Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to confront money scarcity, secrecy and shame among activists

Let’s face it, talking about money is uncomfortable for most of us. I’m an activist from a middle class background — my parents were public school teachers with stable jobs. I’ve had all the benefits of growing up with financial stability, formal education and a high quality of life — including things like having health care, ability to travel and take vacations, and access to fresh food. While I’m certainly appreciative of these benefits, I, like many others, sometimes struggle to talk openly and honestly about my class position, especially in an organizing context. It can feel as though there’s much at stake, as though there’s balance that might be disrupted if we’re too honest, if our class differences become too apparent. Each of us, whether we’re raised poor, working class, middle class or owning class may encounter situations where we fear that outing our class background might lead us to be judged, alienated or stigmatized.

In most organizing groups I’ve been witness to, class dynamics are rarely discussed in a ways that increases capacity for interacting across class differences. Even activists with a high level of sensitivity to race, gender and sexuality are often still clueless when it comes to noticing how class influences their interpersonal relationships and organizational structures. So how do we build organizing cultures that encourage learning and accountability related to class?


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