On White Wealth and Reparations

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I don’t remember when I first learned that talking about money was distasteful and classless, but it’s been so integral to my development that my heart still pounds as I write this. I feel like a child, again—born of the working class with a built-in calculator to count every cup of coffee paid for which I could not reciprocate, every assumption about my family’s ability to experience or provide. Growing up, I surrendered to the myth that our access to resources was a fair consequence of the efforts of our families and histories. That there was nothing different between us so long as I not speak about the material differences which make everyone so uncomfortable. I invested in this myth. But now that I know differently, I won’t do it anymore.

For white people to show up in a fight for racial justice, we have to grapple with our collective access to resources. All of us. And it’s not going to be easy or particularly fun.

See, regardless of my class background, the most material impact on my life has been my whiteness. The community where I grew up was segregated. This meant wealth was concentrated into the home equity of my neighbors and the budgets of our public schools. This white wealth sent me to college, which taught me a lot of things, and gave me mobility to move to California, which also taught me a lot of things. It taught me that redlining, mass incarceration, violent immigration policy, and white supremacist culture denies Communities of Color the most fundamental opportunities for wealth accumulation. It taught me that mobility is not color-blind, that racist seizures of wealth and property are as powerful in the Bay today as they were in the 1940s. As an anti-racist white accomplice, I must sit with this history and it must shape how I show up in this movement.

Fundraising for SURJ Bay Area is incontestably complicated. Our chapter is working diligently in accountable partnerships to mobilize people against displacement, against police terror, and needs financial resources to sustain our organizing and educational work. This reality pushes us into a challenging position where we risk replicating the historic direction of money our own way, instead of POC-led organizing efforts. Rather than falling back into the silence around racial wealth disparity and avoiding the work of fundraising altogether, the SURJ Bay Area Fundraising Committee leans into it. If we must raise money for our critical work then we are dedicated to raising more than that for our partners. If we are going to call white people into to taking action for racial justice for the first time then we are going to simultaneously facilitate collective investment into communities that have been excluded by white seizure of wealth. After months of building our fundraising strategy, SURJ Bay Area is proud to confirm that every dollar spent on white organizing in coalition is matched with two dollars generated for POC-led partner organizations. We plan to surpass these levels in the coming month.

The #12DaysToShowUp campaign is a flashy slogan for a radical politic. Although arguments for government-initiated reparations projects are still necessary and relevant, our current political climate has changed for the worse and we cannot wait. I want to thank you for supporting us this December as we gear up for a long year of work and learning and to share my deep appreciation for examining your own relationship to wealth as you consider donating to SURJ Bay Area and matching that gift to our any of our POC-led Partner Organizations.

Thank you and in solidarity,
Elliot Karl
Coordinator, SURJ Bay Area Fundraising Committee

 

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As a part of SURJ Bay Area’s #12DaysToShowUp Fundraising Campaign, over 50% of all donations raised for SURJ are passed on to local POC-led organizations. The rest will be used to fund under-resourced rural SURJ chapters and to support our own work mobilizing white people in the Bay Area. On top of this donation, we encourage you to match donations directly to POC-led organizations (linked above).

Blog posts are written by individuals within SURJ are not representative of the entire organization. Illustration by Emily Neigel.