Debt Rhetoric and White Privilege


I don’t like financial “guru” Dave Ramsey. Don’t get me wrong—it’s nothing personal. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He seems like an intelligent, responsible guy. If we were to meet in person, I’m sure we’d get along just fine. Heck, we might even have a few things in common.

Here’s my problem with Dave Ramsey: I feel like most of the financial advice he doles out comes from an unacknowledged position of white privilege. Ramsey promotes one-size-fits-all solutions to financial problems without ever addressing economic issues like structural inequality or classism. He completely sidesteps discussions of race and gender, despite the increasing amount of evidence that demonstrates a very real connection between a person’s social location and the amount of debt they have. He seems to operate off the (admittedly common) assumption that poor people are poor because they’re lazy or irresponsible.

Ramsey argues in “The Truth About Debt Consolidation” that the solution to debt is basically two-fold. You need to “get an extra job and start paying off debt” and learn to “live on less than you make.”

These suggestions make a lot of sense—if you happen to be an able-bodied, middle-class, white male. What about people who exist in a different social location? How is a single mother of three supposed to work a second job and take care of her family? How are you supposed to live on less than you make when you’re paying for life-saving medical treatments that your insurance company won’t cover?

Dave Ramsey, like many people, subscribes to the violent cultural narrative that sustains free-market capitalism (and the economic inequality it perpetuates). According to this cultural narrative, capitalism is an inherently fair system—if you’re smart and you work hard, you will inevitably climb the economic latter.

There are a few problems with this characterization of capitalism:

* Many of the people at the top of the economic ladder are not intelligent or hard-working. Some of them were born into wealthy families. Other got where they are by exploiting less-powerful people for profit.

* The assumption that smart, hard-working people inevitably rise to the top frames people who don’t (or can’t) climb the economic ladder as unintelligent or inherently lazy.

According to FeedingAmerica.org, African Americans are approximately twice as likely to unemployed (13.8%) as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. How does the aforementioned “survival of the fittest” characterization of capitalism explain such glaring economic inconsistencies?

Either A) African Americans are disproportionately lazy and/or unintelligent or B) there are structural barriers that exist to keep some groups in power while simultaneously locking others in cycles of poverty.

I’m sorry, Ramsey, but it’s racist to talk about debt and poverty like they’re things that happen as a result of being foolish or irresponsible. When you write about how easy it is for people to get out of debt (without addressing the structural inequalities that create poverty) you’re engaging in a form of victim-blaming that obscures the role white privilege plays in determining who exists in what income bracket. It might not be intentional, but that doesn’t make it okay.

Gale Newell writes about the many aspects of debt, classism and structural inequality. She believes that consumers should be as informed as possible when it comes to issues like debt consolidation, and often writes reviews of debt relief companies for TopConsumerReviews.com. In her free time, she likes to go to sci-fi conventions and listen to Eddie Money. 


November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability