I'm a late learner. Although I have heard about banks robbing the poor for a long time, it's only recently that I have seen it first hand and have been forced to take a close look into the tragic reality that is unfolding during the most difficult economic time we have seen in years. My research on what is going on has saddened and outraged me. I realize that many banks
have no interest whatsoever in addressing under-served communities. I was pained to learn that some only want to rip off the poor, while treating them unequally. No wonder under-served communities remain so distrustful of banks, and choose alternatives to traditional banking!
What's clear to me now is that banks are still increasing the cost to the powerless (poor) while they offer everyone else money to open accounts. I'm watching banks hold back features that they and I both know will help people save money and improve their lives. They trick customers into doing things that are not good for them through lack of transparency, and surprise them with new fees when they can least afford it. I'm learning an important lesson about ethics -- or lack of ethics -- in this industry. In fact, I'm fighting with a bank right now that doesn't know what kind of ass whipping they are going to get when I expose them for the abusive practices and exuberant fees they are charging the poor. They are trying to double their already outrageously high fees in exchange for providing absolutely nothing to customers. All I want to do is to get the poor a better deal, with more reasonable fees with better services. This bank is intentionally trying to destroy my industry, which is building a platform for under-served communities. And for this, they should be ashamed of themselves.
In general, banks seem to spend way too much time trying to gouge our communities and not enough time doing the basic things you'd expect a bank to do, like keeping an active list of customers and the account balances that the government insures through the FDIC. They simply charge a huge fee for basically the gift of loaning their name. We are providing for the people in question. Not one account manager or one single executive is even aware of the names of the customers, balances made under their names, etc. and yet, they want to double their already exuberant fees. I realize now the banks job is to bully the weak. Fortunately for me I am not one of them. I am going to publicly stand up for the people and say out loud that nobody should do their banking with these banks. I will not raise my fees and join in this fiasco. Nor will I silently stand by as these banks rob the poor of their money. I am joining the movement for change, along with Arianna Huffington, to be a voice for the community and am ready to do everything I can to drive these sorts of banks out of our neighborhoods.
Let's start the biggest public discussion ever about how banks treat us and expose these banks for their unequal treatment and unconscionable conduct. The time is now.
Follow Russell Simmons on Twitter: www.twitter.com/unclerush