This report analyzes the inclusion and operationalization of “equity” in 170 California cities’ and counties’ Climate Action Plans (CAPs). California’s municipal climate action planning landscape is unique for both its size and diversity, as aggressive statewide environmental legislation has put unique pressure on all cities—even (or especially) small and less well-resourced ones—to adopt climate/emissions plans.
The Insurrection Act. Its invocation is enmeshed with this country’s long history of racial injustice: “insurrection” has been defined, in practice, as either rebellion against slave power or ongoing racial injustice, or as resistance to federal laws mandating civil rights and integration.
Piketty’s follow-up, Capital and Ideology, is a massive, globe and history-spanning attempt to figure out what’s inside the ‘black box’ that Capital in the 21st Century left unexamined. What makes it possible for inequality to persist, let alone get worse? Why don’t governments do anything about it? And since they so often don’t, why doesn’t runaway inequality provoke the mass resistance that might force them to?
What can we expect in the fall? As pandemic lockdown orders extend further and further through the spring, there has been a great deal of speculation about how or whether college education would proceed. Rumors floated at different schools of cancelled or remote semesters, even of months-long adjustments to the academic calendar. But for all but the richest universities, the conclusion has never truly been in doubt.
The movement to defund the police in the United States is gaining unprecedented momentum as protests continue across the globe. This 2-part series taking with Ruth Wilson Gilmore is insightful and motivating. Iconic geographer and abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of “Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California.” Gilmore is one of the world’s preeminent scholars on prisons and the machinery of carceral punishment and policing.
The protests must continue. It is clear they do create change. For those of us maintaining our quarantine, we may feel like we’re missing out. But we need to remember that protest is just one vehicle for change, especially for White Americans. There is a lot we can do to support antiracist work in all aspects of our lives.
Racial justice is linked with several other ongoing and critical efforts. For example, the abolition of the police and prison system can allow for real healing and justice. The efforts of anti-capitalism and environmental justice are also intricately linked with white supremacy.
The protests of the last few weeks have been critical in raising the voice of Black Americans. And, in turn, it highlights how white supremacy has impacted all BIPOC/BAME communities for a very long time.
Knowing a little about American culture, some people will begin to tune-out the protests as commercialism and capitalism draw us back into our comfort zone. Being an antiracist is uncomfortable. And it’s easier to buy a new product, read a gossip story about a celebrity, or stand aghast at the latest Tweet from Trump. These are all a distraction from what’s really important – healing ourselves and healing our community. As White people forget about the systemic racism, and as the antiracist work disappears from the front pages and trending on Twitter, we need to redouble our efforts.
Antiracist work must continue. In our homes, our communities, and in our workplaces. We must be diligent, persistent, and fearless. Even though I have been an antiracist for many years, there is so much I don’t know or understand. I must continue to educate myself and be open to the real stories and experiences from people of color. And I must be willing to be a disrupter.
In Our Homes
When I speak of our homes, I mean our personal space both internally and externally. It means our relationship with ourselves, our families, and those we live with. Maybe you’ve been frantically trying to educate yourself about anti-racism work. Maybe you’ve been attending webinars, reading books, watching films that speak to how white supremacy has infected our society. If you have been bold, you’ve been talking about what it means to be white with other white people. Taking the time to listen deeply to each other. We need to seek out these courageous conversations with our partners, our children, and our extended family. Learning to be honest and to admit our own fears. To be able to disagree with each other. And to push against a desire to push it under the rug. Look at your own racism. You have it.
Practical Tip: Subscribe to a blog, a newsletter, a podcast that regularly explores the theme of racism. Commit to reading or listening and then discussing it with someone in your household.
In Our Community (includes spiritual community)
When I speak of our community, I mean both the geographical location you live in and also any spiritual community you may be associated. For me, I live in the town of Ojai and I am also a member of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. Our work as antiracists in these areas are probably going to fall into the “policy” arena. But it may also include some of the things I mentioned above for our homes. Namely, engaging in education and listening to each other.
