(Todd A. Smith)

People can change their mind, right?

A wise person once said that when one knows better, they do better.

Well, when it comes to canceling student debt, as President Joe Biden is considering, I now believe it should happen ASAP because of the years of unfairness in the banking industry and the impact that cancellation will have on closing the wealth gap between White Americans and people of color.

Speaking on the suspension of interest on student loan debt, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “Not a single person in this country has paid a dime on federal student loans since the president took office.”

Psaki added that President Biden “would make a decision about cancellation of student debt before the conclusion of that pause on student loans.”

Those who oppose the cancellation of debt will make the argument that if a person takes out a loan, it is their responsibility to pay for it.

I know that argument well because initially that was my argument.

My parents had loans when they attended college and had to pay it back.

Then, they worked hard to build wealth so that my sister and I did not have to face the same adversities that they had to face as it pertains to earning a college degree and creating a comfortable lifestyle for ourselves as adults.

Because of my parents’ hard work and planning, my sister and I completed undergraduate and graduate school without taking out any loans.

Many people in my position might believe that since my parents did not have their loans canceled, why should this generation receive that benefit?

In essence, if you owe someone money, it is your responsibility to pay it, right?

Well, in most cases yes.

But in America, the answer is no because of how unfair banking has been to African-Americans and how White Americans have benefitted financially for decades because of their skin color.

When African-Americans apply for loans from banks to start businesses or buy property, they often get saddled with higher interest rates than their White counterparts, even if they have similar credit scores and similar salaries.

Sometimes, African-Americans get higher interest rates even if they earn more money that their White counterparts.

Research analyst Raheem Hanifa of Joint Center For Housing Studies of Harvard University reported, “Black homeowners with incomes between $75,000-$100,000 had higher interest rates than White homeowners with $30,000 or less in household income.”

That discrimination makes it more difficult for African-Americans to build wealth from their entrepreneurial efforts or even from real estate properties.

The wealth that African-Americans get cheated out of could be used to expand businesses, hire employees, send their own children to college or even private grade schools.

That, obviously, makes it harder for each generation of African-American families to do better than those that came before them.

As a result, even when African-Americans try to improve their circumstances via higher education, many of those African-Americans get saddled with debt that prevents them from building wealth in their adult years, which in turn makes it just as difficult when they are raising their own families, while also trying to provide a better upbringing for their children than their parents were allowed to provide from them.

It becomes a never-ending cycle and as a result, African-American families are no better off today, wealth wise, than they were in the late 1960s at the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement when my parents graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.

I already hear the critics from other communities complaining that African-Americans just want handouts.

But what is wrong with African-Americans receiving “handouts” if White Americans have received “handouts” for generations?

Those “handouts” allowed people like Fred Trump, Sr. to build a multimillion-dollar real estate company that his family still benefits from today.

According to Mary L. Trump’s book Too Much and Never Enough, her grandfather received million-dollar subsidies from the government to build affordable housing for soldiers returning home from World War II.

Not loans.

Subsidies or grants.

Free money in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

Because of those handouts, former President Donald Trump can boast of being in the billionaire boys club.

Am I saying that Trump did not work hard to take his family’s real estate business to the next level?


But what I am saying is if a person is born on third base, people should never treat them as if they hit a triple in game seven in the World Series.

The richest man in the world, Elon Musk, has benefitted from tax breaks that have helped him build his empire, which includes Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter.

On an episode of the “The Donnie Houston Podcast,” Houston community activist Quannell X spoke about how working for a local politician hipped him to the game that White politicians had played for years.

Because of affirmative action, some local government contracts had to go to minority-owned businesses.

Seeing the loophole in affirmative action, many White male politicians set up businesses in their wives or girlfriends’ names, even if those women had no experience in those fields like construction for instance.

But being a woman qualified them as minority, and many multimillion-dollar contracts were just handed to White male politicians.

So, when many people talk about handouts, notice how those arguments get more heated when so-called handouts go to help people of color.

But when it helps the majority, many of those same people remain silent as if they support certain handouts, while opposing others.

For those that believe that African-American should pull themselves up from their bootstraps, I would say that the bootstraps of affluent and successful African-Americans from Tulsa, Okla. to Rosewood, Fla. got stolen and destroyed decades ago.

I would also say that when African-Americans tried to pull themselves up from their bootstraps in the 100 years after the emancipation of slavery, they often found themselves re-enslaved by Southerners who hated that the North had ended their way of life.

Furthermore, I would say when slavery ended, former White slaveowners received reparations (better known as handouts) from the government because of the lost wealth they would incur because they now had to pay their workers.

African-Americans did not receive reparations for building this country for free.

White slaveowners who built their wealth without having to pay slaves, received handouts to help them navigate the difficulties of entrepreneurship, which does require business owners to pay their employees.

So, for all those aforementioned reasons, my opinion on canceling student loan debt has changed.

It should change your opinion also.

Todd A. Smith
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