or they’re in supply chain warehousing roles that are, if $15 an hour, you know that it really depends on what part of the country you’re working on, right you’re working in, I should say, then where a store is located, for example, it’s like, in certain communities, you’ll see you know, high end stores like products, guess the gap. And then you know, you’ll start to see as you maybe shift through a city, you’ll see maybe the Walmart, you’ll see the whole foods and then you’ll start to see dollar generals, the Dollar Tree And the payday loan and the check cashing services. So you, you see it if you’re paying attention, you will see the disparity, the wealth and racial disparity right within your own city if you’re paying attention.
Sandy Smith 15:13
So even one of the big things and everyone can see right now, it’s a disparity in how people of color were adversely affected by COVID-19. And people were, you had a lot of pundits talking about why, but it wasn’t just one thing. We weren’t more susceptible to COVID-19 it’s the jobs that we’re working, and are those essential workers. You know, you’re talking about your essential workers as your cashier at your supermarket, those aren’t high paying jobs, but someone’s got to go out there and do them and they tend to be made up of communities of color, as Kissinger said. So that exposed a lot more people of color to COVID And then you have this very high rate of infection and death on for black Americans, as well as things that manifested from the income inequality, wealth gap being things like casandra mentioned, access to quality health care was one of the major things that contributed to COVID-19. And the stat is that one in 1700 and 50 black Americans died in three months of COVID-19. The next highest number was one in 4000, Latinos, so disparate numbers, and so shows up in all these different aspects of life. And people don’t realize how it really snowballs and affects everything, not just what’s in someone’s pocket, but their entire life even down to their lifespan.
Kassandra Dasent 16:53
Yes, absolutely. Sandy’s absolutely right where I think I was reading a statistic for COVID when The lifes the death rate was like 50%. You know what I mean? Like it’s shortened the lifespan, I think there was shortening the lifespan by up to 50% as a result of this, because even if a black or another person of color were to survive Coleman, the ramifications on their lungs or their pathways will subject them to something like COPD down the line. So there’s inherent risk, even if they were to survive an actual bout with COVID. That just it just exacerbates the issue.
Maggie Germano 17:31
Right, and you were touching on access to health care, affordable health care and good equal health care as well. I know in DC where I live outside DC, there’s limited access to hospitals and doctors in certain areas of the city. And I know that those are predominantly people of color in those areas of the city. And it’s well known but somehow still not being changed. And I know that that’s like you were saying we’re still trying to underscore And the long term effects of COVID on your long term health, and I’m sure that’s just going to be more and more, we’ll be learning about that. And it’s not going to be good.
Kassandra Dasent 18:11
Absolutely. You know, as Sandy mentioned, we’re both immigrants. So I immigrated from Trinidad, but I first lived in Canada for the majority of my life. So where we do have a universal health care system, you do have tears. Don’t get me wrong, you do have access to private health services if you can’t afford it, but at least there is a national baseline where you don’t have to worry about questioning, should I take the ambulance? Or should I just get driven to the hospital? Or should I not even go to the hospital like you’re really in this country? I think I’m still shocked when I go and get a procedure done. And I asked for the itemized bill. And literally, I had a 24 hour stay at one time and it was $19,000. And they charged me $300 for saline. So you talk about ratios. disparity so we can this is like a whole nother hour conversation just on health care. But to our point, it affects every aspect of our life from day one to today. Mm hmm.
