The Complex Legacy of Black Pain
Being rich isn’t the same as being wealthy.
Rich can happen overnight. It’s a lottery win or a well-timed investment or a flash of inspiration away. Rich is a function of luck and timing that never quite feels as if it’s permanent.
Wealth, on the other hand, runs deep. It’s a combination of opportunity and stability and the compounding effects of time. It carries weight and heritage and roots that reach down to the core of who we are. Wealth feels so natural that it’s hard to imagine that there’s any other way to live.
But while we often think of it that way, wealth, our inheritance, isn’t just about money.
I mean, sure, an inheritance can be property or land or a family heirloom, but it’s also knowledge and ritual and the example our parents set for us. It’s stories and traditions and jealously guarded family recipes. It’s a sense of belonging or community or a lack thereof.
More than anything, the manner of our inheritance make us who we are. A single experience can shape the way we see our place in the world. Our family history can transform our beliefs about our worth. A comfortable home can spoil us or teach us the importance of gratitude.
It’s not about what we inherit. It’s about how it was passed on.
Wealth is a thorny subject for many black people. After all, as I said, wealth requires stability and opportunity and the compounding effects of time. And black people have long been denied all three.
Our ancestors tried to build wealth after the Civil War, but the land that would have enabled them to do so was snatched away from them. They tried to build wealth in Wilmington and Tulsa and saw their efforts burned to the ground. They tried to build equity in Chicago only to be denied the right to own their homes.
And so, for many black people, the story of these struggles was all they had to pass on.
Some passed on their pessimism. They taught their children that the world would always be out to get them. Not because they wanted it to be true, but because they couldn’t bear to hope that it wasn’t.