There is so much we can do within the political entity of a town or city. Take some time to understand your city budget. How much is being spent on policing? Is that appropriate for your community? What social services does the city provide and are they reaching the people in the most need? Have you noticed how segregation has negatively impacted certain neighborhoods in the community; in education, health, or employment? What environmental impacts (industry) exists that needs to be changed? Write a letter to the political leaders. Attend a city council or planning commission meeting. Speak. What about your school district? Notice where things don’t quite seem right. Align yourself with those BIPOC voices that are trying to be heard. Listen to them without judgment. Listen to understand. And to support. You can do it! Raise up Black voices. Build coalitions across racial, environmental, fair wage, and housing groups.
You would think a spiritual community would be the easiest place to be an antiracist. It may be difficult when the spiritual community is filled with well-meaning, liberal, and white Americans. It’s not always easy to see how structural and systemic racism may exist within such a community. But it does. If you are a predominately white community, how do you start? Much like what has been written above, we can begin by having conversations among white people. Remember, racism is a white-persons problem. Spend some time listening to each other, sharing your story, getting educated. We’re not all fully educated on antiracist work, and even if you’ve done such work then we know it is an ongoing process. And if you are fortunate to have people of color in your community, then when the conditions are right (for them), you can find a way to listen. We listen in order to understand. That means having an open heart and open mind. And if they identify examples of structural racism within the community, then believe them. And make a change. Why wouldn’t you?
In Our Work
Work is another place where we have the opportunity to be antiracist. Perhaps more so than other areas, this may be the most uncomfortable. Lean into your discomfort. Be willing to make mistakes. When you hear something inappropriate, say something. Don’t just expect someone else to be the voice. Look around you and see who is in leadership positions. Make sure Human Resources has a plan in place to address systemic racism; whether that’s in the hiring protocols or in the complaint protocols. Raise up Black voices. Who is doing the most speaking? Who is in the room and who isn’t in the room? Advocate for change and ask the difficult questions. Know who the other White people are that you can talk to about issues of equity. Join forces and move forward.
A few years ago, I organized a Racial Justice Awareness series for White employees. I started with the book What Does it Mean to be White? by Robin DiAngelo and then scheduled ten lunchtime sessions for employees to come together and discuss the book. We did a chapter per week. The participants were definitely all over the place in terms of antiracist understanding and work. But they committed to meet every week for ten weeks. We had many frank and open conversations. Difficult conversations. I think most came away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be white in a racialized world.
Each work environment is going to be different. I work in education, and our State Chancellors Office put together an amazing series of webinars over a period of six weeks on the theme of equity-minded education. Even though the focus was on BIPOC students in online classes because of COVID, the details could easily be extrapolated to many aspects of the campus. Likewise, in light of the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests, the Chancellors Office organized a 90-minute webinar on a Call to Action for California Community Colleges. During that webinar, 80% of the voices were from people of color. This is leadership.
For the corporate world, you might want to check out this HBR Ideacast episode. https://overcast.fm/+Dj5dXr4
There’s so much more to say. And I am only scratching the surface of possibility. Being an antiracist is not an overnight matter. My journey began in the mid-90s in San Francisco when I moved into a Black neighborhood. I didn’t realize that racism existed in me, but I quickly observed in myself a behavior that revealed my “hidden” racism – fear of black men. I still carry that moment in me today. Shortly after that, my employer offered a racial justice workshop for all employees. Thus began my journey. It has not stopped since those days. I have had to make many mistakes. Continuing to admit my unconscious bias. Do writing, talking, and most importantly, listening. It truly is a path that requires diligence, persistence, and fearlessness.
I finished the book Biased by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt on the same day that George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.
The book contains page after page of research, over a period of decades, demonstrating how bias plays out in our lives. And more importantly, how it plays out in law enforcement. The book opens with a training for the Oakland police department. The department was trying to remedy extensive civil rights violations. The bias discussed in the book focused on how we view Black Americans.
Bias exists in all our lives, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum or where we sit in the justice movement. None of us are immune. Reading the dozens of research studies clearly solidifies how bias against Black Americans exists throughout American society.
And, as a member of that society, bias inside me.