Maggie Germano 19:13
Absolutely. So yeah, you’ve you’ve already started touching on, you know, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s not just about the amount of money people are able to either earn or save or keep in their pockets or give to their families or build over generations. It’s a matter of access to things like health care, access to housing, access to even grocery stores in neighborhoods that
Sandy Smith 19:39
let’s talk about housing for a second and how we got it. So I keep hearing and as an immigrant, you’re taught to pull yourself up by the bootstraps right? off by the bootstraps, you literally come here and you start from zero. Here’s the problem, I have to take a huge exhale because because there were literally laws on the books for years that black Americans could not buy houses, they could not own land, etc, etc, etc. So when people talk about generational wealth, you had generational limits on black Americans for years and years. Then you had, you know, Jim Crow laws. You had all these things where I I now moved to Long Island, Long Island is famous for being the birthplace of suburbia after the war, where people can, you know, buy these little homes etc. And, you know, you got the army you were able to use your, your benefits to be able to buy these homes. Well, black Americans couldn’t do that. They were not allowed. And that’s what created the middle class in America. Right. So they could not participate in any of that minimum. They could Could not participate, in fact is a story I tell my husband’s mom, her first husband died in one of the wars. I’m not going to American Morris sorry. And so, so she had a pension because his sisters were were there so she got like a widow’s pension and she went to buy her home she could not buy her home. She had to send her her mom. Her mom was half native half white. Her dad was black, and she had to send her mom with the realtor to go to buy this home. Because as a black person, she could not buy the home. Right. And then when they found out she was the one black woman on the block, of course everybody starts to move then your your houses lose property value because of white flight and that literally happened with her. She was the first black person on the block and almost so because of white flight, the housing In predominantly black neighborhoods are valued less, because they’re valued less, the tax base is lower, because the tax base is lower when it comes to schooling, because the schools are funded by the tax base. There’s not enough money to fund the schools. Because there’s not enough money to fund the schools. You don’t get great quality teachers, because you don’t have good quality teachers. The kids don’t have good quality education, because they don’t have good quality education. They don’t have access to the same jobs. It literally trickles all the way down and it starts with access to where you live. And it affects everything it literally affects everything here. your zip code can determine your entire outcome in your life. And it’s crazy
Kassandra Dasent 22:53
Yep, no she’s she Sandy’s totally on point. You know, when I when I was growing up in in Montreal, I grew up in a suburb white suburb. I definitely was the only child of color in my elementary school worse yet accent immigrant, you know, in the French school. And But the truth is, is that if my mother had not made that purposeful decision for us to live in that community, and for me to attend that French immersion school so that I am fluently bilingual, and as a Caribbean native, coming into this white country, literally white country. Most of my other English speaking Caribbean friends were never successful outside of school, they never got the kinds of quality jobs that I did, because I had that one advantage because I lived in a desirable neighborhood, even if it was the crappiest apartment we could get at the time but you say you buy the worst and the best hood right? And went to the I went to all the right schools. She you know, she did everything. She could set me up to be able to attempt to compete, right? So if I didn’t have those social and educational advantages, I know for a fact that would not be sitting where I am today in this country, earning what I earn and being able to do what I do. So it really does have cascading effects to Sandy’s point. And you know, coming back to, you know, the Jim Crow laws that kind of reminded me of the redlining right? FHA redlining. So, okay, we get to a point where they’re like, okay, we’ll allow you to buy homes, but hold on, we’re gonna charge you predatorial rates, we’re going to restrict where you live. Right. So that has the other like, antithesis of cascading effect. It’s just, you, you get stopped at every turn. You know, you try to uplift your situation, and then you’re constantly, you know, just brought back down by structural, structural, you know, support systems that are not in favor of anybody else but whites.
Sandy Smith 25:05
And let’s be honest, lest people think it doesn’t happen because people are just waking up now. It still happens. It’s like now happening. There was a huge expose, particularly on violence, about how segregated it is in New York City even it’s very segregated. Very cool. I was buying this house two years ago. And I literally had to tap my white friends Hey, and this is the place to live because literally, the realtors would only take us to black areas, right didn’t matter that we had this amazing budget to buy this house was sitting on all this money in cash that we’re putting down in this house, right? It’s still we even to get the realtors to show us in certain locations or we walk through the doors in certain locations. It’s like they weren’t paying attention. And I literally had to say to my friends, Hey, is this a good neighborhood? Is this a good School District and my friends were like, No, you don’t want to live there. You don’t wanna live there. That school district is horrible. Don’t let them show you this. Don’t let them show you that it’s still happened right now, right now.
Kassandra Dasent 26:12
just another story just to prove that point even more when I was living in Brooklyn, my husband and I, so my husband is also from Trinidad, but he has the traditional trainee accent, right? Because he hasn’t, you know, he’s been not long living in the United States where mine has been watered down French or five, you name it, right? So when we were looking for an apartment, he would call he wasn’t getting any interest. I did the test, I call the same number. And immediately on every single one, I was invited to come see the apartment. You know, so you cannot say that. It doesn’t happen. It happens all the time. It’s just what we say in French, we call it today. It’s just underneath now. You know, it’s just not always as a parent and visible it happens really And more evasive manners, and you really got to keep your eyes open for it.
