Episode 5: Reclaiming Our Financial Power
References and resources
- The full Good Times clip
- Testimony of Jeremie Greer Before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, Hearing on “A Biased, Broken System: Examining Proposals to Overhaul Credit Reporting to Achieve Equity”
- “Whose Money? Our Money,” Raci$m Is Profitable episode featuring Demond Drummer of PolicyLink
- Bank of Amazon: How Amazon Uses Credit to Exploit Buyers and Sellers of Color
- OpenSecrets (try searching the three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian)
Kendra Bozarth 0:07
You’re listening to Raci$m Is Profitable, a podcast by and for people of color, that aims to dismantle the assumptions that fuel the oppression economy. Your hosts are Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice, the co-founders and co-executive-directors of Liberation in a Generation Action. Let’s get it.
Solana Rice 0:23
This episode of Raci$m Is Profitable, we’re examining credit and the oppressive narratives that limit our economic power. America loves to promote ideals like “self determination” and “choice.” Yet people of color literally and figuratively can’t afford to risk much. And to participate in the economy in ways that will give us a chance to build generational wealth, many of us have to rely on an inherently racist credit system that sees and treats us as “risky.” The money myths that shape who deserves to be made whole help cement a dual financial system that prices us out of prosperity. ACRE’s Maurice BP-Weeks is here to say what needs to be said.
Hi, everyone, this is Raci$m Is Profitable. I love this clip from Good Times. What actually sparked it for me was the theme song. So I really love theme songs. I don’t understand why we don’t have more of them. And there’s like, it’s like “Temporary lay-offs. Good Times. Easy credit rip-off…” Right? Yeah. And that made me think like, oh, easy credit rip off? Yeah, there must be some episodes about credit with Good Times, and indeed, there is more, there are more than one. And, but I love this one because, you know, James is like, all right, I can go into business. Like, let me, let, I’m handy. I can do this. And I can, I can be on my own. Even though you see all the doubts that are going through his head, but he’s just gonna push through.
Jeremie Greer 3:05
Yeah, one big up to Good Times. Like, I know people grow up and say like, Bill Cosby was their, like TV dad? No no no no. James Evans was our TV dad. James Evans was the dad. And you’re right, like this scene where it gets into, like, the banker starts telling them about like, what it’s gonna take for them to get credit. And James responded like, well, you gon’ give me the money, and then I’m gonna pay you back. Like, this doesn’t seem complicated, right? Like, I’m a trustworthy guy, I work hard, I got a great family, I have all these things, you’re gonna loan me the $2,000 I need, and I’m gonna give it back. It’s as simple as that. And then what evolved over that scene was what so many people have experienced, which is that that trust isn’t extended to everybody. That there’s a reason why, they’re always a reason why they can’t give it to you. And when it comes down to it, it’s because you’re Black. Or you’re an immigrant, or you’re Latin American. It’s “something else,” but at the root, that’s what it is.
Solana Rice 4:12
Yeah, so credit is really just this proxy. It’s another way of saying, “Do I trust you?” And the whole relationship is based on trust. And we’ve got all these different ways to measure that trust or what’s your credit score? Did we do the background check? But it’s really like, you can extend trust to anybody you want to, really, or not. And that’s the bind that we’re in, is that like, as people of color as Black people, we are seen as “risky,” and therefore not trustworthy. But Jeremie, what was your first, like, experience with credit? What are some of your early understandings of credit?
Jeremie Greer 4:58
Yeah, I mean, you know, it was, you know, my mom and dad, they had a mortgage, they purchased their house. But what I remember really vividly was my dad had a lot of cars. Like he was always going through cars. And I remember always thinking like, why are we like, like, he buys a car, used car, break down, and he’d, like, fix it up the best he can and when he couldn’t fix it anymore, just bought another one. And what I came to learn was that like, he was just buying cars with like, the money in his bank. Like if he had the money at the time, he’d buy a car. We had a station wagon, he had a, like, pickup truck. He had a Ford Bronco, remember the old boxy Ford Broncos? Like he had the, like he just would buy them. And what I realized was like, he’s not taking out a loan. Like as I got older, I was like, oh, he never took out a loan for a car. He never took out a car loan or a car note. And, like, I realized, like, late in life, of course I didn’t realize it when I was a kid was like, oh, he was just like buying a car that he thought he could afford. And I remember the lessons around like, don’t borrow money, you can’t pay back. Unless you got a plan. Unless you know how you’re going to pay that money back. Don’t borrow it. ‘Cause you don’t want to owe them money. Right? And I remember thinking back like that was what he was doing.