Bias, and more specifically white supremacy, permeates our laws, our law enforcement, and our so-called justice system. A first step toward making changes to these systems is seeing and understanding how white supremacy has played out over the centuries in American religion, American science, and American capitalism.
To be aware and to acknowledge these structural systems can help us move toward changing those systems. Writing this blog helps me to unearth some of my own bias and racism. I am honoring my quarantine and therefore am not able to join in the street protests. My vehicle will be my blogging and tweeting.
Yesterday, President Obama said at the end of his town hall that “this country was founded on protest.” He also talked about modifying policy and voting. Yes, these are both important, but I am firm believer in protest. Without the pressure of the masses, I don’t know how much will truly change. I’m reminded that the Minneapolis city council, mayor, and governor of Minnesota are all democrats. And Minneapolis police have killed over 30 people since 2000. And 1/3 of these were not armed. That’s just one city!
I probably spend too much time on Twitter. I am watching the violence at the protests and countless example of police violence against peaceful protesters. The most egregious is probably the clearing of Lafayatte Square in Washington DC so President Trump could take a picture with a bible. But that’s just one example. There are dozens of short clips from Los Angeles to New York to Ashville to Minneapolis that show extreme violence against peaceful protesters. It is disgusting. And isn’t that what we’re protesting against?
The voice of many leaders has come forth to condemn the murder of George Floyd along with commitments to fight for change. But how far are they willing to go? We must take all necessary steps to combat racism and white supremacy. Even when it impacts the bottom line of capitalism. When I read that the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA to process hundreds of arrests, I wondered how UCLA would respond. It took a day, but they issued a statement denying LAPD access to the property moving forward. That’s what we need to see. Likewise the Minneapolis School District ending their contract with the police department. What are you aware of in your community that upholds white supremacy? Are there changes that can be made like the two above? What organizations or entities are you part of that may be negatively impacting BIPOC communities?
What systems do we need to change? Let’s begin with law enforcement and carceral system. I’m finding myself being an abolitionist. The entire police state is broken in this country. It is irreparable. We need to defund the police state and begin again.
Likewise, the carceral system is broken. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. This is 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 people. Outrageous. Unacceptable.
Look for organizations in your state that are doing the work. No doubt your local community has local police and a local jail or prison. These systems hurt Black Americans disproportionally.
This is a repost of an article I wrote in December 2014 on Medium. It seems relevant to post today as the same issues remain.
Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Man is not the enemy. Our enemy is our anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism and discrimination.”
We live in a small town—Ojai, CA. It can be somewhat insular and we may not have the same experience as a person living in Los Angeles or Berkeley or New York. And yet the media is ever present, ubiquitous, guiding us, telling us what to think, how to feel, moving some of us to action, and yet others to inaction. Cynicism. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Disbelief. Perhaps these are some of the feelings you are having? Where is the voice of the Buddhist and other spiritual communities in all this talk of racism, violence, injustice?
I chose to include Martin Luther King as my image because he’s such an inspiration and a great symbol of responding to injustice, violence, hatred with the voice of love, calling for people to join together as the beloved community. Laws and regulations are all fine and good, and we need them, but what we need more is a transformation of society. We need to change hearts! And how do we change hearts? How do we change our own heart?
It’s quite distressing to live in this day and age and see our history continually repeat itself. It’s not new, many of my friends live with this inequity everyday, but it does have the attention of the media right now—it’s in the limelight. Why haven’t we changed? The images on television today could be those of Birmingham in the early sixties, the language of police violence can be hear in the voice of Richard Pryor in 1978. Ferguson. Staten Island. Cleveland. Racism is very present in American society.
There is a racial divide in our country, particularly as it relates to the justice system. My step brother, Chris Moore-Backman, has been documenting and sharing the stories inspired by the New Jim Crow in a radio documentary series. He speaks of the new underground railroad in his radio documentary; he speaks of the drug laws; he speaks of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM); all in the Bringing Down the New Jim Crow series. There is so much obvious inequity and injustice in how we treat certain populations in America; particularly black men. For inspiration, we can look to the work of FICPM and to Susan Burton with her reentry program, A New Way of Life, as an examples of transforming our society, one person at a time.
