Bold, expansive and wide-reaching public policy change that moves our economy towards equality and equity is the only solution. This kind of change can only be achieved through a well-organized political movement for justice.
Pay for Generational Oppression: Reparations Revisited
To center enslavement as the only form of economic injustice experienced by Black people is, at best, limited and narrow. The discourse on reparations for Black people must be expanded beyond the lingering effects of chattel slavery to individuals and families affected by mass incarceration, redlining policies, and the disinvestment of blighted communities across this nation.
We demand the passage of H.R. 40 and advocate that recommendations coming out of that commission should include the following:
- Budget lines for reparations at municipal, state, and federal government levels to include cash, land, and economic development, scholarship funds for Black students to be paid by colleges and universities that benefitted directly from slave labor, and textbooks/other educational materials that accurately depict the history of Black people of the African diaspora – all of which could begin to amend past and persistent injustice and exploitation.
- Restore voting rights to incarcerated people. Today, close to 6 million people are denied the right to vote due to felony records. Additionally, through a process called “prison-gerrymandering,” political power has decreased in over-policed areas and increased in the overwhelmingly white and Republican areas of the United States where prisons have been built.
- Establish Independent Compensation Commission to process claims and pay compensation for economic, social, psychological, and political damage suffered as a result of the United States’ harmful policies and practices towards Black people.
- The modern labor movement must support a robust agenda for Black workers. A workers’ bill of rights must be adapted across all sectors in order to address generational poverty and worker exploitation while providing pathways for our people to do more than survive.
- All workers should receive a living wage (regardless of education/experience)
- All workers should have access to provisions for maternity/paternity/parental leave.
- All workers should have paid sick leave.
- All workers should have the right to form a union and/or body for the purposes of collective bargaining for benefits, wage adjustments, sexual harassment, grievances and workplace safety.
- All workers should have protections against discrimination based on perceived or self-identified gender presentation and sexual orientation.
- All workers should have protections against discrimination based on past drug offenses or incarceration.
- All gender-based and race-based pay gaps should be eliminated in public and private places of employment.
- All adults who want a job should have a right to employment through public or private opportunities through a federal jobs program.
- All children, regardless of the financial status the child was born into, should receive a Child Development Account or “baby bond.”
- All people have a right to a guaranteed living income regardless of employment status.
Divest and Eliminate Profit from Punishment
Prisons, profit, policing, and poverty are intimately connected. Prisons are warehouses for the poor and policing is the gateway. And increasingly rich people and the multi-billion dollar security industry make money off of mass incarceration. The profit motive in the criminal injustice system is immoral and must be eliminated. Mass incarceration of Black people should never contribute to profit for corporations, government or any individuals. We must demand that all individuals and institutions divest immediately from racist and classist systems of punishment.
Abolish all fines in the penal system and administrative fees for probationers and parolees because any transfer of our scarce family wealth to the prison industrial complex cannot be allowed to stand.
End all fines for minor and petty crimes and misdemeanors. It is becoming more and more evident that law enforcement agencies are used as tools to take advantage of young Black people in over-policed areas, particularly for petty crimes like parking infractions, jaywalking, public intoxication, and low-level marijuana possession.
Divest public and higher education funds from the prison-industrial complex. The profit motive in the penal system is a corrupting force that motivates police and judges to unnecessarily incarcerate and criminalize in order to maintain profitability of powerful monied interests.
Reduce police budgets and reallocate residual funds to the people’s vision of public safety. Establishing participatory municipal and state budgets is an avenue that would allow the public to democratically decide how to allocate funds towards services and institutions critical to our survival and success.
Value the Worth of Women’s Work
Black women are our primary heads of households and our entire community is impacted when women are not able to support their families. All women must be centered in our struggle for economic justice.
Protect women’s livelihood with the workers’ bill of rights.
Universal child care and renewed investment in quality public schools. All parents should be able to go to work feeling safe and secure that their child or children are being cared for. A universal child care benefit is especially pertinent for parents who have been laid off, unemployed and looking for work, and underemployed. Spending on universal child care now leads to positive outcomes in later life, which would alleviate government spending on services later on. In a similar vein, investing in schools and afterschool programs for Black children and adolescents that carry on the tradition of freedom schools in bolstering academic enrichment, socio-political consciousness, and communal self-development, is essential for cultivating strong communities.