Maggie Germano 27:06
I think that’s, that’s so important. And thank you both for sharing all of those stories and examples because I think that’s part of the big problem of like saying things like pull yourself up by your bootstraps. A lot of people can’t do that because like you were saying, There’s systems built in into place to prevent people from being able to do that. And the American Dream quote, unquote, has only ever really applied to white people just like with what you were saying how even if you got GI benefits if you were a person of color, you weren’t able to use those to buy a home and start building that wealth and and share that across your family and across generations. And Sandy, like you were saying, people are like just waking up now because like, it’s a lot easier just to not pay attention if it’s not affecting you and to not listen to your friend. who are going through things like that? And to make yourself feel better as a white person like, well, I just tried really hard, or I just like was really good at this. And you know, you don’t? A lot of people don’t want to admit like, No, you had an advantage from the beginning, your family had an advantage from the beginning. It’s not just because you’re like, so fantastic.
Sandy Smith 28:19
How do I think right? Understand privilege? Yeah, because they think privilege means that they didn’t have to struggle or that they didn’t have to work. Right. And that’s not true. privilege means that you were able to get ahead, do no work that you did yourself, right. It wasn’t even anything that you had to do. By virtue of let’s say, even not having an ethnic name. You’re able to get a job interview faster than somebody who might be overqualified. PS, it’s not some bs I’m making up. It’s an actual study, actual study where they took the same resumes. All they did was changed the names and the callbacks. were completely different for people who didn’t have ethnic names and people who did. So you benefit from a system that’s been built for you. And you don’t you don’t realize that. And so when people think when they hear that they have privilege, they’re like, well, I don’t believe that because I had to work. But that’s not what privilege means. privilege means that, you know, guess you have to work. Yes, you probably have to struggle. Yes, you have to fight. But you probably have it a little bit easier than your friend who maybe his name is Mohammed, you know, or maybe she lives a mile down the street from you. And it’s a different neighborhood, you know, things like that. And I think people are waking up a little bit more now to the fact that privilege does exist. But I think a lot of people feel personally like attack like be like, they didn’t have it. You know, hard as well. But do you still have to work it just means you have a little bit easier than other people and you might not even realize I can do
Kassandra Dasent 29:56
it’s inherent whereas for us, you know, we again because the system was created on the basis of this is the desire. This is the desirables You know, this is what the ideals are and anyone who does not meet that ideal is not desirable. So, that already you know, that is the inherent disadvantage that we have is that we are not considered desirable, even though we’re supposed to be equal.
Maggie Germano 30:26
Well, even with what you were saying about a grandparent buying a home and being the first black person on the block, and then the neighbors deciding, oh, well, there goes the neighborhood time for us to leave or like the white flight of leaving the cities and going to Serbia and just how things have become even more segregated. I was watching a video I think, Sandy, you were talking about how real estate taxes are that are what determine education funding and school resources and how how awful that is. Is, and I just I watched a video about that recently of how that should not be the connection of of funding schools and how that ends up harming the children going to the schools and it has made it so that schools are even more segregated than they were in the 60s.
Kassandra Dasent 31:18
And then to bring it full circle now, right? You’ve got gentrification. So now you’ve got, you know, let’s say Brooklyn or queens, for example, where, you know, the white flight to the suburbs, you left all the black and brown populations, you know, in the Bronx and Queens in Brooklyn, you know, they could afford the rent. Now, 2020, you’ve got an apartment that was maybe $1,000 a month, if that’s like my mother in law’s living sitting in Brooklyn, right, right across from the botanical museum. If she gives up that apartment, it’s three times the amount, right and it’s not like that renters paying taxes. So it’s going to go into that school. district to help the, you know, the kids of color who are still there. It’s not, you know, the property owners are getting that back the taxes and there’s ways around it trust, you know, so it’s still perpetuating the disadvantages that we’ve experienced again from day one. It’s just a vicious cycle.
