Our Readers Sound Off

Our BE.com message boards provide a forum for straight talk from real people

board comment: We need to look within. The black dollar only circulates in our community one time compared to other races which circulate it more than seven times. We have all these races in our community selling us stuff, but not reinvesting in our community, which is causing our downfall. When I ride through Baltimore, I see all of these black people. But when I look around at who is selling them products, it’s usually a foreigner.

Angela Rowan’s idea of the American dream is having access to wealth, and that begins with owning a home. “I think buying property is one of the first lessons you should teach yourself and your family, and education is the second,” she says. Rowan says that there’s no job that will compensate you the way buying property will. With the equity in a home, you can send your children to college or buy another home.

“We, as African Americans, are not taught to succeed financially. We’re taught to go to school and find a job, but not to save and invest,” insists Rowan, the owner of American Family Insurance in Dolton, Illinois.

As an agent arranging mortgages and real estate loans, Rowan has a bird’s-eye view of how people chase the American dream. She says that many of her non-African American minority clients have three or four properties, and they are coming back for more. Rowan is frustrated to see that many African Americans are still buying houses on a 30-year loan while our white counterparts are getting 15-year mortgages. She also points out that many African Americans stay in their homes for 20 or 30 years, or even a lifetime, while our white counterparts are buying and selling four or five houses and making money from their investments.

“We don’t know and haven’t been taught how to protect our assets. African Americans don’t understand where their assets go, and that’s why we are targets for predatory lending. We don’t understand insurance and taxes,” states Rowan. “I ask [my clients] ‘Do you have an escrow account?’ And they ask, ‘What’s an escrow account?’ We need better education about these issues. We need to bring it back to the basics.”

While not every community has the same depth of financial education programs, everyone does have access to information about buying a home, explains Margaret C. Simms, vice president of governance and economic analysis for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a member of the BE Board of Economists. “It may be true that everyone can’t access the free Chase or Citibank seminar, but basic principals of financial literacy can be conveyed in other places, like churches.”

Angela Rowan, 35, Business owner and insurance agent, Dolton, IL, Message board comment: Charity begins at home and then it spreads! Sharing our resources, values, and knowledge will help us as a people. I don’t know of any other race of people more intelligent, talented, and creative than African Americans. Slavery was abolished in 1865; it’s old news and time

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