Real Housewives of Atlanta: Not Real Black Atlanta Wealth!

"To have money you have to know the value of a dollar. People with money would never waste away their wealth like that."

I watched my first full episode of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” last night. (Actually, was that a rerun? All I know is Kim had a big baby shower with her new baby daddy and two husbands got in a fight over who was the baddest mah fah).

Why was it my first? Well, first, I have no time for anything besides CNN (O.K. that and my stack of "Bewitched" reruns).

But, more than that, I don’t have to turn on the television to see real housewives of Atlanta.

I grew up around real black Atlanta homemakers and I know some today. And, though I don’t fault the women on the show (a reality show is a smart career move; handle your business, ladies!) I do have a huge problem with the images I saw last night.

A kid with Louis Vuitton luggage? Tons of baby mama, baby daddy drama? Homes covering 14,000-square-feet mortgaged to the hilt by people who, most likely, have just a few thousand in the bank?

Are you kidding me?

Here’s the deal: Black Atlanta (like Black D.C., Black Chicago and other areas with large black populations) has a truly wealthy class. But, just as with wealthy whites, wealthy blacks do not flash their money. They don’t want you to know what they have.

Let me repeat: Just as with wealthy whites, wealthy blacks do not flaunt their wealth. They do not want you to know what they have. (Invoking Chris Tucker, in "Rush Hour" now, 'Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?').

Now, in contrast to the wealthy white class, the wealthy black class is struggling. Yeah, that’s the deal. But, black wealth in America (translate, a sizable net worth, not a leased Mercedes) does exist.

For the record, the only Atlantan to make the top twenty of Forbes' 2009 list of “The Wealthiest Black Americans” was Collier Heights resident, H. J. Russell Construction Co. founder and mentor to many Herman Russell, who had a net worth of $200 million at the time the story was posted. (Oprah topped the list, Tiger was second).

But, along with Russell, there are many black millionnaires living quietly in relatively modest homes right here in southwest Atlanta.

Some are smart retirees from cities like New York and San Francisco who sold homes and moved south for more space and warmer weather. Some have inherited money from black business founders and entertainers and are now black trust fund babies. Others have risen the ranks of Corporate America or succeeded in entrepreneurship, sports and entertainment and, over the years, have managed their money well.

Yes, world, there are real housewives of Atlanta (see Alma Hill's Black History in Cascade story from Feb. 2, 2011, for the a closer look).

No, world, the lavish lifestyle for The ‘Real’ Housewives of Atlanta is not real!

To have money you have to know the value of a dollar. People with money—no matter their ethnic background—would never waste away their wealth like that.

