September 3, 2019

Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins

A few weeks ago, Democracy Now! aired a segment with Ibram X. Kendi, author and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he discussed white supremacy, anti-racism, and the increase in mass shootings. What struck me about the segment was his illuminating statement about the origins of capitalism. Kendi views capitalism and racism as "conjoined twins" and that “…the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism… the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism.”

Kendi continued by discussing how the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade allowed for the massive accumulation of wealth in Europe and the Americas. Centuries of wage theft, trading in human bondage, insurance claims on "lost" cargo, and reparations for slave owners after emancipation entrenched this capitalist system with inequities based on race built into it. Slave owners protected their concentrated wealth by shaping our socio-economic and legal systems to benefit themselves and the industry of slavery, as well as limit democracy.

As I celebrate the worker movement’s victories on Labor Day this year, this segment and past conversations with grantees has triggered an important question for me: What does the notion that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked mean for our work as funders of racial and economic justice? Our grantee partners tell us how workers are implicated in the entangled web of these “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. Many worker-based organizations state that the best vehicle this country has in pursuit of economic justice is through organizing workers, but traditional labor hasn’t always been the best vehicle for racial justice. As Bill Fletcher Jr. and Fernando Gapasin discuss in Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, while many unions integrated in the 1920s, some unionists decided to resist integration to ensure wins and job quality for white workers. These traditionalists understood the idea of “conjoined twins.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, making it less secure to accumulate wealth through those means. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve. For example, following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, agriculture was still the main economic engine, and free exploited labor was needed for this industry to survive. Capitalism evolved while maintaining its racist and exploitative roots through policymakers passing the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866, making it easier to imprison recently freed slaves to continue that supply of free labor.

We are catching up to the fact that capitalism was never meant to work for everyone. What will the next evolution in capitalism bring as our movements fight even harder for racial and economic justice in the face of harm to workers and marginalized communities?

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has created an intentional space to begin discussing what these questions mean for our work and the grantees we support. Capitalism’s origin story is a critical part of analyzing how this system operates. By acknowledging the “conjoined twins,” we acknowledge the role of race and the legacy of slavery. FJE believes that there is a renewed opportunity to support a working-class movement that builds the power of all workers, especially Black, Trans and LGBQ workers, women, and immigrants—and lift their role as the main strategists to change the system. If we believe another world is possible, then so is another system that bakes in justice, equity, and respect.


  

Join FJE for these conversations and more at the upcoming Racial Capitalism, Power and Resistance event on October 17 & 18 in Brooklyn, NY. More information and registration link here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Power Building Study Group for Neighborhood Funders Group members, and the Disrupt the System: How Labor and Philanthropy can Build Worker Power in a New Era event co-convened by the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund, and FJE on December 11 in Washington, DC. More information coming soon!

 
January 13, 2022

Saying ‘no’ and rest as resistance: NFG's December 2021 Newsletter

At the beginning of this month, Neighborhood Funders Group hosted our final Member Connection Call of 2021. These calls are informal virtual spaces for grantmakers to truly connect and co-conspire; if you haven't joined one yet, we hope that you will in 2022 — register here for our next call on January 26!

On this year's Member Connection Calls, we've talked about how we're infusing care into our organizations and grantmaking, racial capitalism, racial justice organizing in specific places (and how philanthropy must move more + more + more money to BIPOC and low-income communities), rapid response funding, and lessons revealed to us by the pandemic on how to be better grantmakers and liberate all philanthropic assets.

We've shared the things that never fail to bring us comfort, offered tips for harnessing joy in all of the seasons, and taken each other on trips through our memories to our favorite vacation spots.

After co-hosting Member Connection Calls with NFG's President, Adriana Rocha, for well over a year, I've found that something that someone shares at each call resonates deeply for me. On this December call, it was:

'No' creates space to be a whole person at and outside of work.

It feels fitting to me to be putting the finishing touches on this message to you on NFG's final workday of the year. Beginning tomorrow (December 15), NFG will be closed for a three-week paid administrative break. We're saying 'no' to more meetings, more emails, and more work in favor of pausing, stopping, and creating the space to rest. Because we know from Tricia Hersey at The Nap Ministry that REST IS RESISTANCE.

The NFG team will return to our respective home offices on Wednesday, January 5. Here's a sneak peek into NFG's 2022: we'll be sharing our new theory of change, updating our website and brand, and announcing plans for our 2022 National Convening. And we'll continue sharing how we're centering our culture of care in our efforts to shift power in philanthropy towards justice and liberation.

Truthfully, I don't expect us to feel fully rested when we return — if 'feeling fully rested' is even a possibility in a capitalist world that values grind culture and all too often uplifts white supremacy culture characteristics of perfectionism, urgency, and quantity vs. quality. But I do know that this team-wide break moves us closer to a vision where all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all —and NFG is invested in this vision.

We look forward to co-conspiring with you to move money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice in 2022. And we hope that you too say 'no' to what you need to and rest in any & every way that you're able.

Cheers!
Courtney Banayad
she/her
Director of Membership and Communications

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January 12, 2022

2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award: Call for Nominations

The nominations are now open for the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award!

The Discount Foundation Legacy Award annually identifies, supports, and celebrates an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed significantly to workers’ rights movements in the United States and/or globally. Through public recognition and a $20,000 stipend, we hope to recognize and amplify the work of individuals at the intersections leading the way toward justice for low-wage workers of color. This is a one of a kind opportunity to recognize the often unheard voices of worker movements — that includes volunteers, members, workplace leaders, and more who are transforming the lives and rights of their fellow low-wage workers of color.

To be eligible for the Award, a nominee must be active in worker justice, including but not limited to organizing and advocacy-related work. Additionally, nominees do not have to be employed at an organization or institution whose mission is to advance worker justice — they can be volunteers, members or other leaders at an organization or workplace organizing effort. We will not be asking questions regarding immigration or other legal status, and nominees do not have to reside in the US.

Nominees need to be nominated by someone other than themselves, through a simple, quick and accessible application process found here. The Award is meant only for individuals. Organizations, groups of individuals or institutions are not eligible for consideration. If you know anyone who you think should be recognized for their significant commitment to worker justice at any level — from a workplace to the neighborhood to the nation — this is your chance to provide them a powerful boost and real resources they can use in whatever way they choose! 

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In addition to being publicly recognized for their remarkable contributions to the movement, the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award winner will receive a $20,000 stipend to provide them with the flexibility to expand upon their professional activities and achievements They will not be asked for any reporting requirements, and the funding has no specific strings attached or other specific obligations. The winner of the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award will be invited to be honored at a virtual event in 2022. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and nomination process, please see our FAQs here — and please spread the word about this opportunity to your networks, colleagues and friends!

All nominations must be received by 11:59pm ET on March 7, 2022 through the online nomination form. We’re happy to help answer questions about the award, or support with any trouble you have with the application — please reach out to emily@jwj.org.

Created in partnership with Jobs With Justice Education Fund and the Neighborhood Funders Group’s Funders for a Just Economy, the Discount Foundation Legacy Award was launched in 2015 to commemorate and carry on the legacy of the Foundation’s decades-long history of supporting leading edge organizing in the worker justice arena beyond its spend down as a foundation in 2014. Learn more about the Discount Foundation Legacy Award.
 

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