Maggie Germano 32:21
Did you want to add anything to that, Sandy?
Sandy Smith 32:24
Well, I was saying that I, we actually left we moved, because my mom is directly across the street, four houses down from my husband.And we moved. And we were intentional that we wanted a mixed neighborhood. Because one of the dangers that we saw was that because our neighborhood was, by the time we were growing up, there was very homogenized. A lot of the kids who only went to school in that neighborhood only saw people who look like them only had the same experiences, right? I did. I took a train and I I want to have out, you know, from the edge of where we lived all the way to downtown Manhattan to go to school. So I had completely different springs. And my sister who was 20 years younger than I am, I made sure that my parents did the same thing for her. Because I said, this is not the real world where we’re insulated here, where things are easier for us because she’s not experiencing what’s really going on in the real world. And I want people to be prepared. I wanted my son to be prepared for that, to have to deal with different people and different, you know, communities and ethnicities and hear different things. And so we were very purposeful and looking for a mixed neighborhood. Does that make it harder for him? Probably going up? Yeah. Yeah, it’s gonna make it harder for him. He’s to right now our neighbors don’t look anything like us. Right? Um, but I think in the end, it will make him stronger and better and we were very purposeful. He was six months old when we bought this house. We’re very proud of Because we were like, he’s gotten robbed in the real world, he’s got to grow up where he is the minority, it will make him stronger for it. I think anyway, at least my husband and I thought, and it will expose them to different things. So that there isn’t this culture shock when you get older, because there can very much be called a shock on both sides. Right? So when people growing up with people who only look like them who only sound like that, who only have the same experiences, it’s, it’s dangerous.
Maggie Germano 34:30
I think that makes sense to me. So in your work in each of your work, and then the work that you’re seeing other folks doing, what are some of the things that you recommend to people or that you’re trying to encourage for folks of color to start things that basically that they’re able to control and able to do in their own families and communities to start making steps in the right direction in order to help close Racial racial wealth gap.
Kassandra Dasent 35:03
So I have two answers to that. So on the one hand, money has to be a topic of frequent discussion amongst our families and in our communities at large, we need to get intimate with money and with each other and how it relates to one another and understand it better. Right? This is not about financial education. This is about family education. And and, you know, again, as immigrants, we were raised with, you know, intergenerational household, right? Not necessarily because of once again, because of economic necessity, because, you know, it was just easier to have more income pooled into one household by we couldn’t afford to buy three houses for three families. That’s just the reality, right? And also, secondly, from a cultural perspective, especially, you know, taking care of your elders, your elders, helping to take care of your young ones while you went to work. It was just a system that just nourished one each other. So we need to now bring money into context of cultural support where we can attend to each other’s need and and understand that it’s not we have to look at it from a micro and macro level. So it’s not not only about self, it’s about group, you know, group wealth. Wealth is cumulative, because it takes money to make more of it. And I have a little issue with home ownership ownership, because home ownership in particular is something that like blacks were were taught to regard as the ultimate sign of wealth, you know, because we didn’t have access to it right. So but the problem I see is that so many blacks have too much of their equity of their of their net worth trapped into their home. And they’re illiquid. Essentially, they’re like house rich, but essentially cash poor because they’ve been led into a direction where house ownership is everything, and it’s just one part of your your your whole concept of wealth. Right? So the other part to my answer is, here’s the truth or my truth, as I would see it is that we can’t catch up on our own this gap. We can’t we can’t catch that gap. Unless we as a nation recognize the fundamental issue that we have to first address the structural racial inequality that this country was built on, until we touch that hot button issue and tear that one to shreds. Don’t expect blacks to be able to catch ourselves up, it’s not going to happen. And I think anybody that would accuse us of saying that we’re not doing enough, or that we’re not saving enough or that we’re not trying to push ourselves ahead enough, is is is is truly a false dichotomy. It’s a false narrative and if that really needs to be squashed, because from a systemic point of view, we did Cause our racial gap whites did the white power structure did. So that would be my response to that question.
Maggie Germano 38:10
Thank you. I and I agree. And we’ll get into the the policy side and the structural side too in a minute. But yeah, go ahead, Sandy.
