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To Have Honest Conversations about Diversity: Learn some History and Get Comfortable with Discomfort

As the career changer, who was formerly a math and special education teacher, studied for her CFP® certification exam, she oftentimes had to pause and reflect, thinking to herself, “Oh, that’s how they did it.” Referring to the populations who had built wealth.

Luong, CFP®, the founder and financial planner at Just Wealth, LLC and a 2014 Financial Planning Association Diversity Scholarship winner, was recently interviewed on the 2050 TrailBlazers podcast by fellow 2014 FPA Diversity Scholarship winner Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®.

“My biggest a-ha moment was reading about the tax exemption that homeowners get on the appreciation of your home,” Luong said, referring to the tax laws that were in effect when she was studying for her exam.

She never knew about this because her family had always rented homes in New York City. Another a-ha moment came when she learned about homeownership exclusion, where in the 1940s and 1950s American families were able to build wealth through homeownership. This perpetuated the already wide racial wealth gap because only 1 to 2 percent of all mortgages taken out during that time were done so by people of color.

“It came as a shock to me a few years ago when I learned about this,” Luong told Dorsainvil. “I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know about this until I had already graduated from college.”

Learning about these things and reflecting on her experience as a math and special education teacher to students of color, Luong realized that communities of color face certain challenges when it comes to education and building wealth.

“It lit so much fire in me,” Luong told Dorsainvil. “I just saw it on paper how concrete, how systematic and how structural the issues really are.”

Knowing certain aspects of history regarding communities of color is imperative to serving and working with them.

“I think once financial planners—once all of us know and agree on the history—we can be really powerful in changing the system,” Luong said.

Luong addressed several historical issues that played a part in hindering wealth-building in minority communities. The first of which was redlining, which refers to the practice of color coding neighborhoods to indicate their desirability for purchasing homes, from green (the best) to red (hazardous). The redline areas were considered credit risks and were oftentimes minority neighborhoods.

“These are facts,” Dorsainvil said in the episode. “This is not an opinion.”

© 2018. Rianka R. Dorsainvil.