The Logic of Stupid Poor People

As moms we want to teach our children money management skills, but we are also black moms, so we have to raise our children to make white people comfortable with the color of their skin. We teach them to dress in a way that signals to white people that they are “safe” from our children’s blackness. Our black children must wear clothes that conform with upper-class white values because this says “I’m just like you” to whites who may be offering them a job or who be another George Zimmerman. In other words, we try to de-center racial stereotypes by being natty dressers.

Looking “safe” comes at a price, however, and that is why this article resonated with me. I still don’t have the answer as a grown woman so I struggle with how I will teach my son how to navigate the line between frugality and upward mobility.
This piece explores this tension in such an elegant way. No wonder it is the most popular article on Talking Points Memo for all of 2013!


We hates us some poor people. First, they insist on being poor when it is so easy to not be poor. They do things like buy expensive designer belts and $2500 luxury handbags.

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 12.11.13 PMTo be fair, this isn’t about Eroll Louis. His is a belief held by many people, including lots of black people, poor people, formerly poor people, etc. It is, I suspect, an honest expression of incredulity. If you are poor, why do you spend money on useless status symbols like handbags and belts and clothes and shoes and televisions and cars?

One thing I’ve learned is that one person’s illogical belief is another person’s survival skill. And nothing is more logical than trying to survive.

My family is a classic black American migration family. We have rural Southern roots, moved north and almost all have returned. I grew up watching my great-grandmother, and later my…

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