Sandy Smith 38:17
For me, it’s tough because it’s very, very, very hard to swim against the tide. And that’s what we have. And people are able to swim against and navigate. People look at someone like a soldier, they’ll look at me and say, oh, but you guys have done it. Why can’t other people and it’s a little bit different. Because we’re immigrants. It’s a little different. And because I think we’ve had an experience where we probably come from countries where we aren’t the minority, right? It’s a little bit different. So my answer is a little bit more complicated. I think that to break down the power structure, I recommend that every person Not a person of color, have the ability to go somewhere where they are the minority one time and see what that’s like. And I don’t mean to sit on somebody’s beach and order a drink. I mean, go somewhere where you are the minority and see what that feels like to you, like deep down in the pits of yourself what that feels like, because I think that will help to build empathy and a little bit of the way of ways to see what it feels like to walk around as a person of color and be the minority all the time or be the one person in the room all the time. Because I think people don’t experience that. They don’t know what it’s like. Right. The other thing is, I think the way that we structure our education is BS. I see how other countries have done it, even for countries that are able to offer decent education across the line. Right and doesn’t come down to where you live and your real estate taxes. Because the way that education is structured here in the States, sets people up for a fall from the very beginning, at the very, very, very beginning. Unless you’re a person who has additional access to tutors and things for your child, when they’re young, if you’re living somewhere that’s not, you know, the back door with the highest tax bracket, they’re going to be behind the whole time, or they’re fighting, they’re swimming against the tide. So it’s very different and difficult. And that’s part of the structure of how things are structured here in the States. The education system has to change otherwise, it’s going to be very, very, very difficult. It just is. And then the last thing I think, honestly from the standpoint of people of color, because I feel like we also have a responsibility here to ensure That we are passing along knowledge to the next generation as well. I think it’s also incumbent on a lot of us to learn them as much as we can, and implement the things that we can and pass them on to the next generation to the best that we can. Because if we all just improve a little bit each generation, then you just get that much better. Are you still gonna be behind? Yes, but I feel like even for myself and my family, I’m looking at my little sister again, she’s 20 years younger than I am. Her experience is not the same as mine, because I made sure that the lessons that I learned coming here, were not the ones that she she was going to experience. So my parents had no idea about the American education system. So it meant that by the time I got out of college like everybody else in America, I had a ton of debt. My little sister has another year left she has zero debt, right? So when she leaves school, She’s going to have a leg up moreso than idle. And that starts off on better footing. And so, you know, it was because I learned I was able to teach her. So I think we also have have that responsibility as well, to try the best that we can to learn as much as we can so that we can pass that knowledge on and teach the next generation as well.
Kassandra Dasent 42:22
Yeah, absolutely agree with that.
Maggie Germano 42:24
Yeah. I that makes a lot of sense to me. Are there other? I mean, you both started touching on some of the systemic issues that need to change. Are there other systemic built in racist systems that need to change in order to help close this this racial wage gap?
Kassandra Dasent 42:46
I always you know, when I have a conversation with white friends or just white colleagues in the, they try to be true, they try to understand and I usually will ask them to think about ask yourself If tomorrow, you know, the answer to all this problem would be that you had to give up like 50 or 60% of your own wealth, your own personal wealth, in order to equalize the situation, or at least for blacks and browns to experience a similar standard of living and starting point to being able to build well, could you do it? would you do it? And it’s not to chat, I don’t need the answer. It’s just to challenge me only to challenge certain assumptions that we have we you know, we say, Okay, this is a nice ideal, but how much are we willing to do in order to support that idea, and we each have to have that personal reckoning, right? Then, you know, I’m not I’m not a policy maker. That’s not my experience lies right. But, again, if elected officials at all levels of government are really serious about fixing the racial wealth and equity and are the gap, we need to talk reparations. We need to talk wealth redistribution. We need to implement state federal programs and initiatives that will actively contribute to building wealth for people of color, right? So telling blacks and browns that they need to study harder, or they need to find a better paying job, or they need to save more. That’s not going to cut it. It’s not enough work. As I said before, we are doing what we can we need to do more. We have that responsibility, like Sandy says, to educate those that come up after us just like how she’s doing with her son she’s doing with her sister I’m doing with my nieces and my nephews. It’s up to them to take that information and go with it. But I have to do my part and say, This is my this is this is my learning my stumbling blocks here. Here’s a template of what you shouldn’t do and what you maybe can do, right. But at that certain point, once we take up that mantle, are we getting that structural support that will actually help us create real wealth right? And not just be satisfied that we have, you know, an emergency fund of like 20 $500. Like, you know, we need to think big. And it does start small it starts as I said, it’s micro and macro that with both cannot, you cannot have one without the other. But do I know what policies that no I don’t? I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like I do. But the core issue is that.
