November 4, 2020

Black Women's Financial Trauma

Wealth inequality is both significant and unique for Black women. Although financial literacy education could help bridge that gap, current curricula instead ignore and even perpetuate the financial harms affecting Black women, and are often limited to providing standardized information and tools. Financial literacy education must address the specific financial trauma, shaming, and abuse that Black women and girls experience and provide resources for them to heal. Specifically, to close the ever-widening wealth gap, financial literacy education must support Black women and girls in redefining their understanding of, and emotional connection to, money and their inherent worth.

To that end, we must recognize these key concepts:

Financial Trauma is the response to the cumulative harming of a person’s wealth-building capability and relationship with money. This form of trauma is rooted in our financial system, which has historically dehumanized and shamed Black women based on their race, gender, and socioeconomic status, as well as their net worth.

Financial Abuse is an event, action, or policy that inequitably reinforces the conditions that impair a person's financial capability. Black women experience financial abuse when actions or policies conflate their inherent value with their monetary net worth and disregard present and past experiences of financial oppression and harm.

Financial Shaming is the cultural message that Black women are to blame if they are socioeconomically harmed; and that regardless, no amount of wealth will translate into Black women and girls’ sense of belonging.


Financial shaming: Ronald Reagan’s fictional anecdote about Cadillac-driving ‘welfare queens’ pervades and pollutes our political culture. "Everyone knew he was talking about African American Women"(Edelman, 2012); It is often implied that Black women willingly choose to give away resources to everyone except themselves: "When children observe financial martyrdom in the money behaviors of [Black] women in their lives, they emulate these practices as adults." (Stevens, 2019)

Financial abuse: Redlining and the legacy of banks’ historical “risk” assessments have resulted in Black women having nearly half as much equity in their homes as white women. Yet home equity constitutes the largest proportion of wealth for middle-class families (Richard, 2014) ; Black women have only received 0.0006% of all venture capital funding in the past decade. (Girlboss Inc., 2020).

In its current form, financial literacy education fails to address the structural harms embedded in our financial system that affect Black women..

Looking toward solutions

To start to close the wealth gap for Black women, we must raise awareness about financial trauma, shaming, and abuse, and study their harmful effects. While Black women are not alone in facing these forms of adversity, their race and gender render their experience unique. The absence of an intersectional** analysis of the harms of financial trauma, shaming, and abuse and how they can be integrated into financial literacy education is a gap in the literature and practice that needs to be filled.