This week on the Lions Roar blog, I read “In Buddhist meditation, our breathing is essential. Anapana, meditation on the breath, was the Buddha’s first meditation instruction and the basis for all further meditative endeavors. Breathing is not only life-sustaining and calming; it is a foremost teaching aid. Breathing, we sense immediately our necessary connection to what is other than ourselves. Without the exchange of air—inner and outer–we would die. We are not independent. We are dependent.” It goes on to say, “If one of us cannot breathe, none of us can breathe fully and deeply and we no longer experience our connection with one another. If Eric Garner cannot breathe, then we cannot breathe. If Michael Brown no longer breathes, we cannot breathe. If Tamir Rice does not breathe, we cannot breathe.”
What can we do?
Note: By “we” I mean people who are white—these practices are good for anyone, but I’m speaking to my white audience right now.
First, we learn to listen. We learn to listen with compassion. My friend and fellow dharma teacher Dennis Bohn wrote, “We listen to the families of the victims of police violence, people who have themselves been victimized by the police, police officers, black people, other people of color, white people, activists, politicians, and others.”
And how do we cultivate the ability to listen? We practice stillness. Sitting and walking meditation. Quiet reflection, using our breathing, is a great place to begin. It’s amazing what one can learn from sitting peacefully. In that quiet reflection, we begin to listen to our inner selves so we can in turn listen to those around us. This listening comes from a place of non-judgement, non-discrimination. It is through deep listening, we can begin to transform what Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about above. We can reduce our “anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism and discrimination.”
The second action we can take is our awareness of mind. Again, my friend Dennis said it well, “Do we ourselves harbor unconscious or even semi-conscious biases? By “bias” I mean the tendency of preferring one thing or group over another for no apparently valid reason, specifically racial preference. These preferences are frequently formed in the mind and body even prior to the full perception of, say, “this is a person of color.” Racial bias is a seed watered by our culture, but it is our personal responsibility to transform it in ourselves. Then, we can look for ways to help transform such seeds in others and in our institutions. This is our co-responsibility.”
Many of us may think we hold no bias, no race preference. We may think we are well-intentioned, progressive, egalitarian, etc. And yet, we are a product of our society and may carry unknown perceptions deep within in our consciousness. This is the practice of unfolding our mind awareness. Here’s an experiment if you are interested in learning more about racial bias in yourself: go take the Harvard University Implicit Association Test (IAT) study. After you read the preliminary information, click the “I wish to proceed” link and then take the “Race IAT” which will be listed among many IATs. You might be surprised at what you discover—I know that I was— even though my intention is to see equality, non-discrimination, and less racial bias, the test exposed something different about myself.
The third action that white people can take to end racism in America is to be an ally. Much has been written on this topic, just do a Google search, but the video below is short, funny, and to the point on how to be an ally.
A few simple and clear tips I picked up from Chescaleigh:
1. Understand your privilege.
2. Listen and do your homework.
3. Speak up, not over.
4. You’ll make mistakes, apologize when you do.
5. Ally is a verb—saying you’re an ally is not enough.
Touching the Earth
As our Morning of Mindfulness neared the end, I offered another power practice from our Plum Village tradition called Touching the Earth. In this practice we have the opportunity to get in touch with a very specific topic—in this case, we are looking at our African-America ancestors, our European-American ancestors, and our Latino/a ancestors. If you do this at home, either have someone read it to you while touching the earth or record the words ahead of time so that you can fully engage with the words.
My friend Larry Ward wrote, “To touch the earth is an act of reconciliation, not an act of worship. It is an act of coming home to what is here and what is now. It is an act of embracing and being embraced by our mother Earth.” This is practice of placing our feet, hands, and head on the ground and allowing the earth to hold us. As we do this practice, we will listen to the text in order to help us get in touch with our (North American) land ancestors. In the original text, there are five specific earth touchings, but I am highlighting only three today. The text is from Touching the Earth to our Land Ancestors by the Plum Village Fourfold Sangha, published in Together We Are One, by Thich Nhat Hanh. 2010. The text not included here by that is in the book are Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American ancestors.
