By Tiffany Coleman | Special to The Sacramento Observer
OPINION – Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the true end of slavery in the United States.
Although slavery was abolished in 1863, many people across the country still did not receive emancipation. June 18, 1865, celebrates when the law was finally enforced for those still living under Confederate control.
Hallmarks of the now federally recognized holiday include festivals and multi-cultural celebrations, as well as reflections on the social impacts of slavery, racism, and discrimination. However, as encouraging as these activities may be, they often lack a critical element of creating dialogue about the economic state of Black America in any given community. That includes the need to teach financial literacy to uplift historically underserved communities.
There are documented and lasting economic impacts that came from the institution of slavery. The African Americans in Texas who first celebrated Juneteenth had been denied any information regarding the new law and emancipation for two years. With this historical context in mind, it’s worth openly discussing those economic impacts and the path forward for current and future generations.
Cruelly, the chains of slavery broke the natural order of sharing generational wisdom and prosperity through the ages. As the institution of slavery broke families apart, elders lost the chance to formally pass on the practical lessons including timeless proverbs such as Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, or Easy money leads to hard times. Nearly 160 years later, there is still a lot of catching up to do.
Knowledge is power, and this is especially true when it comes to financial literacy. Gimmicks like “skeptical payday loans” and “E-Z Credit” companies’ prey on this lack of information while taking their toll on families and many in urban neighborhoods. As a matter of fact, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, these companies are heavily concentrated in Black and Latino communities across California.
Our true freedom must include the financial independence that comes with learning how money works. Fortunately, time is on our side, and so is the law.
Today, lenders must provide clear information about the cost of taking out loans, whether it’s borrowing money on a credit card, or taking out a home or auto loan. Moreover, it’s against the law for lenders to discriminate based on skin color, along with many other factors.
The good news is for many Black Americans, employment is improving at record levels. College graduation rates are reaching all-time highs. Black community purchasing power is projected to be at $1.8 trillion by 2024. These are all positive signs, but this is not the end of the story. Challenges remain, such as rising home costs and rising interest rates.
Juneteenth reminds us of a stark time in our nation’s history while paying tribute to the strength and determination of a generation denied the promise of freedom. Let’s honor their true liberation by ensuring financial independence. Let’s expect our trusted institutions, public and private, to participate in the uplifting of all communities. We can start by having sobering conversations about our shared responsibility to educate one another.
I hope you all have a wonderful Juneteenth holiday.
Tiffany Coleman is contact service representative at SAFE Credit Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.