There’s a stereotype regarding Black billionaires and Black and wealthy individuals where many believe fortunes mostly come from being musicians, actors or athletes. This sends a message that we cannot obtain wealth outside of these industries, but that’s far from the truth.
In fact, there are many Black millionaires in the United States that have found success outside of music, sports and entertainment. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the amount of Black billionaires that are too scarce compared to white billionaires who dominate in industries like the tech space.
According to Forbes’ 2021 World’s Billionaires List, there are 724 billionaires in America yet only seven of them are Black. That’s just enough to seat at one dining room table since Black billionaires only make up less than one percent of the nation’s billionaire population. This low number comes as no surprise, but it’s an alarming figure that highlights the widening racial wealth gap in this country. Yet again pointing out the vast economic differences amongst Black and white Americans.
While the U.S. faced its own racial reckoning last summer that forced us all to recognize inequality in this country, there’s still much to be done to diversify our pool of remarkably wealthy individuals. So, that begs the question, what does it really take to become a Black billionaire in America today?
The racial wealth part is an essential part of the conversation
Wealth creation in the United States is all a part of the charm behind the American Dream. Though we lead the world in having the most billionaires, the Black population of that group doesn’t even surpass single digits and it’s largely due to wealth inequality being extremely high. At even the highest level of affluence, Black super-wealth can be crippled as the wealth gap has affected every Black American on all income levels.
A report from Brookings shared that in 2019, the median white household held roughly $188,200 in wealth compared to the staggering $24,100 that the average Black household held. Some may say it seems shallow to complain about a lack of Black billionaires in America. But when we speak about building mass generational wealth, that goal is nearly impossible to accomplish if the huge wealth gap in this country still exists.
The playing field must be even to give us a fair chance
Contrary to popular belief, most billionaires are not born into wealth, they’re actually self-made. According to the 2019 Billionaire Census published by market research firm Wealth-X, CNBC reported that 55.8 percent of the world’s billionaires worked hard for their wealth (though this number has likely changed). If you take a look at America’s Black billionaires, all of them came from a life of poverty or living in middle-class households before becoming wealthy. So the “rags to riches” narrative is a common thread that they all share, which speaks volumes to how far we start from the goal post even from birth.
From a very early age, many Black youth — especially young Black boys — in impoverished neighborhoods are taught that they can only achieve real wealth either one of two ways — become a music artist or professional athlete. But some of today’s success stories are working to dispel that myth one industry at a time. From tech to finance to real estate and more, today’s Black millionaires are still working hard to become today’s Black billionaires through ways that don’t involve going to a professional sports league or Hollywood.
Generational curses must be broken to change our fate
The generational curse on Black communities across the U.S. has conditioned us to believe that wealth isn’t attainable to the majority of the population. But as we can see from looking at people like Oprah Winfrey, Robert F. Smith and more, their own fortune has put them in a position to open doors for others so they can join them at the top.
Overcoming obstacles like debt, lack of resources, education and being the first generation to change family history is what is necessary to reach financial success. Wealth isn’t just about how one makes money, it’s also about the choices they make with their money. Savings versus spending goes a long way in developing a strong money mindset and gaining control over our finances can make all the difference in changing our future.
Financial freedom can be a revolutionary concept in the Black community if we spread our knowledge and share our resources with one another. Though the U.S. only has seven Black billionaires in existence today, our hope is to see that number continue to climb until it surpasses the hundreds.