Full access to reproductive healthcare regardless of ability to pay. All women should be able to exercise full autonomy and self-determination over their bodies, sex lives, ability to reproduce, and when/how often to do so. Poverty or strained financial ability should not stand in the way of these choices.
Support Trans* Wealth and Health
The narratives and experiences of queer and trans* Black people provide some of the clearest examples of the effects of poverty. The impact of structural violence when it appears as economic injustice often compounds to keep many in a constant state of trauma and often has fatal consequences for transgender women.
Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and make nondiscrimination protections for trans* people explicit under federal and state law. Although nondiscrimination laws exist that protect people from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, disability status, sex, and genetic information, federal and state law that offers protection based on gender identity/expression in the areas of employment, housing, health insurance, and financial institutions is either inadequate (like in the case of federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) or nonexistent (like in the area of employment).
Comprehensive access to basic health care and transition-related care in benefits. Trans* workers get fewer benefits for the same work and have a harder time accessing necessary health care, having to pay out-of-pocket for transition-related care. It is essential that health insurance companies cover transition-related care.
Remove barriers to obtaining government-issued identification for trans* people that aligns with their gender identity. Government-issued identification is often needed in order to apply for employment, benefits, enroll in school, open bank accounts, and carry out other essential activities. However, federal and state governments impose a burden so heavy for trans* people to update their IDs – requiring proof of surgery and court orders – that only 21% of folks who have transitioned have been able to successfully do so. National Center for Transgender Equality has been doing important work to remove these barriers and has achieved great success. However, many state agencies need still impose burdensome requirements that need to be relaxed in order to ensure that trans* folks are able to obtain identification that reflects who they are.
Stabilize and Revitalize Black Communities
Economic development must uplift Black communities, Black families and individuals. To maintain opportunity for Black families in developing areas, our approaches must be multi-pronged and center social equity.
Accountability and Redress for Predatory Lending. We demand that immediate investigations be opened by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into mortgage practices in Black communities all over the U.S., with additional attention given to Black female head of households. If misconduct is found on the part of mortgage lenders, then the financial institutions employing them should be held responsible for significant compensatory damages. Further, we demand local, state, and federal resources be used to support communities assaulted by discriminatory practices by creating programs to protect Black families from foreclosure and rectify the credit scores for those who have fallen victim to foreclosure.
Increased Availability and Accessibility of Financial Literacy. Financial literacy and education is an integral part of economic equality. Therefore, we challenge our local governments to fund nonprofits and community groups to teach on financial topics that include, but are not limited to the following: budgeting, financial opportunities (i.e., the purchasing of non-liquid assets), applying for a credit card, and tax filing. We demand that this education be available to any and all members of our community. We also demand that financial planning options be integrated into traditional banking systems already in place within our communities. These options should also be transparent and easily accessible.
Intentional Support for First-Time Homebuyers. We demand government to ensure that mechanisms be put in place for areas experiencing rapid development and growth to enable low-income and wealth-poor Black individuals to obtain and maintain homeownership, such as tax abatements for low-income homeowners and programs that provide down-payment assistance to first time homebuyers. Further, we demand that information about mortgage loan rates offered to prospective homeowners including interest rate offers delineated by race, gender, ability status, and sexuality be made public to better allow the general public to gauge active levels of discrimination.
Support Community Land Trusts. In order to protect Black communities from the impacts of gentrification, a crucial challenge that must be addressed is the instability that the process imposes on communities through displacement. One method for addressing community displacement is through the development of community land trusts. By creating a system in which land and property ownership are separated, CLTs are able to in effect shield those properties from speculative housing market fluctuations and ensure that those properties continue to be bought and sold at rates affordable for lower and middle income households indefinitely.
Support and Strengthen Cooperative Enterprises. Cooperative Enterprises (also known as co-ops) economically empower Black people and provide an alternative to top-down corporations within an exploitative, capitalist enterprise system. They promote shared decision-making power, shared ownership. and shared profits. Cooperative ownership among Black people is not a novel idea, as market failures and economic racial discrimination have historically driven cooperative practice. However, we have plenty of room for collective growth so that we can literally build community and alternative structures for our workplaces, housing, and consumption. Several types of co-ops that could be started by young Black people right now to support Black communities include worker-owned business co-ops, producer-owned co-ops, housing co-ops, and consumer co-ops.