Maggie Germano 45:25
yeah, I mean, I think you you touching on the reparations? That’s that’s a big thing that’s been part of the national whispering I guess for a long time. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, too. And like, Yeah, I think that’s a good place to start.
Kassandra Dasent 45:41
Yeah. If you think of our sweat, you know, the, you know, the sweat equity that has gone into building this nation, you know, black Americans, they’re their forefathers and foremothers if you were to try to put a number to that the country can’t print enough money. You know what I mean? But Don’t let that don’t let that be an excuse to start to have this conversation because it needs to be had. Right? You know, we can’t probably go into, you know, how would that be administrated all the technicalities behind that, but the reparations need need to happen on some shape or form. And then there’s the personal level of accountability that goes along with that. And being good stewards of the income that we do have.
Sandy Smith 46:28
I’ve got a different take. Um, the reparations conversation needs to be had. I think it’s been it’s been danced around for a very long time. you discuss it, you do it or you don’t figure it out. I feel but I feel like the country kind of needs. What’s the word? a whole different president? A whole it’s rotting from the top and people are saying, oh, he’s making it worse. No, he’s not making it worse. I actually appreciate what Donald Trump is because he is very He is he doesn’t hide who he is, and he lets us know who he is. And that’s what it is. I like it. I want to know what I’m dealing with. Okay? Yep. Don’t pretend otherwise. Because that’s what’s really been happening. People have been pretending otherwise. And I like the people who are coming out the woodwork and saying what they mean, say what you mean, so I can know who you are. However, um, I think he’s done a wonderful job of dividing the country even worse.
Sandy Smith 47:28
And I think we need somebody who will, God, somebody who will just even have a brain to put a sentence together in office. So that’s the first thing, the first step I think towards, you know, coming to a reconciliation of what’s really going on here. And we really need to go back and acknowledge the history in our past. I don’t think the country has done that. We’ve had this whole conversations about being post racial just because Barack Obama was elected. That’s BS. People talk about race relations, like it was like a million years ago. The 1950s was when? Okay, not that long ago, folks, okay? It wasn’t just the bat an eye on things got rights and things were much better. We don’t teach them about history. And the fact is, that is American history, it is not black history. I’d like to point that out. So we need to stop acting like everything is rose colored. And if you don’t acknowledge your past, you’re bound to repeat it. So I don’t think that America has acknowledged the hurt and the pain in the past. So that we can get past that or not even pass it but at least acknowledge what has occurred. And what’s really this country has been built on. We dance around it, we pretend and that’s, it’s not helping. I think people don’t understand like Thank You, Jesus. Just right around the corner, okay. Yeah, it’s kind of stupid to me. And then we definitely need to go back to legislation. Because there are still laws on the books that disparately affect black and brown communities, and everything from policing, which we’ve now seen, to drug laws, to lending laws. All these things that are on the books that we know for a fact disparately affects people of color, why are we not looking at them? Why are we not, you know, going back even here in New York, where they have the stop and frisk program, which affected 90 something percent of the people who they stopped or black men, most of which they ended up letting go but what happened to the rest of the population here in New York, because of population New York court, 90 something percent black men, right before they finally got away, did away with it. So we need to go back and look at all these laws are sitting in the books that are affecting people. Really think about what we’re doing with each of them. What I will say the last thing that I say about this is, now we’re going back with a different eye and looking at all these Confederate statues and things like that, and they’re coming down. That’s what we need to do with a lot of these blocks.
Maggie Germano 50:18
Here, here. I am, I’m with you on all of that. And are there things that like so if there are, you know, white folks out there who are like, I want to be an ally, I want to help. What are some steps that white folks individually can be taking or things to be advocating for?