Solana Rice 6:24
Yeah, I remember my, my dad to this day, pays off his credit card immediately, like, there’s no there’s no balance, zero balance, always zero balance, he writes down immediately what he has purchased, so that he can immediately like go and write the check, and like, send it to the credit card company. And it’s amazing, ’cause he’s like, not on the internet, right? So it’s not like a bill pay situation. He’s just like, “I’m writing down everything that I owe these people, and they are not going to get me to pay any, any fees.” I didn’t, so he, my dad opened up a credit card for me when I went to college. And I was like, “Okay!” And he was like, “Don’t use this. Absolutely do not use this unless you need it. Don’t use it. Don’t use it.” And it was, and I was a name on the credit card, but what he was telling me without like totally telling me was that he was building my credit at a very early age, because he was the one that was writing down all the things, and then using it, right? And so, and of course, like I almost spoiled that all when I got to campus and was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna open up four credit cards, because they’re giving away t-shirts! Like, I’ve got to get this t-shirt.” But fortunately, I narrowly avoided that. But yeah, it was an early lesson about “What is this credit score’s stuff? Oh, I’ve gotta like, am I gonna need it in the future? But I’ve got savings, like isn’t savings enough?” Like, no, it’s, it actually is not going to cover all the things that you want. And that’s essentially what credit is, right? We want things in the future, we may not have the money now. Turns out this is how wealthy people operate a lot, right? They don’t necessarily start out wealthy, they borrow. And they invest and then they get wealthier. It’s a little bit more complicated, but like not that much more complicated. And when you’re a person of color, when you’re a black person and seen as risky, you’re gonna pay more for that credit.
Jeremie Greer 8:45
Yeah, you know, at Liberation in a Generation, we often talk about this dual financial system, right, this system that there’s two types of credit that are provided. It’s the kind of credit you need to build assets that you mentioned, like and largely available to white people, it’s the, it’s your mortgage, it’s your, your line of credit, you hear about the line of credit, I didn’t know what that was until I became an adult. Like did you just get a “line of credit,” you know? And you know, the small business loan, those things that like you use to purchase something that accumulates in value, and it becomes an asset so that that that borrowing doesn’t really hurt you. And then there’s like, the stuff that’s available to like, Black and brown communities, which are your payday loans, your car title loans. I remember when I was in college, me and my friend got a TV from Rent-a-Center and like, put it in there, and then like, had to go through the indignity of them coming to get the TV because we didn’t pay the bill, right? Like, you know, like that’s the stuff that’s available to Black folks and that’s not building wealth, that’s stripping wealth, it’s taking money away. Like I said, we were paying them and they, when they decided they just came and got the TV and left, right? That’s the system that we’re operating and working in. And the one that is like really extracting the wealth of people of color in our, in our economy.
Solana Rice 10:11
And I hope that our guest touches on this, but it’s not just us as consumers that are deemed “risky.” It’s also that like, the neighborhoods we live in, the cities we live in, also have to borrow, in order to do the things that we need to do, in order to like, fix the sidewalks, fix the streets. It’s not just taxpayer dollars that pays for those things. It’s actually our communities going and saying to big banks, like, “Hey, can you extend this? Can you extend us a line of credit or fine in order for us to to make these improvements?” And guess what? These banks can often say, “Ooh, that’s, that’s a risky investment, you want to build affordable housing in a low-income neighborhood? Mm, you’re gonna have to pay a pretty penny to do that,” right? So it’s not just us as individual consumers, but it’s also the communities and the neighborhoods and the cities that we live in, that also face this risk assessment.
Jeremie Greer 11:13
Yeah. And that’s what, that’s what makes this this racism profitable, because it is this deficit of trust that is perceived to be attached to Black people, to brown people, to immigrant folks, to people that are marginalized in our economy, is this just this perceived deficit of trust that allows them, them being the wealthy institutions, the financial institutions, to charge us higher interest rates, to direct us to inferior but more expensive products. Whether it’s loans, but also insurance, Black people pay much higher rates of insurance, because of what they say, because of where we live. Right? It’s more “dangerous,” it’s more likely to experience theft and damage. So it’s this perception around whether folks of color can be trusted, that really drives this, the profits in this in these financial institutions. And I’m excited to talk to Mo about this because he and ACRE are right on the front lines of working on these issues, following that money to where it ends.
