Since the post on white money I’ve had some people asking me what they can do to make a difference. Many have shared their personal stories with money and the poverty mentality, but they’re still not sure what to do.
There’s no one quick trick, I’m afraid.
Your ideas around money and wealth have been formed over a lifetime and are reflected back at you all day.
Let me give you an example.
A friend of mine posted that she had to take her cat to the vet unexpectedly for surprise surgery. About 20 people commented with something along the lines of “Oh no! Poor kitty!” I asked for her paypal link. She responded saying that was very sweet of me but to let them see how things turned out with their credit card bills and pay over the next few weeks and if they needed to consider crowd funding they would. I just wanted to give her $20 to lighten the blow of an unsuspecting vet bill. We all know vets aren’t free right? But she took it to mean I was offering charity, because in white society we don’t actually have a difference between charity and community care.
I have a twitter friend named DickPatriarchy, and no that’s not a sarcastic name. One day I posted about the appropriation prize and a new fund that was raising money to support indigenous writers in Canada. He dropped 50 Euros in like it was nothing, and then told me a joke.
A Catholic priest and a Baptist priest are walking along the road. They see a homeless man begging for money. The Catholic priest gives the man $20.
“What did you do that for?” The Baptist priest asks, “He’s only going to spend it on wine.”
The Catholic priest shrugs, “Well, that’s fair, that’s what I was going to spend it on.”
Richard then said to me “Charity is not something you give to a man because he deserves it. It’s something you give to God because you owe it.” I never would’ve bet on the Catholics coming through, but then the Catholic guilt can do wonders when put to good use.
I have more stories like this, but the important thing is helping you to change your mentality around money in social justice work.
So the first thing you need to realize is that those who are opposed to social justice are extremely well funded, while those who are on the front lines are not. In fact, when it comes to many of the public opponents of social justice issues we’re not talking about funding so much as net worth and access to resources. Just the ability to get into the room or have the ear of someone who controls systems is incredibly valuable.
We don’t even know what Richard Spencer is worth.
That problematic professor from University of Toronto who got ‘in trouble’ last year for refusing to use preferred pronouns? He still has his job and makes $51,000 a month on Patreon.
It’s more lucrative to be against social justice than part of it.
But as with most things, a black woman has said this before. So please take a moment to watch this video by the brilliant Kat Blaque about Youtuber Laci Green and why she switched sides (Hint: It’s the money). And remember, you can pay Kat for her work.
Feminists, activists, organizers, artists, educators, bloggers and keyboard warriors deal with an incredible amount of bullshit doing their work online. It’s frustrating to us when we see that scum like the founder of Vice magazine, Gavin McInnes can start a group and pull in merchandise money by pandering to western chauvinists (Check out the Proud Boys founder in action!)
It’s frustrating because we’re actually working for others. Safety Pin Box exists to get money to community organizers. DiDi Delgado is an organizer for Black Lives Matter who makes no money for that work. Black women and femmes are working to save the world and people judge them for asking for money. People are hesitant to support this work because everything should be done from the goodness of your heart. Bullshit. If alt-right neo-Nazis can fund their generals, then white liberals need to loosen the purse strings.
Let’s start small. Do these in stages, pick one and try it. Add another when you’re ready.
Regret Tax for Useless Purchases
You’re going to start a regret tax in your house.
From now on when you buy something you regret – food that goes bad in your fridge, a shirt that doesn’t actually fit right so you never wear it, a tube of mascara that you forgot you opened and dried to shit – you’re going to pay for it, twice. When you throw that thing out and roll your eyes at yourself, bust open your paypal and send some money somewhere. It’s going to sting at first, but it’s going to start to re-frame your thinking around disposable money and spontaneous spending.
Start rethinking major holidays. Hell, start rethinking minor ones. Birthdays too. Ask your friends not to buy you cards and to give $5 to something instead. Let your friends know that instead of birthday gifts this year you’re gifting them a year’s worth of patronage to a cool social justice patreon creator. Stop buying gift cards and give your friends some education.
You know what the Mother’s Day gift was in our house this year? A donation to the Free Black Mamas fund. My mother (and my three mothers in law) are all in that “what do you get someone who can buy things for themselves?” place, so we donated in their name. They don’t need flowers that will die in a few days, and there are people who need that money more than the florist.
Gift Card Re-purposing
Speaking of gift cards, why not donate those? If you don’t need them or you have a habit of finding them in a drawer unexpectedly, send them to someone who actually needs them. If you don’t know who to send them to contact me and I’ll find a home for your gift card.
This is a slightly more advanced method, but if executed properly it works wonders. I’ll give you an example. My husband came home one day with a hockey jersey he had spontaneously purchased on his way home. Nothing wrong with that. But, if we can spontaneously find $250 for a hockey jersey, then we can actively find $250 for social justice work through concentrated budgeting. This may not be immediate, and this is different from regret tax.