Janita Poe November 21, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Thanks, Alton. What's scary is that so many people think that show represents Atlanta and black Atlanta "wealth!"
Ade Olude November 21, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Good article, it all boils down lack of education and looking for happiness outside of thyself .
Janita Poe November 21, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Why do you think Americans, especially African-Americans (in my opinion), put so much emphasis on appearing wealthy, even if it means having to go in debt? Share your view with us today in comments!
Ceci Haydel November 21, 2011 at 03:23 PM
It is so funny to me when on the RHOA they say they are "socialites". Yea, right, ok. If you live in Atlanta, you know who the real socialites are. Great article.
Tamara Eckles November 21, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Excellent Article! I hope the same people who watch the RHOA read this article as well. Thankful for my dad always having Black Enterprise in our home so we could see real wealth in our community.
Betty Byrd November 21, 2011 at 03:45 PM
One reason why flaunting should not be number 1 on their priority are those that are waiting for the opportunity to knock them in the head and steal what they can. I always thought that was what we were supposed to do. This is truly called keeping it on the down low.
Janita Poe November 21, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Thanks, for your great comments ladies!! Maybe we will change behavior in our community with our voices! Lord knows we have a long way to go in terms of real wealth-building...
Janita Poe November 21, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Q for the day, everyone: Why do you think Americans, especially African-Americans (in my opinion), put so much emphasis on appearing wealthy, even if it means having to go in debt? Share your view with us today in comments!
Cheryl Green November 21, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Janita, as much as I hate to believe it, I think the advent of reality and video shows that flaunt material things have had a negative influence on where some African Americans (especially younger ones) place their values. They have been brainwashed to believe that material things=happiness, prestige,perhaps fame even, and they will do whatever it takes to get it...even if it means going into debt. I volunteer in high schools and I aslways ask the question what do you want to do/be when you're an adult. The answer, over the years has increasingly become "be famous". When I dig a little deeper about that answer it always means being famous = I'm rich= I can buy material things= I'll be happy! Quite sad.
Janita Poe November 21, 2011 at 04:41 PM
You said it, Cheryl. They think it is reality because TV says it is. Sad.
Jocelyn Hawkins Woods November 21, 2011 at 04:47 PM
That's encouraging. I knew I didn't have to buy a Mercedes just to look wealthy.
Alyson Britt November 21, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Great article, Jan. It's unfortunate that these "reality" shows give such false hope to the younger generations. My 4th grade students who should not be watching the foolishess anyway, look up to NeNe Leakes & Sheree' Whitfield. It's unrealistic to NOT work & build a 17k sq ft home. It's unrealistic to think that because you're able to write a check to purchase a car - for your 21yo, criminal, unemployed son - for $13k that you're rich. Shows like RHoA are for entertainment purposes ONLY for those who find it entertaining and should begin with a disclaimer .. this AIN'T reality.
Jamie Cox November 22, 2011 at 01:06 AM
LOL, Ms. Berry Byrd! I was thinking the same, "why would you want the world to know your wealth, if you are truly wealthy?" My mother and I were discussing why African-American children have become so obsessed with amassing huge amounts of money (very quickly) in order to buy fleeting materials with no appreciation value. From my observations, the parents are often even more motivated to provide their children with things, things, and even more expensive things. The parents seem to believe the more they are able to give their children, the better the entire family's lives and status will be: (i.e.) if I give them every material posssession I never had, they will have a better life. We see everyday the untruth and moreover the danger in this belief.
Scarlet Moore November 22, 2011 at 01:34 AM
Keeping up with the Jones' is probably one of the biggest issues I witness in Real Estate among Blacks. They will do anything to get a loan for more than they can afford. That is one of the reasons our country is in a debt crises today. Many feel that to achieve better than their parents/friends it means obtaining the larger homes, cars, expensive clothing, ect. by maximizing their credit cards in order to appear more successful. Also, many feel it's not worthy of them unless it cost a large amount of money, and that does contribute to a loss of identity, true purpose in life, and a sense of feeling validated by society.
Péralte Paul (Editor) November 22, 2011 at 02:20 AM
I think there are segments of Americans in all colors and creeds who hunger for wealth and status. This is a consume-consume-consume society. Madison Ave. has done a brilliant job in getting folks of all racial stripes to see their worth and self-value in their possessions. Add to that a racial legacy that's left a still-visible-economic-disparity, you create this paradigm of people trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Shirley Simmons November 22, 2011 at 03:36 AM