Solana Rice 12:27
Let’s get into it.
Jeremie Greer 12:30
Hey, y’all, we are here with Maurice BP-Weeks, he is in the house. He is the co-executive-director of ACRE, Action Center for Race and the Economy. He is mad funny on Twitter, so follow him. And he’s gonna talk to us about credit. Now I will do his disclaimer. He is a new dad, Charlie is also in the house. So you might hear Charlie and he’s gonna give, might give us his opinions about credit as well. So what’s up, Mo?
Solana Rice 13:06
How are you today, Mo?
Maurice BP-Weeks 13:08
Sorry, my mic was off for a sec. I’m doing great, I’m doing great. Charlie is here in the background. He’s in the middle of teething. He’s got some toy in his mouth right now, but I’m sure he’ll be screaming in a second.
Jeremie Greer 13:22
We’re gonna talk about stuff that might make us all scream today.
Solana Rice 13:26
Yeah, it’s really true. Today, we’re talking about credit. We’re talking about personal credit, community credit, investing in neighborhoods, all the things. I want to know, Mo, when did you first learn about credit? What were your, some of your early experiences with credit?
Maurice BP-Weeks 13:42
Hmm, that’s a really good question. Um, so my dad actually worked at a community bank when I was growing up. So this is like not like Bank of America, Wells Fargo. This is like tiny little bank in North New Jersey. And he would always talk about how Black churches had trouble going into big banks and getting loans to like, build out their church or fix things up in their church. Because these big banks wouldn’t give them any credit. So they needed small Black things to do that instead. And that’s how he would describe what he did. So that was my introduction to it, I sort of thought of it as this like, you know, noble thing that people were offering. It’s like, “Oh, you like, you’re doing this altruistic thing by offering credit to everyone.” Yeah, little did I know that my dad was very much an outlier in the credit market. Yeah.
Jeremie Greer 14:45
So you thought like “Oh, this is how all bankers are, they’re like my dad.”
Maurice BP-Weeks 14:48
Yeah, like this is really great. That’s, what a great thing, like they didn’t have the money and you gave them the money! This is incredible, like the people who will do that. That’s amazing, you know?
Jeremie Greer 15:01
So before you came on, we listened to this clip from Good Times, and now you’ve seen the clip or remember it. James is going into the bank to borrow a loan, like, borrow some money to start his business, right? And he was gonna start a business with JJ and the family and all that. And what was in his response was like, “Well, you’re gonna give me this money, right? You trust me, I’m a trustworthy dude. Like, I work hard, you’re gonna pay me, I’ll pay you back. That how it’s gonna work.” And then the banker was like, “No, that’s not really how it works.” So, I would love to hear from you like, how do you and the folks that ACRE think about like, what’s really behind this kind of assumption of trust, and how that relates to like, Black folks when we’re looking for credit in the credit market?
Maurice BP-Weeks 15:52
Sure, yeah. I mean, so the entire concept of credit trust is a racist concept built on denying non-white people loans. So, you know, before there were credit scores, this is how you would get a loan: you would go into a bank, people would say, like, “Oh, you make sure you dress up really nice, make sure you like, they see you pulling up in a nice car. Put your Sunday suit on, like slick your hair back so that they know that you have you know, talk about all the stuff that you have, etc. Because it was this, it was this relational thing it was built on, does this specific banker believe that you will pay them back? And these specific bankers were as racist, as systemically racist as the rest of society was at the time. So that meant that, you know, if you were a Black business, if you were a Black individual, and you needed a loan, you were, you had a really a huge uphill climb to convince the lender that you’re trustworthy. And when credit scores were actually became super prevalent, which people don’t realize that was a very, that’s very recent history, you know, credit scores haven’t existed forever. And when they became prevalent, they were pitched as this way of, one of the pitches was, “This is a way to take out some of the bias, in the system. We’ll just calculate a score. And you know, this score will be race-blind, and it’ll be gender-blind, this will just be the score that you get based on things that you have, you know, taken out in the past or financial situation, etc, etc.” As we have come to learn, of course, you know, when you when you create algorithms with racist data, you get racist outcomes no matter what.
Jeremie Greer 17:50
I thought I thought you were taking me down this happy place, Mo. Damn!