This is for major purchases that you should’ve budgeted for but just bought on a whim. Now you’re going to put that budgeting to work and make up the difference. If your partner is not on board don’t detail this to them, give a good bleeding heart story about someone needing school clothes for their kid or having their car towed. Really sell it. “I just figured since you bought that jersey the other day we could afford to help these poor people…” Make it seem like it’s no big deal, then every time you meet with one of these big spontaneous purchases, do it again. If your partner is on board you can turn it into a budgeting thing where you save up for your splurge item and give an equal amount to someone/something.
So this love of non-profits and tax deductible receipts is lazy and frankly selfish. Really? You only donate if it benefits your tax situation? Really? You trust “organizations” more than a woman on YouCaring who’s trying to get to school?
There are plenty of organizations that are doing good work, but many of them are tied up in internal politics, beholden to large donors and their wishes, or are funding safe, moderate initiatives because they’re still businesses that are looking for sustainability. Non-profit organizations are still part of a capitalistic system. They’re selling you something, and what they’re selling you is that do-good feeling combined with peace of mind and often showmanship. Look! You donated to Cancer research! Everyone hates cancer! Everyone wants research! Here’s your shirt and pin and tote bag and professional photo and thank you card and… Wait, how much does all that merch cost? It’s okay, you’re now advertising for the non-profit, the cost of these items is acceptable because you’re a walking billboard!
I’m sure there are non-profit organizations and charities doing great work. But do your research, and maybe sit for a while with the logic that makes you feel safe giving money to organizations but not to individuals.
You don’t want to think about this social justice stuff! Sure you think it’s important but like… Not quite important enough for you to engage with it. You don’t want to have the conversations on social media, or in your real life. You don’t want to share that article that’ll make your uncle mad. You’re just not ready to deal with it, you want to keep pretending that everything is fine. You know it’s not fine, but there are a lot of people who are educating on racism and white supremacy and it looks like they’ve got it under control.
Cool! Avoiding the reality of racial inequality in the world right now is a privilege, and like most privileges, you should pay for it. Start funding some of those educators who are doing great work because you don’t have the “energy” to share what they’re doing or vocally support them. You want to be silent? Buy your silence. Every time you read an article that you decide not to share because it stings a little too much, send the author something via their paypal. Notice that you keep sending to the same person? Maybe subscribe to their Patreon. They can keep doing the work, and you can keep being silent, except you’re actually helping them. Avoidance fee!
Start Talking About Money in Your Social Circle
White folks have specific and coded ways we talk about and ask for money. Weddings, birthdays, baby showers. Even holiday money is being made more palatable with gift cards. Let’s start making it common practice to acknowledge the obvious financial burdens of our friends and family. Like with the vet example above, if 20 people took the time to feel sadness at the expense of someone else’s pet, they could offer to ease the financial burden. Let’s start talking about money as a community.
Let’s acknowledge the power differences.
Imagine if when you went out for dinner with your friends who make 9 times more than you do – they paid for 90% of the bill and you paid for 10%? There’s no specific recommendation here. But let’s start talking about it and coming up with ways that we can dismantle this rigidity around finances. Let’s trade more, talk more, care more about each other and the people in our lives. Let’s actively challenge this notion of scarcity and competition in finances. And let’s not tie our worth to our salaries or our investments. Let’s build communities that care for and support one another.
The more you reframe your thinking around money the more you’re going to want to start poking the people in your social circle who hoard money. And this might be difficult or unseemly, but it’s actually really important. Statistics show that poorer people give a higher percentage of their income to charity than wealthier people. Personally, I’m not ashamed of using a little social shaming when necessary. If you’re cash-poor remember that your $5 can make a difference, but the $500 of your network can make a bigger difference.
If you can’t put your money towards something, you might know someone who can.
The study linked above found that people were less likely to give the more homogenous their socio-economic circles. So if, like me, you’re the poorer person in the group, being a squeaky wheel can be helpful. The second thing it found is where the money is likely to go:
“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed. More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools (one, to the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York) than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).” – Ken Stern https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/
So talk to your friends about money, even your rich friends. Start understanding how they think about giving and how you can compel them to be more involved.
Money is hard to talk about, but like I said in the last piece about money…
Liberation will not be funded by loose change.
Safety Pin Box has done some of the most incredible work around dismantling this white money mindset. I cannot recommend them enough.
Welcome to Safety Pin Box
If you’re interested in unpacking how white supremacy affects you as a white person, that’s what I’m working on. I do this work while supporting the organizers I learn from through Patreon and other avenues. If you would like to support me as I continue to write, learn, listen and educate, you can do so here. I only ask that you prioritize funds. If you do not currently support any women of colour financially please let me know so that I can divert your Patreon contributions directly to those doing the work.
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If all of this is terribly overwhelming and you don’t know what to do please come meet the Nice White Ladies, we’re unlearning this together.
Nice White Ladies aims to cure Nice White Lady Syndrome. Many of our members are new to social justice and activism since the 2016 US election, and have walked into a climate of social engagement that they were not prepared for.
Also published on Medium.