Sandy Smith 50:41
So I want compensation has come up a lot in the last few weeks. And I appreciate it. I’m happy that people are willing to even have the conversation because I know that it’s a difficult and uncomfortable conversation for people to have what I’ve told my friends is give you your white friends a little bit of grace, because a lot of just waking up to a whole new world for them. That’s been reality for you. So if you’re seeking to be an ally, I think there’s a lot of information out there. And I know that people often want to kind of pull, ask my friend, not always the best thing to do. I think you’ve got to work on your education portion first. And there are lots of books out there. Lots of videos, lots of TED talks about it. a Google search will do your good. I think after you’ve educated yourself, the next thing is to find organizations that specifically deal with these subjects. Because as I said, the easiest thing to do is to ask your friends Hey, can you tell me XYZ? not always easy for them? You know, there are organizations that are out there that specifically deal with, hey, you want to be an ally and here’s what you can do. Here’s what you can support, you know, checkbox XYZ. See, and here’s more education for you. I think those are important as well for people to know that they’re out there and that you can be comfortable, you know, being a part and parcel of the entire process of improving relations here without making somebody else feel uncomfortable.
Kassandra Dasent 52:18
I think to add to what Sandy said, is so on a personal level, she laid it out it’s that’s a pretty decent roadmap. From a from a standpoint of being a citizen and and and using your power to vote. Right. So we’re not I’m not just talking about your president. Yes. November, November cannot come soon enough. Okay. cannot come soon enough. Like, I’ll just leave that there. But I mean, get to know who is on the ballot at your local level. Who are the judges that you are voting for? Who are the city councilmen that you are voting for? Because it is out Your city level that you are going to be the most effective, where your dollars where you’re paying through your your property taxes and your school taxes are being put to work. So you want to ensure that your vote aligns with people who are representing not only your interests, but the interests of all and that they’re really on using platforms that are going to be beneficial to blacks and browns, if that is of concern to you. So, really, this election, you need to go down the entire ballot and not just from the top, you need to start from the bottom up and investigate your candidates and see, are they worthy? Are they worthy to have that vote? And are they going to do the work that they promised to do? look to the past, if these are, you know, incumbents versus, you know, the people who are getting reelected? Look at look at what they’ve done. Have they said what they would do and and judge them By bad judge them by the merits of their actions, not their words. So that would be my advice.
Sandy Smith 54:07
Yeah, that’s your peace out, go for him. That would be to have the difficult conversation with your friends who look like you. Because more often someone will get the message from you, your friend, I know you, then from somebody like me who they don’t know, right, so have those conversations at the dinner table. You know, your parents aren’t necessarily too old to change in their ways. You know, your best buy might say something slide that maybe you didn’t pick up on before, but maybe now that you’re kind of educating yourself. Maybe you have those conversations and those things, right? Because we have to be willing to tap our friends on the shoulder and say, Hey, this is what I’m thinking. This is what I’ve learned. Let’s talk about it. You know, and sometimes you may lose friends sometimes you make a friend game friends, you may Be able to change someone’s mind you may not. But at least you’ve had that conversation, right. And we’ve been afraid to have these difficult conversations all the time. And it starts with you being a friend and with your friends and having those conversations.
Maggie Germano 55:15
Yeah, I agree and, and leaning into the discomfort allowing yourself to be uncomfortable at a dinner table or at a gathering or at a holiday or whatever I know. For me even growing up, that was just something that happened with my extended family, I would call someone out on something or bring something up and then it would be like, really unpleasant because we had different opinions about things but I know personally, and I’m sure for a lot of people like they’d rather be uncomfortable and try to make a difference. Then be quiet and and feel bad about it and let things perpetuate. So if I know that everyone out there who’s talking about wanting to be an ally and wanting to help change things now, that is one of the big things You have to be willing to be uncomfortable if you mean what you say.
Kassandra Dasent 56:04
Maggie Germano 56:06
Is there anything else either of you want listeners to know, before we go?