Maurice BP-Weeks 17:54
Unfortunately, every turn leads to somewhere a little bit darker when you’re talking about credit. So yeah, so so, you know, credit scores, you know, the, the average Black score, you know, sits probably 60 points, 70 points, 100 points lower than the average white score, you know, comparable for Latino folks comparable for Native American folks. And that’s because these same like, notions of what makes a trustworthy person to lend to exist through the algorithmic model. So when you preference things like homeownership or property ownership, or fully outright owning your car, you know, things things that historically have been denied, well documented, how racist they’ve been denied to Black people, then you come up with a system that sort of just, you know, screws, Black people over in the end, and then lots of other stuff adds to that, as well.
Solana Rice 18:52
So I’m curious about like, what is it? I mean, I know like, personally how it shows up, right? It means it’s harder for me or like my cousin to get car insurance or the all these like, different things that come up, but how in your work and the campaigns that you’ve been working on, how did, how does this lack of credit show up for not only individuals but like whole neighborhoods?
Maurice BP-Weeks 19:19
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so I mean, that that specific example that you noted is, is really important because it shows kind of this, this branch of the things that credit does to extract even, you know, the lack of credit and bad credit scores does to extract even more wealth from communities of color. So, um, you know, your I would say, you know, I feel like I’m a relatively smart guy, that your ability to pay back a loan should have basically no bearing on how good of a driver you are, right? Auto insurance is supposedly based on, you know, people think you get into an accident, oh, my insurance is gonna go up because now I’m proving that I’m, you know, a physical risk. Um, but instead we use, you know, people who’ve applied for a phone contract or some utilities or auto insurance know that when you have a low credit score, you have to pay more to get those basic needs. Everyone needs insurance to drive, it’s, it’s the law, everyone needs heat and electricity, everyone needs a phone to communicate, and you have to pay more. So multiply that over, literally a generation, you know, and you can see this, the amount of wealth that’s needless entirely needlessly, based on nothing, stripped from, from communities of color, that, you know, there’s enough stacked up against these communities already or communities already. It’s it’s kind of like insult to injury to also be extracting wealth through auto insurance through, you know, higher rates for utilities and phones. But that’s what our credit system is, is designed to do. So you know, that on top of the inability for there to be like new economic societies built in these communities, because it’s really difficult for black folks to get small business loans. You know, you just start to see how this particular piece of the economy really holds back, just millions and millions of people of color and Black people specifically.
Jeremie Greer 21:30
Yeah, you mentioned that, like, I want to get into the power structure here. Because you, you mentioned the credit score. And I wonder if you could go into, like, what is that? How is it created? And then, like, who is using that? Like, because my understanding of the system is like, our data produces it, but we’re not necessarily the ones who are like asking for it. Like, where’s this power? Like, how’s this power dynamic work for the system?
Maurice BP-Weeks 22:05
Yeah. And so it’s, it’s, it’s really interesting. And Jeremie, we’ve spoken about this before, you know, there’s, there’s, folks will remember years ago, and maybe you got an email years ago, that was like, you know, from this company, Experian, which had a huge data breach, saying, “Oh, sorry, that we lost your data. Like, if you want, you can pay us this amount of money, and we’ll make sure that it gets sewn up.” And I never gave authority to Experian to have my data, you know?
Jeremie Greer 22:38
Right, I’m sure most people were like, “Who the fuck is Experian and why are they reaching out? Who the hell are these people?”
Maurice BP-Weeks 22:43
Like “What? How did you have my data?” Yeah.
So there, these, you know, they’re, there’re these companies, these, these, you know, major credit companies, three major credit reporting bureaus that basically create these proprietary scores that are, are built off of things like, you know, your ability, how frequently you repay loans, that you’ve already taken out, the total amount of credit that you have, the types of credit that you have. And they take all of this data, and they put it into a proprietary calculation. So that means that, you know, if you check your scores from three agencies, you might get three different scores, and they don’t have to tell you how they calculated it.
Jeremie Greer 23:33
Right, that’s what proprietary means. Like, “I don’t have to tell you how I did this.”
Maurice BP-Weeks 23:37
Right. Right. They don’t have to tell you, they don’t have to tell the government, they don’t have to tell anyone. It is considered proprietary and this is an area of the economy where there’s, there’s, you know, there’s not as much regulation as, as there should be. So these companies can kind of go hog wild, you know, they can get away with leaking all of your data and then paying, having you pay to get it back. So, you know…
Jeremie Greer 24:04
Right, they sell you like, data protection, anti-hack, like cyber privacy stuff, too.
