Perhaps one of the biggest unintended consequences of the Fani Willis trial in Georgia is the cultural case it made for something I say all the time: 

Money is not monolithic! 

Quick backstory: My book, “Financial Intimacy: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Your Money and Your Mate,” came out in 2009. When I wrote it, I set out to explore the intersection of romantic love and money. I was particularly interested in how the dynamics of this intersection have changed given the political, economic, social, cultural, and familial changes from the 1960s thru the mid-2000s.

The same social critics lens I tapped into to write my book, the one that recognizes the multifaceted dimensions of money, is how I watched some of Ms. Willis’ and her father, Mr. Lloyd’s, testimonies. Especially with regard to keeping cash in the house, always having money on you, and the direct and indirect messaging of not relying on a man for your financial security. 

And two things angered me: (1) The way in which the opposing counsel questioned her and her father (also a lawyer) about their handling of cash, and (2) The way some people lost their minds on Twitter/X about the practices that were described.

I got angry because of the questions that were asked without being said, which were also the sentiment behind many of the social media posts, like: how can YOU have so much money; why would you ever keep that amount of money in a cash box (instead of depositing it in a bank); why would you need to have “just in case” cash on you during a date?

I listened to Ms. Willis as she recounted what her Daddy told her. I listened as Mr. Lloyd shared his experience with financial discrimination and how that shaped what he told and taught his daughter. 

And, I recalled the many conversations my mother had with me about money.  

My mother opened a savings account for me when I was very young and made me deposit 50% of any money I got as gifts, from babysitting, and even from my after-school job when I started working at the mall as a teenager. 

She taught me how to write checks when I was about eleven or so and would let me sometimes “pay the bills.” 

She always said, if I got married, I should have my own money (she even went as far to suggest I have a secret account). 

She said I should always go on a date with money in my pocket so that I could pay for my own dinner or way home, if necessary. (Today’s version is never leaving my house without my ATM and credit cards.) 

And when she died, I found cash in all sorts of places in her house. 

So, I listened to those portions of the trial nodding with what I can only describe as a cultural understanding.  

This is one of many reasons why I stand proudly on my soapbox about money not being monolithic. 

It’s why I wholeheartedly believe it is so darn important to factor in nuance when talking about money, in general. And, more specifically, when talking about people’s financial prowess and what they do or don’t do with their money. Along with what influences their why.

Yes, I know women of other ethnic groups got similar messages about money as Ms. Willis and me. 

But, when it comes to Black people, whatever we do or don’t is deeply personal and profoundly influenced by a complex interplay of historical, social, economic, and systemic factors, as well as cultural and familial values, and contemporary realities. This happens to be true regardless of the variances in our socio-economic, educational, and professional backgrounds. 

And, from what I saw at the hearings and the posts I read on Twitter/X, there are a whole bunch of people who either don’t know about this complex web that affects the experiences of Black people, when it comes to money. Or worse, they don’t want to acknowledge it.  

That’s unfortunate.

Because even if your upbringing regarding money was vastly different from Ms. Willis’ or mine, your family told and taught you some things about money, too. You also got messages via your cultural background. Either explicitly or implicitly. 

The Power of Culture

No, the intersection of culture and money doesn’t just have a profound impact on Black people. Obviously! 

Just like money isn’t monolithic, neither is culture. 

We can even go so far as to say this is true within cultures, as well. 

Yet, there is no escaping the power of culture and how it, like money, is something that is dynamic, multifaceted, and shapes every aspect of human life.

It impacts everyone and every cultural group. Just differently. 

Your family and cultural background often play a huge role in why you trust who you trust – from people to institutions. 

It shapes the judgments you make regarding other people’s choices, attitudes, knowledge, and expectations. And they, you.

It’s why, in large measure, you make the choices you make.

Culture is the lens through which you perceive the world, interact with others, and make meaning of your individual experiences.

Culture is why I could relate all too well to what was shared by Ms. Willis regarding what her father told and taught her about money. 

And, it is also why so many others could not.

This is precisely why I say culture is another reason why money is personal.

Culture provides a sense of identity and belonging, shaping our understanding of who we are, where we come from, and how we relate to others. It plays a significant role in shaping our self-concept and social connections.

It often provides the framework through which we process information, problem-solve, and make decisions and choices.

Culture reflects the bias and stereotypes that shape how we perceive individuals or groups from different cultural backgrounds. 

It shapes our values, priorities, and goals in terms of what we deem important, desirable, or meaningful. 

A Cultural Case, Indeed

Yes, I was offended by the line of questioning when it came to how a family handled/handles cash. But by gosh, the testimonies of Ms. Willis and Mr. Lloyd were the perfect examples of what it looks like when culture and money intersect. 

Sometimes, I am self-conscious about repeatedly saying that you and I have a relationship with money or that money is never just about the numbers or that money isn’t monolithic.

However, as you can probably tell, I am even more energized to continue saying what I say, doing what I do, and doing it the way I do it.  

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