About a month ago I wrote a piece titled, "Negro, Open a Damn Checking Account." The article was an effort to implore black folks, who are wasting hundreds of dollars of their hard-earned money on prepaid checking cards, check cashing establishments and other so-called "alternative banking," to stop flushing their money down the toilet and smarten up to get a checking account. Today, I realize there's another problem: the celebrities and tastemakers in black popular culture who would rather make a quick buck manipulating our people's ignorance than try to help. The latest profiteer is a man I've come to expect better from, Magic Johnson.
For years, Magic has championed himself as an advocate of the black community who used his business savvy to help bring low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods some of the same goods and services that were in white neighborhoods. Magic has long presented his image as that of someone giving back to our community, but with the release of his "Magic Prepaid Mastercard," he's doing just the opposite.
Too many of our young black men and women are under the false impression that checking accounts have high minimum balances, that their credit score or previous chexsystems or telechex scores will prevent them from ever having a checking or savings account or that they will be barred from opening a bank account for some other reason. They think that they have no choice but to pay the exorbitant and oppressive fees charged by prepaid cards and "alternative banking." All of those things are patently false.
First, most banks do not have high account minimums. Many of the large chains have no minimum and almost all small banks have very low minimums or none at all for their basic checking and savings. For people afraid of their chexsystems or telechex scores, etc., there are things called Second Chance Checking accounts that specifically target those who have made mistakes in the past. These accounts are rarely free and rarely offer all the benefits of a traditional account, but they graduate after a probationary period to being free accounts with all the customary rights and privileges.
Even before second chance accounts become free, they're still less expensive and, unlike the "Magic Card," the "Rush Card" and other so-called alternatives, they help rebuild your credit. Second chance checking accounts also promote savings and good money management, unlike the "alternatives." Best of all, a checking account will perform all the same services that pre-paid cards charge you for, for free.
How can Magic Johnson on one hand claim that he's trying to help our people and on the other turn around and gouge us with the same fees and disgraceful tactics that these multi-national corporations have used for years to rape and pillage our community? It's truly inexcusable.
I expected better than this from a man I respect and a man who knows better. Magic Johnson is someone who truly has the ear of people in the black community and someone who has the power to help get our people financially literate and financially empowered. Instead he's taken the robber baron's route and decided to bilk those who don't know any better out of their hard earned dollars, fee after unnecessary fee.
Shame on you, Magic.
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