Maurice BP-Weeks 24:12
It’s unbelievable! It’s unbelievable. Like, why would I buy this from you? You lost all of my data. The way that this interaction started was you telling me you lost everything. Why would I buy a protection from you? You know, it sounds like a mob scheme, you know? It’s really, you know, it’s really sick. I think one one really interesting thing that’s, that’s happening with some of these, these companies and, and I should say, these companies, as you may imagine, extremely powerful lobbyists, you know, lobby alongside some of the other big economic financial players like big banks and hedge funds and private equity. So their power is intense in DC. And as technology advances, these companies also have been investing in ways to make their algorithms even more complicated. So now they’ll say, okay, like we recognize, they’ll even sometimes admit “We recognize there’s some poor racial outcomes with how we’ve been calculating credit scores, but not to worry, everyone, we have instituted machine learning, and even more complicated algorithms. And we promise this time it’s going to be, it’s going to be great, we’re going to have this perf, like, the computer is going to figure out, like, once and for all, how good you are at repaying your loans.”
Jeremie Greer 25:40
Well, I’ve seen a couple of Will Smith movies, and I don’t know whether we want robots, how much trust we’re going to put into robots, but yeah, yeah.
Maurice BP-Weeks 25:51
You know, it’s, it feels like we’re just kind of doing the same thing over again, because, of course, the data that they’re feeding into the machine learning system is the same data that we’ve used, which as we’ve been talking about, you know, it’s entirely racist. So so, we’re bound to come out with the same same exact thing. And like I said, there’s the both the lobbying is so intense, and once you start, I don’t know if you’ve watched any congressional hearing where they mentioned algorithms or technology recently, but our elected officials are not the most technologically apt. So once you mention “algorithm,” people like “Oh, well, that’s magic. That’s magic.”
Solana Rice 26:39
Yeah. And he invented the internet, right? Like, that’s who you’re talking about?
Maurice BP-Weeks 26:43
That guy, yeah. You know, like these elected officials, they’re like asking Google’s CEO, like how to search. Like, they’re not really, like advanced enough to figure out how to stop things like that. So yeah, those are the that just like, lets, you know, the kind of like power that these that these companies hold, and we’re kind of entirely at their whims. I mean, this is real life making huge, huge financial implications for how all of us live our lives here.
Solana Rice 27:10
Yeah, I want to, I want to double click on this power piece. Because, okay, if I walk through what we just talked about, so we are at the whim of these companies, for our wealth, we’re at the whim of these companies for our generational wealth. We’re at the whim of these companies, for our neighborhoods and our community wellbeing and you just said, like, we’re also at their whim, politically. And I’m curious, like, how does that actually show up? Yes, they have, they can pay people to go to DC and lobby and be like, “This is the legislation you need.” But are there other things that we, that we’re not seeing? Because like, what, how does this affect our political power?
Maurice BP-Weeks 27:57
Yeah, I mean, so, you know, political spending, ideally, is something that’s supposed to be like, entirely transparent, right? Like, there’s supposed to be reports that like, let you know how much these like how these companies are wielding their power. The reality is that there’s so many different avenues for them to do so and so different, specifically, you know, dark money avenues for them to do so that we will never know the full scope of how how these folks are flexing their political power. So sure, you can, you know, go on to a website like OpenSecrets and look up these specific companies and see legislators that they’ve given 1000s, hundreds of 1000s of dollars to over time, you can go and see lobbying groups that they pay, you know, their $800,000, $2 million a year memberships to to lobby on their behalf. And even that, which is already so like, that’s so much power, that’s so much control, even that does not fully capture the full political, you know, the the scope of their power, really, because of how dark money in politics work. And then there’s this other thing that that I think is actually, you know, in a way, it’s more insidious, where, you know, I think legislators are really afraid of pushing on the wrong things in our economy that, you know, will accidentally send us into a huge downspin downturn. So that’s kind of the reason why people are afraid to regulate banks. And the same is true for you know, these big credit companies and other, in debt collection companies, like, that lots of other things. You know, they’re they have so much control over you know, there’s a credit score for every single person who is of age so you know, messing with that system, electeds just start to thinking, “Well, I don’t want to screw anything up.” And that, the hive mind around that really blocks a lot of regulation from happening. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t want to make it sound entirely hopeless, because I think I always believe in people to be able to fight back against, you know, this financial political power. But I think we also need to be realistic that there’s, there’s, you know, that this is this is some of the most powerful industry actors in the world and in the country, and certainly in our government that we’re, that we’re up against, when we’re talking about, you know, fixing how credit and debt work in this country.