Touching the Earth Practice
In gratitude I bow to this land and to all the ancestors who made it available.
(Bell, all touch the earth)
I see that I am whole, protected, and nourished by this land and all of the living being that have been here and made life easy and possible for me through all their efforts. I see all those known and unknown who have made this country a refuge for people of so many origins and colors, by their talent, perseverance, and love?—?those who have worked hard to build schools, hospitals, bridges, and roads; to protect human rights; to develop science and technology; and to fight for freedom and social justice.
(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths)
I touch my African American ancestors, you who were enslaved and brought to this land, who poured your blood, sweat, and tears on this land, whose unrewarded labor helped make this country an economic world power.
(Bell, all touch the earth) .
I am in touch with the crippling violence and inhumanity that my African American ancestors faced every day, the loss of your land, language, culture, family, and freedom, and how you always found ways to resist, to subvert oppression, to maintain your humanity, through soulful singing, prayer, humor, slave revolts, communities of escaped slaves, as well as through political struggle, a strong commitment to education, and economic empowerment. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your strength, patience, perseverance, love, forgiveness, humility, your creativity and innovation in agriculture, inventions, history, music, dance, art, the sciences, sports, oratory, literature, religion, civil and human rights activism, and community spirit. I see Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Garrett A. Morgan, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Ernest Just, Roger Arliner, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Henrik Clarke, Ivan Van Sertima, and all others known and unknown inside of me, and in gratitude I honor you all.
(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)
I touch my European American ancestors, you who came to this land to find freedom from political and religious oppression and poverty, who came seeking a new vision of society.
(Bell, all touch the earth).
I touch the deep insight and compassion of these ancestors: the Quakers, Abolitionists, peace activists, and the great conservationists. I am aware that many of you European American ancestors lost your fortunes and even your lives to resist the oppression of people of color. At the same time, I touch the great suffering experienced by some of you in my ancestry who were misguided in their views, whose belief in your superiority led to the decimation of Native peoples, the horrors of slavery, and the exclusion of people of color. I pour all this suffering on the earth and ask the earth to help me transform it into wisdom and compassion. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your courage in coming to an unfamiliar land, your strong faith and commitment to democracy, your perseverance, respect for the arts and ingenuity. I see Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Benjamin Franklin, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, John Dewey, Amelia Earhart, Dorothy Day, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Woody Guthrie, Ralph Carr, Isadora Duncan, Myles Horton, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Howard Zinn, Jane Goodall, Paul Farmer, and all others known and unknown, inside of me, and in gratitude, I honor you all.
(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)
I touch my Latino/a ancestors of this land, you who are the children of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Spanish colonizers, some who for centuries lived on and built up roughly half of the present day U.S., and some who immigrated from Central and South America more recently.
(Bell, all touch the earth).
I touch the blood, sweat, and tears you have poured on to this land as farm laborers, skilled artisans, teachers, politicians, architects, and activists. I am in touch with the suffering of my Latino/a ancestors due to war and racist policies, like the deportation of two million Mexican American U.S. citizens during the Depression, as well as loss of land and culture. I am in touch with the United Farm Workers movement to end dehumanizing conditions for migrant workers, and I feel this collective energy, courage, intelligence, and dedication nourishing and supporting me to also do my part. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your strength, patience, perseverance, love, forgiveness, humility, humor, your creativity and innovation in the arts, your tradition of nourishing food and taking care of family. I see Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Emiliano Zapata, Pablo Neruda, Simon Bolivar, Rigoberta Menchu, Sandra Cisneros, Emma Tenayuca, Gloria Anzaldua, Rodolfo (Corky) Gonzalez, Sonia Maria Sotomayor, and all others known and unknown, inside of me and in gratitude, I honor you all.
(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)
I feel the energy of this land penetrating my body, mind, and soul, supporting and accepting me. I vow to cultivate and maintain this energy and to transmit it to future generations. I vow to contribute my part in transforming the violence, hatred and delusion that still lie deep in the collective consciousness of this society—in all ethnic groups—so that future generations will have more safety, joy, and peace. I ask this land for its protection and support.