Kassandra Dasent 56:13
I would say just as how, you know, Sandy offered by, you know, blacks and browns that, you know, try to give our wet our white allies a bit of grace as they’re leveling up, so to speak, right. I would ask our white allies and even those who are not our allies to perhaps understand, just just imagine what’s feeding our rage, what’s feeding our pain was feeding our just displeasure at our status quo that after 401 years, we’re still here, like, okay, people can say that Yes, you know, the civil rights movement and all the wonderful things that happened after that, but we are nowhere near where we must be not need to be not should be where we must be where we should be no where we have the right to be. And this year 2020 Some people say well, oh, it’s to write off No, I say it’s, it’s, it’s a year that had to happen, because COVID-19 like the people who passed away from COVID-19, I also say that they did not die in vain, because it took it took this country to be brought still so that we can focus and see what is happening and stay on it. Because if this had to happen if George Floyd had died and been murdered in 2019, he would have just been counted among the hundreds and thousands that have went before him in the same manner, but because our attention had nowhere to go But on this, I’m just like, we have to make this count. We have to make this count and understand that there’s so much to fix. But we can fix this if we truly, truly, truly want to.
Sandy Smith 58:15
My last thought is look at what happened across the entire globe when things started happening here. You know, we’ve heard that America is like one of the greatest nations in the entire world. The fact is, it might actually be true when things happen here, it affects the rest of the entire globe. So imagine if we get it right. What happens elsewhere? Right. So I think there’s an opportunity here for us to really have a lasting effect. And on top of that, I want to be able to look at my son, when I’m older. Hopefully I live that long because COVID you know, COVID out there. But I want to be able to look at my son, when he’s my age and say, I tried to leave the place a little bit better than I found it. And the responsibility didn’t belong to the guys in the 50s and 60s, this is your time. This is your opportunity, right? If you ask your parents, hey, where were you back when x or y or z? your kids and your grandkids are gonna ask you, where were you in 2020? Don’t let history look back at you and judge you for being on the wrong side or for being inactive.
Maggie Germano 59:44
That’s beautiful. Thank you. Thank you both. Is there anything either of you would like to promote in terms of the work you’re doing your businesses, anything that’s going on you’d like folks to know about?
Kassandra Dasent 59:57
For me, you can find me And you know reach out to me on my website it’s triple w Cassandra Jason calm you can email me my handle on Twitter and Instagram is at Cassandra Jason and you can also find me on Facebook at mining your money KD I’m my dms are open if you have any questions you want to have you taken extension of this conversation or anything related to holistic wealth, my virtual door’s open
Sandy Smith 1:00:27
so i’m focused on this newfound group of people who are just realizing that things aren’t the way that they thought they were. And if you are interested in educating yourself particularly especially when it comes to finance I would suggest that you follow elevate community everywhere it’s Yeah, cuz I’m sharing like all the social justice things, all the financial inequality things. There’s a lesson every day on Twitter’s and on Facebook Sometimes Yes, things will be uncomfortable. But I think it’s important again, like I said, to have these conversations. And then personally, if you want to reach me, I am I am Sandy Smith to on every platform on Earth. So you can find me there. I don’t mind having the difficult conversations, as you guys can can see. And so I, I’m all open for having these conversations, because I think as I’m having these conversations that we grow, and we make things better, and sometimes people just need, you know, maybe you do need the black friend, so I don’t mind being the black man. You got to reach out to, to ask the questions.
Maggie Germano 1:01:37
Great. Well, thank you both so much. I know this conversation is just the beginning for a lot of people. And so I really appreciate you both taking the time to start touching on this and I plan to be expanding more on some of the issues you touched on with redlining and real estate taxes and education and all of those things that need to be changed. So I really Appreciate you coming here to start the conversation with me.
Maggie Germano 1:02:08
Thank you so much for listening again this week. Don’t forget to rate review and subscribe in your podcasting app so that more people hear about the money circle podcast and listen. If you’d like to get more connected with money circle or with me, there are lots of ways you can do that. To join the free Facebook group, visit facebook.com slash groups slash money circle group. To stay informed of any upcoming events. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at Maggie Germano comm slash subscribe to sign up to attend the next money circle meetup visit Maggie Germano comm slash money circle to learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings or just to read my blog visit Maggie germano.com You can also follow me on instagram and twitter at Maggie Germano. Thanks for listening and have a great week.
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