I have only watched the show once and I could hardly take it. How does one become a housewife without a husband is what I have always wondered about the ladies on the show? It's a monye maker for the network and the "stars",but hardly a positve representation of Atlanta's wealthy or classy! Wealthy people are busy making money,not having fist fights and verbal altercations. Thank you for pointing that out in your editorial! Good job.
Mary W. November 22, 2011 at 06:07 AM
A real lady does not have to remind everyone that she is a lady, nor does a wealthy person have to tell everyone that he/she is rich.----Just walk the walk and people will know. At least they will think that they know. Poor as a church mouse, but know how to look like a million.
Carol J November 23, 2011 at 03:03 AM
I suspect on this website you are preaching to the choir, Janita. Thank you for raising this important issue.
Janita Poe November 23, 2011 at 10:18 AM
Thanks for all these great comments! Patch is interactive media, so we want to hear your voices! Happy Thanksgiving!
Mary W. November 23, 2011 at 02:11 PM
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone. --Let your family and friends know that you love them and give thanks to God for them. SAY THE WORDS-----I LOVE YOU and mean it.
Muriel C. Mayes November 27, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Janita, truly appreciate this article! I was disappointed and embarrassed when Née-Née leaks thought herself to be rich. Maybe your article should be forwarded via FedX to give her a wakeup call. Yes, earthly disires are a part of living but to think you're rich because you've purchased a car is something of a delusional perspective. Thanks Again!
Janita Poe November 27, 2011 at 08:50 AM
Thanks, Muriel! I like the FedX idea. I also hope many of our youth come across the column. Please circulate and tell them about www.cascade.patch.com. I appreciate you!!!
Tee Taylor November 27, 2011 at 10:46 AM
Thank you for this ARTICLE. Right on point. NeNe claims she's rich because she paid cash for a $13,000 car?? WTH?? That ain't rich! Most of us middle class blacks can do that. I paid for my BMW (5 series) CASH! But I don't claim I'm rich...I just don't want to pay interest to anybody. If I can't pay cash, I don't buy it. I invest my money, I live BELOW my means and make my money work for me. These women on RHOA are aweful. They are loud, tacky, rude and NOT "wives" ...and NOT "rich". First of all, rich people wouldn't ever tell someone they're "rich". They keep it quiet and they live modest. Those are true RICH people....like Bill Gates. It a shame that women want to be like them, and young girls watching this, have no idea of how a real woman (wife) should carry herself.
Janita Poe November 27, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Great point, Tee, and I'm glad that you pointed out that you paid cash for your car. Now when you can pay cash for a nice car that will last, keep you safe and that you will enjoy, GO FOR IT!! But financing a car to the hilt just to look well-to-do, makes no sense (and, unfortunately, too many of us are doing that!!!)
Anita June 01, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Great article!! Im so glad you took on this story. It was so needed! Thank you Ms. Poe!
masego October 06, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Wow! This article is really true and authentic to the lifestyle black people live. I'm a 20year old south african woman and the lavish living we see on tv(RHOA)seems to be almost unreal to a lot of people here in SA. We are fed that in america fame is accompanied automatic wealth(as the RHOA shows)thus we never really know what's fabricated or real! But in the same respect here in south africa,a lot of black south africans live beyond their means to purely make face for others and not to mention that fame in SA does NOT acclaim one to automatic wealth either. But the harsh reality of media is that the truth is boring,sensation sells. But Hopefully in the near future with such great articles like these we can become a generation informed and SUSTAINABLY WEALTHY enough to help and empower others in need,No matter what country you're from. Thankx Ms Poe!:)
Raoul Fazool October 28, 2012 at 03:53 AM
No righteous Black man would ever have a relationship with egotistical, self-indulgent hoes like this. This show is an insult to the entire Black Community. Time to get real.
MARQ December 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Wow nice article
christopher grace February 20, 2013 at 03:41 AM
Those are not the real housewives of atlanta, zero portrayal in the truth, real country ghetto women of Atlanta...is the truth
Barbara June 11, 2013 at 02:08 AM
I love the RHOA. I think you are being too hard on them and I also think that you are stereotyping our people (It almost seems a little like class warfare -- or even a little jealousy). A lot of people (all skin colors) stay poor because of a poor mindset. I applaud the ladies of RHOA for speaking into existence what they want, you know the definition of faith. And a lot of the ladies have grown professionally and personally. Just because some blacks are "secretly rich" and don't want anyone to know what they have; doesn't mean they are somehow better than others who live more lavish lifestyles and want everyone to know what they got! Just don't hate and please don't stereotype.


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