This week I highly recommend the “Revolutionary Suicide” article and the “Seeds” article. Both are very long but totally worth the time. The other three articles highlighted are also excellent – topics explored include slavery, conspiracy theories, and a review of Michael Moore’s latest documentary.
We need to commit revolutionary suicide. By this I mean not the killing of our bodies but the destruction of our attachments to security, status, wealth, and power. These attachments prevent us from becoming spiritually and politically alive. They prevent us from changing the violent structure of the society in which we live. Revolutionary suicide means living out our commitments, even when that means risking death.
We are left with an inescapable conclusion. Being black, in and of itself, is a grave economic and social disadvantage, while being white confers considerable advantage. That this is true today, 155 years after the end of the Civil War, after three constitutional amendments, the great civil rights movement, a large number of civil rights laws, and lord knows how many college courses and sensitivity training sessions is testament to the power and tenacity of racist social structures.
This article explores the rise of activism around seeds worldwide over the past three decades. We adopt a broad definition of seed activism as encompassing all actions that oppose the enclosure of seeds and defend individual and collective rights to seeds. Not surprisingly, those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture – peasants, farmers, and indigenous peoples – are clearly on the frontline of these struggles.4 Communities are displaced by agribusiness expansion and lose plant varieties due to genetic contamination. They are not only denied the right to save seeds but can also be prosecuted for infringing seed patents.
If you were an adherent, no one would be able to tell. You would look like any other American. You could be a mother, picking leftovers off your toddler’s plate. You could be the young man in headphones across the street. You could be a bookkeeper, a dentist, a grandmother icing cupcakes in her kitchen.You know that the mainstream media are their handmaidens, in partnership with Hillary Clinton and the secretive denizens of the deep state. You know that only Donald Trump stands between you and a damned and ravaged world.You must find those who are like you. And you must be prepared to fight.You know all this because you believe in Q.
There is anger in me today, and I am not pushing it away. I’m so torn between staying abreast to what’s occurring in our society and crawling under a rock. Every time I see a headline or hop onto Twitter, it surges my anger. And maybe this is something that’s okay, especially if it drives me to action. It is easy to feel helpless, hopeless, during times such as we live in today. Have lived in for a long time.
Recently I was reflecting on the fact that segregated housing and education existed in my lifetime. I honestly find that astounding. And we really haven’t come much further in my 52-years. Yes, the laws enacted during the Civil Rights movement were real and helpful, but the white supremacy that exists in our society is very deep. And it remains today. It exists in me and it likely exists in you. We are collectively products of our society. Embracing and recognizing this truth is a step in the right direction.
I am encouraged by the efforts of East Point Peace Academy, Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Standing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) that each seek to dismantle white supremacy. Yesterday on a webinar, I heard Rev. Lynice Pinkard share that “getting back to normal is getting back to power, greed, and racism.” And she encouraged us to “stay with the trouble.” And asked us, “Where do we stand in relationship to domination, subordination, and subjugation?” This event was sponsored by East Point.
There is a strong urge in me to buy a plane ticket and fly to Minneapolis. To be a witness. To lend my body to the cause. But that urge may not become a reality. I know there are two sanghas in Minneapolis that practice in the Plum Village tradition – Blooming Heart Sangha and Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center. I wonder what we might do to support and connect with these fellow practitioners.
Yes, there is a place for being in nature, finding joy, nourishing peace. And there is also a place for direct action. And maybe it arises from anger. That’s okay too. We take our practice of peace and joy and apply it as a foundation to reject white supremacy and racism and violence.
I’ll end with a quote from James Baldwin – “All safety is an illusion.”
Capitalism and White Supremacy. I don’t know if that’s quite the right title. I really wanted to have the Environment in there too. Anyway, these are the topics I’ve been wrestling with lately and are the general theme of this essay.
The quarantine of 2020 has forced each of us to live and do things differently. As a librarian at a community college, I have been very fortunate to both retain my employment and to work from home. Although it has been difficult from time to time, it is truly a luxury to have personal safety and a steady income. I know this isn’t the case for many millions of Americans.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been a learner. It’s one of the reasons I went into academic librarianship. Not only do I get to learn from the students on a regular basis, I also get to be surrounded by the written word. And during this quarantine, I’ve definitely upped my reading. In fact, I seem to have accidentally created a curriculum for myself that focuses on capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment.