Jeremie Greer 30:47
Yeah, that’s real talk. I, you know, with with all that faced, there was an effort in, you know, in like the, right after Obama came into office, with the passage of the Dodd Frank Act, which was an act that was Christopher Dodd, Senator Dodd, and Representative Barney Frank, put together, got through Congress, got passed. And it created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is a federal agency that is kind of a little outside government, it’s like in government, but like, it doesn’t have to ask Congress for money, it gets money directly for this, look, tried to depoliticize it. And there was an effort to try to rein in some of this, like, their charter is to look at like, fair lending issues and make sure banks are lending to Black and brown communities. They’re over the credit bureaus and all of that. And I wonder if you could talk a bit about like, one thing to note, before I ask the question is, you know, under Obama, it was a very active agency that did a lot of work. Under Trump, it was like almost nonexistent. It was like it became this like, backwater agency that no one wanted to go work and it just was kind of… but we’re seeing a reemergence of that agency again, under Biden. I wonder if you could talk a bit about like, what is the opportunity here to flip the script on this, so that the government is actually reining in some of the power, the bad power dynamics you just talked about?
Maurice BP-Weeks 32:21
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I like to joke that the the CFPB is, like my, the only government agency that I like, you know? Like, it’s, it’s like, sort of the peak of the type of power that I like, actually have trust in the government of being able to do well, when it functions. And, and you’re totally right, like, this is, you know, an agency that, you know, really was the brainchild of the Obama administration. And really, Senator Warren as well, it’s kind of been, long been a champion on all of these issues, obviously. And Trump not not only was this sort of a backwater agency, there were many on in the Republican side, that that tried to use Trump’s being in office to destroy the agency, which has been a project of them since since it was created. The new director, Rohit Chopra, is, you know, again, a long, long term fighter of this fight, and I think isn’t content with with just even doing what was done under the Obama administration and really does want to sort of flex some of this power and fight for consumers. And the CFPB, as an agency, you know, has a lot of runway to really, really do that. And, you know, levy enormous fines and, and really take the fight directly to these corporations. And, and like you said, because of how the agency is set up, it’s not something that, you know, one Republican senator or one crappy Democratic senator could stop, if they if they if they wanted to, you know, Director Chopra really does have a long runway, and his great staff does as well. So this is really, you know, for me, this is the, that agency along with the fight, that is, the folks who are fighting on the ground are really where some of the real changes to power, how power works in the credit and debt industry will, will take place, you know, we need Rohit is, is a great guy, and he’s gonna do great work there. And, there has to be some movement on the ground that actually pushes this agency in the direction of doing that great work. You know, it’s not just, nothing in DC, I strongly believe this, nothing in DC just happens because you have good, altruistic people there. That’s just not how the American government works. It would be great if it did, and it’s not that, so you know, we need to be able to build this type of, what I think is really a racial justice movement around restructuring our credit and debt system in the country.
Jeremie Greer 35:07
And like people can, like directly, it’s an agency that has a direct responsibility to interact with people, like, if you feel like you’ve been screwed over, you can contact them directly, right?
Maurice BP-Weeks 35:16
That’s right. Yeah. And I mean, and this is, you know, it has the benefit of being able to levy these fines and then redistribute them to the American public. So, you know, there’s a lot of times, you know, people are like, “Well, what the hell does this government agency actually do? You know, like, it says, like your charter says like, “Oh, you’re fighting for homeowners” and stuff, but like, what do you actually, what does that mean? What the fuck are you actually doing, right? With this one, you know, the CFPB will have on their website, like, we have won back x billion of dollars from these corporations, and we gave it to the people that they screwed over. Like, it’s a really direct, and I love that about it, right? Like, it’s not, it’s, it doesn’t go into the black box of DC. And then, you know, out comes one more dollar for, you know, your state in the next appropriation. So, you know, it’s like, no, we’ve, “There was a problem with this corporation, there was a form on our website for people to fill out when they had a problem. And then those people got money back after we after we took it straight to them.” So, you know, the the issue is, the list of corporations screwing over the American public is longer than a CVS receipt. So we have a lot of work, a lot of work to do. And, you know, there’s good funding at the CFPB, but like, needs to be a lot more in order for us to really, you know, really change things around.
