By Anthony Guzman
July 31, 2020
It just doesn’t quite feel like summer this year. Maybe your plans got cancelled or, like me, you have kids running around the house while you’re trying to conduct a videoconference. We are all facing challenging times. Nevertheless, it is worth noting how this pandemic affects each of us differently. Those who find themselves in a life transition probably feel a heightened sense of anxiety. I particularly think of recent graduates, essential workers, and those most affected by this virus who don’t have the luxury of working from the safety of their home.
My name is Anthony Guzman, and I serve as a paraplanner and Client Service Associate for Lucien, Stirling & Gray. To share a little bit of my story, I grew up right outside of Austin, became the first of my family to graduate from college, and served as a bilingual elementary teacher in an underserved community in the Dallas area. My wife and I moved back to the Austin area after our first child was born to be close to family.
Throughout my journey, I have witnessed how systems of inequality shape people’s trajectories. Through the education I received, I have been fortunate to break out of the cycle of poverty by simply learning the rules: how to pass an exam, how to craft a resume, and how to pursue the right opportunities. While I faced obstacles along the way, my experience is no comparison to the injustices many other Americans continue to face today.
Racial inequity manifests itself early in our upbringing. The color of my skin influenced who I became friends with, whether I took rigorous or remedial coursework, and whether I was expected to attend college. One day, during the first semester of high school, I was escorted out of my classroom, searched, and interrogated. I was accused of handling drugs at school based on evidence that they were unwilling to disclose to me. After my mother arrived and my possessions tested negative, the alternative school referral was dropped. How might my life have changed if my mom didn’t storm into the school demanding that I be released? And if I had a lighter or darker complexion than I do, how might that have affected how I was treated that day?
The following year, I met educators and mentors who intentionally redirected me from the direction that many of my Brown and Black peers were led to. I am very grateful for their attention, but I can’t help but wonder: why was I sought out instead of other students who were just as capable of actualizing their own potential?
The pursuit for equity fuels my passion for personal finance. This passion is forged from my belief that a person’s level of financial literacy impacts not only that individual, but the lives of others for generations to come. Given the events of this year and the racial tension that remains widespread in our country, I’d like to speak on the concept of the “Wealth Gap” and systemic oppression, and invite you to think about how you could be called to serve as an agent of change.
According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of a White American household is almost ten times the median net worth of an African American household. This statistic highlights the multi-generational effects of a society that was originally built on slavery, racism, and systemic oppression.
This disparity is unsettling, and confronting these truths is uncomfortable. However, discomfort can be a great catalyst for personal awareness and growth that can be channeled into action. If you wonder what you can do to make a positive difference, I propose the following tactics:
Awareness: As a millennial cohort, my generation does a great job of employing technology and social media to spread awareness about an issue. While one can be inundated with news content, I invite you to acquire knowledge about racial injustice and the impacts of the wealth gap in our country. Seek out the stories of people of color. Maybe you can reach out to someone you know and ask them to share their experience. The first step in this work is to simply listen.
Engage in Conversation: Give us a call! We want to hear your story. We value you. Silence perpetuates the status quo. If we wish to grow, we must be unafraid to share our thoughts. Does your workplace review its diversity and inclusion efforts? Have your family members discussed how to cope with the recent events of racial injustice? If not, chances are those around you would like a safe place to talk about it, they may just be looking to you to address it.
Act as an Ally: Allyship is the conscious effort to recognize our own privilege and to work with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice (OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc). There are many resources available that provide information about engaging in Allyship. If your job, church, or community lacks diversity, what are tangible ways you can counter that? Is there an organization you have in mind that you could contribute your time, resources, and attention to? Take note of the authenticity behind each action. Effective change will require discernment and sacrifice, but it’s our duty as humans to help when you see others suffer.
The more of us that practice constant examination of our values, actions, and biases, along with a heaping helping of education and conversation, the greater the change that can take place in our hearts and communities as our empathy increases.
If you would like to have a conversation on this matter or any of the subject areas mentioned, feel free to reach out to us. We would love to hear your story, your struggles, and perspective, as well as how Lucien, Stirling, & Gray can better serve your needs. We are lifelong learners, and we should learn from the past, persevere in the present, and advocate for a brighter and more equitable tomorrow.
To learn more, I have included three links to related articles you may find of interest:
- How the financial planning profession is responding to racial injustice
- Working Definitions of Systemic Oppression
- Anti-Racism Resource Hub
Paraplanner & Client Service Associate