This isn’t a catch-all, be-all type of essay. Just opening up with a few of my thoughts and then sharing my curriculum with you. It’s at the bottom if you want to skip ahead.
Capitalism and Racism
These topics are so intertwined together. Moving forward, it will be difficult for me to look at each individually without considering the whole. And that’s a good thing! Researching and experiencing these more deeply has been pushing me to reflect on what is most important, and therefore where I might place my attention and resources. In some ways, the curriculum has radicalized me more than I expected.
Historically, I have rarely identified myself as “a liberal.” I’ve always considered myself a bit further to the left than the liberal. In fact, I’ve struggled to vote for a Democrat for president for decades (and 2020 is going to be especially difficult). In the end, they seem to always let me down and don’t seem to move society forward.
So, I’m probably somewhere on the anarchist, socialist, communist spectrum. It does beg the question whether someone like me should even vote in a presidential election. I don’t know the answer. If you have ideas, please do comment. This accidental course of study has definitely forced me question our current political structures as it relates to capitalism, white supremacy, and the environment. Do current politics in United States have the capacity to address the damages of capitalism, white supremacy, and environmental degradation?
Capitalism in the United States is detrimental for all workers, but especially for BIPOC communities, and the environment. It forces the lowest possible wages and the weakest environmental considerations in order to feed the shareholder. The costs of capitalism are both extremely obvious and also deeply hidden. The Capitalist State upholds this structure and the mentality permeates all aspects of society. From the church to the oil company. I’m not a great scholar, but this is the sense of what I have gleaned from my recent readings. It’s also been quite interesting during this COVID Crisis to see capitalists embrace more socialist approaches (such as the large bailouts of corporations and the IRS payment to workers).
White supremacy is propped up by capitalism.
Perpetual growth based on theft and slavery is the name of the game. From the first arrival to North America by Europeans that forced the death and/or migration of native peoples, to the theft of the southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California), to chattel slavery, to post-reconstruction lynchings and Jim Crow laws well into the 20th century, to redlining to prevent home ownership of black people, to the continued violence and murder of black Americans in the 21st century, to reliance on fossil fuels. My god, I’m only 52-years old and legalized segregation in schools and colleges existed within my lifetime! And three of the greatest Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s were all assassinated (Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X).
And white supremacy isn’t only about Black Americans. Immigration of cheap labor from “non-white” countries such as Italy and Ireland in the early 20th century, all the way to present-day immigrants from Central America and Mexico. And then we have anti-semitism throughout history that continues to this day. They all suffered at the hands of the Capitalist State. Is it surprising that some of the most polluted locations in North America are within non-white communities? Is it surprising that incomes, better health, and home ownership are all highest for white Americans?
I’m feeling this is enough of an introduction to the topic at hand. I did want to dig deeper into the environment, since this is intricately tied with capitalism and racism, but I’ll leave that to be explored on your own through the books, podcasts, videos, and articles listed below.
Clark, John P. Between Earth and Empire: From the Necrocene to the Beloved Community (2019)
Eberhardt, Jennifer L. Phd. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do (2019)
Lowy, Michael. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe (2015)
Note: The title of each episode is first, followed by the guest on the show, and then the name of the podcast. You can search online or in your favorite podcatcher.
Community-Led Practices To Build the Worlds We Need, Sasha Costanza-Chock | Data & Society
COVID-19 in Black America, Ibram X. Kendi | This is Hell!
Covid19 and the Crisis Capitalism Creates in Normal Times, Silvia Federici | Latin Waves Media
Food Workers and the Virus, Raj Patel | Belabored
I Am Not Your Negro: Racism in the Us, Richard Johnson | Factual America Podcast
The Nature of Democracy in the Times of Crisis, A. C. Grayling | KPFA – Letters and Politics
Technological Change and Social Protests, Kerstin Enflo | A Correction Podcast
We Have To Begin With Emancipation, Asad Haider | Millennials Are Killing Capitalism