Solana Rice 36:43
So you mentioned that nothing happens in DC just on its own. What are some of the things that are happening on the ground? What are some of the things that are happening at ACRE that people should absolutely know about As it relates to this, or any other systems of oppression in our economy?
Maurice BP-Weeks 37:03
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you know, I mentioned, you know, the way that these some of these credit and debt companies are using tech to really advance their, their companies towards, you know, faster extraction is really how I would describe it. And, unfortunately, that’s not just relegated to credit and debt, I think we’re seeing a real expansion of, you know, really like extractive practices using the veneer of artificial intelligence and machine learning and algorithms, to sort of wash over their extraction and targeting of Black people in particular. So, you know, this, this this industry is, is really, really bad in that regard. And then I also look at, you know, policing, the two things really go hand in hand, but policing, as you know, another area where policing entities and the government has invested a lot of money into technologies and artificial intelligence there and things like being able to determine “where crime is supposed to happen,” I say with heavy quotations, or facial recognition technology that’s able to, you know, “find people who’ve committed crimes more quickly,” I say, with heavy quotation, you know, all these things that that really are designed to keep our political and economic system tilted against Black folks in the country. So ACRE’S been doing a lot of work on on really tracking tech’s rise in that way and looking at corporations like Amazon and how they’ve invested into it. And corporations like Google and Facebook and others as well, and how, how they’re sort of complicit in all of this. So I really think that that’s, that’s an area that we’re all going to need to sort of focus a lot more on it’s really, you know, we we can’t let ourselves be like the legislators that we talked about earlier. We’re just like, “I’m gonna like, tune out,” like it’s really is the direction that lots of things are going and that includes things that extract wealth from folks like us, so we’ve got to pay close attention to it, unfortunately.
Jeremie Greer 39:23
Yeah. Well, Mo where we, where can can folks learn about ACRE, where can they find ACRE? Where can they find you in the social-verse, in the universe? I’m going to sound old I’m gonna talk like one of those old people, so like, where can people find out what you’re up to? On the computer tube, the Google the you know, the Google Nets, yeah, the interwebs.
Maurice BP-Weeks 39:49
Yeah, so ACRE, love if people went to ACRE’S website and saw all the great work we’re doing, that’s at AcreCampaigns.org. You can find us on all social media, it’s just AcreCampaigns. I am probably the easiest to reach on Twitter. I don’t have a Facebook, I don’t have anything else except for Twitter. And it is mo87mo87. And I apologize ahead of time.
Solana Rice 40:24
You won’t regret it, folks.
Maurice BP-Weeks 40:26
Well, you know, depending on who folks are, they might.
Solana Rice 40:30
Thank you Mo for being with us, sharing your insights, doing the duty on the dad front at the same time. We appreciate you.
Maurice BP-Weeks 40:41
Yeah, thanks, guys.
Solana Rice 40:45
That was fantastic. Mo is always a delight.
Jeremie Greer 40:49
Yeah big ups to Charlie. Like, Charlie was like, chill.
He was down for the whole conversation really. Like, the whole time. Like, what’s up? Like, yeah.
Solana Rice 41:00
He really wanted to, to absorb and to really figure out what is up with this credit system. I mean, look, like we said, credit is a system of trust, I’m gonna loan this to you, I trust that you’ll give it back. And, you know, that used to be a very simple process, as Mo told us, but of course, it was racist, even at that, when it was really simple. And so now, yeah, it’s more complex. We’ve got more algorithms, we have more borrowing institutions. But the racism still runs throughout that, right? It’s not it’s not “Mr. Joe on the corner, can I borrow $1 from you?” It’s “Can I go to Wells Fargo? Can I go to Bank of America? Can I go to these big institutions?” who depend on systems that have embedded the racism and still, we get the same outcomes, right? Oh, look, turns out, you’re a Black person, and you’re still a higher risk.
