Old Money vs New Money: A Reinforcement of Racial Hierarchies

Before diving into the crux of the issue, it’s essential to understand the underlying connotations. “Old Money” refers to families or individuals who have maintained their wealth over several generations. These families often pride themselves on traditions, lineage, and sometimes even blue-blooded ancestry. The term “New Money” is used to describe people or families who have acquired wealth through innovations, luck, entrepreneurship or just plain fame.

The vast majority of old money families are white, come from well-established social areas, as a result of historical advantages and opportunities afforded them, often at the expense of the oppression and discrimination towards people of color. Considering the U.S. context, centuries of systematic racism–from slavery to Jim Crow laws, to discriminatory lending practices that have kept Blacks, Latinos and other people of ethnicities from accumulating wealth, especially generational. By venerating “old money” and its sophistication or class, America, and the rest of the world, celebrated a system that thrived on racial inequality.

The dichotomy often casts “new money” as a flashy, ostentatious or sense of obnoxiousness. This not only undermines the hard work, innovation, and resilience of the term in which individuals have no regard for caring about those who are less fortunate, for example people of color, but the result is that this concept reinforces racial stereotypes. Old money evokes images of refined, white elites in mansions with ivory-covere walls. In contrast,”new money” conjures up images of celebrities, athletes, and self-made entrepreneurs, many of whom are people of color. These stereotypes suggest that white individuals have a natural inherent claim to wealth and prestige, while people of color are latecomers to prosperity, only achieving it through entertainment or sheer luck.

Language is powerful. The way we name and categorize things can shape perceptions, influence opinions, and even determine value systems. By perpetuating “old money” vs “new money” narratives without giving it a second thought, we are endorsing the racial biases embedded within. We can choose to celebrate new beginnings, innovations, persistence, determination and diverse paths to success. We can recognize that wealth accumulated without the shadow of oppression has its unique value.

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