Afterthoughts: Almighty Debt Screening

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender” -Proverbs 22:7

Its the crack of dawn, but I just wanted to drop a quick post about the screening of “Almighty Debt” that I attended last night at Convent Avenue Baptist Church. As some of you know, this is a new CNN special airing on October 21st, and it revolves around the issue of financial struggles of Black America. Soledad O’Brien of CNN, Pastor Jesse Williams of CABC, Floyd Flake, A.R. Bernard, and DeForest B. Soaries Jr. made up the discussion panel.

An hour of the film was shown to a packed house, and the panel took some questions afterwards. The overall theme of the discussion was the panel speaking against the culture of debt, and against unnecessary consumerism in the Black community. Also emphasized was the need for more of us to live within our means, and do what is necessary to pass on wealth/resources to the next generation.  It was state that Black America needs to develop an economic strategy to accompany the political and social justice strategy that we all know is already present in the Black community. All of these things in my opinion, were definitely points of agreement, and went over well with the audience.

I will reserve particular comments about the film, since I attended a screening and it hasn’t come out yet. (I don’t want to be accused of spoiling it you know) But, I do want to end by asking a question about the statement made by Pastor DeForest B. Soaries Jr. In his opinion, “Debt is worse than racism” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I’d like to hear your comments.

-Marc W. Polite


  1. Now I want to see this CNN special for myself. I find that debt and racism are equally destructive to people of color. Racism in this day and age is just as prevelent as it was, it is just no where near as overt and there is no escaping it. I find there is no escaping debt unless you have piles of cash just laying around. If you desire a car, house, even good medical care, you need to have good credit. Not bad credit or no credit but good credit. You are practically required to put yourself in debt to maintain a comfortable living. Even employers are checking the credit and credit score of an applicant therefore not having credit or having bad credit can keep one form employment. There is no escaping having credit in my opinion. Thank you Marc.

  2. Thank you for your comments June. I appreciate them. And you are absolutely right. This society revolves around debt and encourages everybody to take on a certain amount of it, be it for school, a home, or medical needs. It’s an American issue, not something particularly “Black” in my opinion.

    I don’t want to give too much away, but I feel like the profiles of this special didn’t address much in the way of actionable solutions for financial responsibility in the Black community. The panel did, but not what I saw of the special itself. If anyone who was at the event in Harlem last night feels otherwise, feel free to comment. It felt like “Look at those irresponsible Black buying/spending habits” But then again to be fair, I haven’t seen the other half-hour of the show. It may have ended on a better note.

  3. Thank for this post (and all of the many great posts on your blog.) I will definitely be tuning in to the CNN special. While I agree that we will all be the better and wiser when we eliminate the culture of debt, racism is far worse than debt and plays a role in how and why the debt culture disproportionately impacts people of color. So… let’s address the debt culture, but not miss the mark by not addressing and ending racism, too.
    Shawna Marie
    Healing Truth Center

  4. Thank you for your remarks, and keeping up with the posts on my blog. I am fortunate to have you as a regular reader. I think racism is far more pervasive, and there is a danger in trying to downplay its role in the everyday lives of Black America. It doesn’t have to be either or, we can address both indebted servitude and structural racism.

  5. Ok! I might be naïve to say but we’ve lived thru racism and currently are living with racism,so yes this is a big issue but nothing that be overcome.

    Debt is slavery! Period. When you work,live outside your means,don’t make enough,etc,etc..because of this system you will still owe,or have an obligation that will follow you to the grave…unless we begin to be producers instead of 100% consumers,unless we take control of finances,savings,etc…we will be a slave…forever.

    I know this is real general but DEBT is much worse that RACISM!!

  6. I’d just like to give a small businessman’s perspective on this video/forum.

    Frankly, I really don’t care for the moralistic scolding tone from Pastor Sories in the video clip.

    The cold hard reality is, debt is a reality of modern life.

    For all but the superrich, big ticket purchases (homes, cars, college education, major elective medical procedures, home improvement work, appliances, wedding services, funerals, vacations) would be impossible without various types of credit.

    For many poor, working class and lower middle class people, even many smaller purchases (clothing, tickets to plays or sporting events, furniture ect) would also be impossible.

    Basically, if you can’t pay for it out of this week’s paycheck or your savings account, you’re going to have to either apply for some type of loan product or use a revolving credit account (the financial device commonly known as a “credit card”).

    And that’s true for EVERYBODY regardless of race.

    America’s economy depends on consumer debt – from home improvement contractors like me to real estate agents, retail stores, car dealerships and the consumer goods manufacturing sector, without loans and credit cards.

    So, lecturing people to “live within their means” is not only a nasty way to talk to people, if adopted it would hobble the economy more than it is now.

    And let’s not mention the fact that it’s kind of hypocritical for affluent folks like Pastor Sories who can afford to easily make big ticket purchases to yell at poor people and workers who simply want a few decent things in life and are willing to pay for them over time.

    Also, comparing debt to racism is just silly because people of all races get into debt.

    With that said, there do need to be debt reforms – serious enforcement of the state usury laws (honestly, how are these payday loan folks any different from Vinnie the loanshark on 116th St? How come he gets prosecuted but they don’t?), bankruptcy reform so it’s easier for folks in financial trouble to get out of unpayable debts and, above all, mortgage reform.

    I’d even go further and say we need a “jubilee” (an old Medieval European concept – periodically, the king would issue a pardon forgiving all the debts of the serfs and commoners) for certain types of debt – specifically, student loans and subprime mortgages.

    That would “reset the clock” and enable working class debtors to get their heads above water and get back into the credit game, which would also help to jumpstart the economy through increased consumer spending.

    Beyond that, however, debt is here to stay and it’s an indispensable part of the modern economy.

    Gregory A. Butler

  7. Debt is not slavery, slavery is slavery. The bank doesn’t come and sell your family off if you don’t pay a debt. Who is not a consumer in this society? And I think saying that debt is worse than racism trivializes racism and all the forms it takes.

  8. Since it seems my comments were blown out of proportion just a bit..I’m gonna leave this post alone. I’m sure there will be more intellectual,and accurate contributors to this piece who can make any necessary points. thanks for writing the piece Marc.


  9. @Greg- Thank you for this post. Debt is a fact of American life for everyone, not just Black people. To come down on poor folks, and opine that debt is worse than racism overlooks the fact that some are in debt exactly because of racist economic practices. All we need to do is look at subprime loans to see an example of that.

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