Jeremie Greer 42:08
Right? So they had to create a ways to identify Black folks, because we aren’t sitting across the table from the loan decider anymore, like in the Good Times clip, now it’s a couple pieces were removed. So they have to bake it into system. And there’s this thing called the Fair Lending Act that says they can’t discriminate, so they have to hide the discrimination in an algorithm, as Mo talked about. And you know, it’s interesting, I, I had to you know, I’m not I’m not bragging, I’m not puffing my chest, not bragging. But I was fortunate to testify before Congress, Maxine Waters’s Financial Services Committee about credit scoring, and I remember interchange not with me, but with another witness, it was a witness who’s like a Republican chosen witness that worked for the trade industry, the credit union, the credit bureau trade industry. And the question that the, that the, I’m gonna paraphrase, and then I’m going to say what he really meant. So he, he went on this, this exploration with this with this witness is saying, like, well, you know, don’t these things predict, and it was, he was talking about car insurance, he was like, “Don’t these things predict whether people are more risky than than other people?” And then he wasn’t saying who, but he was saying some people are more risky than other people. And the guy was like, “Yeah, these things can predict that and like, so wouldn’t it make sense that a car company that a car insurance company would then let would then give insurance and pay people a higher rate because they’re more risky?” And he talked about it as “pricing risk.” And what I heard sitting there between the lines was, “Doesn’t it make sense to charge Black people more money for car insurance because they’re more risky?” Like that’s what I heard in the interchange and it was like happening right before me and you know, if people look at a transcript, again big ups to Rashida Tlaib, Congresswoman Tlaib. She called him out on it in the hearing, and I was just like, “Oh, okay, I don’t have to say anything, I could be chill right here, because she just took care of that for us.” But like, it is like this real like thing that like becomes like common sense conventional wisdom in a way that like, you know, if someone is perceived to be more risky, then the market has all the entitlement they need to charge people more for the same thing.
Solana Rice 44:43
Yeah, and I just I, I really appreciate Mo’s analysis about the inaction that happens because of being afraid of pulling a thread that will unravel our whole system. “Oh, if we redo credit scoring, then how will we know X, Y, and Z? Oh, if we hold these banks accountable, it’ll, it’ll gum up our whole economy, nobody will be able to do anything!” And at some point, we do have to rip off the band aid, we do have to pull that thread and say like, no, no more and no more are these big banks, going to determine the prosperity of people of color of Black people of Asian people of Latino people of all the all the folks that we’re at their whim on so many fronts. It’s not just credit scoring, as Mo was saying, right? It’s also all the things that credit, all the doors that credit opens for folks, and over time, and over generations, and over geographies. Um, it’s, it can’t, we can’t have the fear lead to the inaction. Like, at some point, we have to start making strides.
Jeremie Greer 46:04
And again, it’s like that fear, and we, and those folks that get trapped into it, are on both sides of the aisle. Democrats and Republicans get trapped into that. But when we we’re talking about the CFPB, and I’m so glad that Mo talked about that, because this is the agency that was put up to where Black folks, anybody, including Black folks can have a clear line to say, “I’ve been taken advantage of, I need some backing from my government.” And the people trying to tear it down are the people in the Republican Party. Like it is it is Donald Trump who was a Republican president, it is a set of people that were put in that agency with the express purpose of taking it apart. And he mentioned Director Chopra who’s there now trying to put it back together. And when so when we’re out here, voting and asking people about, you know, “What are you for? And what are you against?” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be one of those things that we’re talking to people about, because, as you said, it affects the resources that are going into our households, it affects the resources that are going to to our communities, and it’s affecting whether these banks are really acting on our behalf, and doing the thing that Demond said, Demond Drummer said in in a podcast before, where the government is actually acting in our interest trying to get resources and better our communities.
Solana Rice 47:31
Yeah, it is the mechanism by which we have some democratic control and insight into these large financial institutions. And as Mo said, yeah, the CFPB has returned 10s of billions of dollars back to our individual pockets from corporations. So it’s, I want to make sure that we underscore some key themes about like, hey, as individuals, where do we carry around these notions of trust? And who we trust and who we don’t, right? And then like in our jobs, like, how do we make decisions based on trust? And are we creating unnecessary hoops? For to, so other people can prove that they’re trustworthy? And I’m specifically talking to people with resources and in positions of power to really think about how are we replicating these unnecessary, fake proxies for trust, when really if we one, just trust, not just but like, we trust Black people. And we trust individuals, and let’s fix the systems so that we can have more trust in one another?
Jeremie Greer 48:56
Yeah, so in the words of James Evans, I don’t need your money, but I’ll take 2000 anyway. Peace y’all.
Kendra Bozarth 49:07
Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at LiberationInAGenerationAction.org. Shoutout to our producer Jacob Bronstein, audio editor Nino Fernandez, communications director, me, Kendra Bozarth, the design team at TrimTab, and the whole squad at LibGen Action. Like what you heard? Help us make some noise by telling two friends about the Raci$m Is Profitable podcast. Until next time, y’all, peace.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai