Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color continue to experience disproportionate rates of unemployment and under-employment. These dynamics contribute to higher rates, when compared with white persons, of disease, chronic health problems, homelessness, arrest, and imprisonment.
No individual can achieve economic and employment success without the support of many others, known and unknown, and the support of a society of policies, mindsets, and cultures that foster equitable opportunities for everyone. Persons, such as myself, who enjoy economic and employment privileges can and must work toward extending these privileges to those who don’t possess them.
Here’s some overall solutions I’m learning to fight for:
- Ensure equitable treatment for black employees in the marketplace.
- Stop predatory lending and other predatory corporate practices.
- Build momentum for progressive tax, labor, and education policies.
More specifically, I’m embracing and recommending five action steps to drive the aforementioned solutions.
- Research and Learning (Including Data Gathering): Make an ongoing effort to educate yourself on the facts, history, complexities, and nuances of excessive use of police force. Keep links, notes, and data handy so that you can be informed when you interact with others or on social media. This tracker can help you with those efforts.
- Equitable Relationships with Members of Historically Underrepresented Groups (HUGs): There’s no substitute for getting to know and spending time with people who are different from you, especially those with less economic privilege than you enjoy. It’s crucial that these relationships are built on equal footing, without the person with more privilege positioning themselves as the financial “helper” or, worse, “savior.” The person with more privilege should also do most of the listening and a lot less of the talking.
- Speaking Against Injustices: When you hear or see economic injustice taking place, whether it’s right in front of you, explained to you by others, or observed through media, take a stand and speak out against it in a compassionate, skillful manner. These engagements can often be awkward, uncomfortable, or downright scary. Sometimes speaking out costs you a relationship or changes how people perceive you.
- Communication With Elected Officials and Signing Petitions: Regularly comment on posts from elected officials or others in positions of power, and create and share posts that address the actions of these individuals regarding economic justice or injustice. Sign well-organized petitions that can influence policy changes by such elected or appointed individuals. And do so, again, with compassion, skill, and non-violence.
- Contributions of Time, Money, and Resources: Being an effective activist who helps to influence meaningful, sustainable change toward others’ economic justice will cost you something. Contribute as much as you’re able to, depending on your individual circumstances and interests. This includes supporting non-profits that are doing effective work on issues that matter to you.
Regarding non-profits, here’s four organizations doing great work to drive policy changes toward economic and employment justice:
- Buddhist Global Relief: Founded by the American Theravadin monk Bikkhu Bodhi, BGR provides food aid to the hungry and malnourished, promotes ecologically sustainable agriculture, and supports education and other opportunities for girls and women.
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship: The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. Its purpose is to help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems. BPF’s programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change.”
- Color of Change: Color of Change leads campaigns that build power for Black communities, challenging injustice, holding corporate and political leaders accountable, commissioning game-changing research on systems of inequality, and advancing solutions for racial justice that can transform our world. In addition to advocating for media, economic, and tech justice, Color of Change fights for criminal justice and culture change; voting freedom and democracy; and opposition to right wing politics and white nationalism.
- ACLU – Racial Justice Program: Focusing especially on issues relating to credit and homeownership, the ACLU uses litigation and other advocacy to remedy deeply entrenched sources of inequality and ensure that access to opportunity is not allocated according to race. The ACLU Racial Justice Program has active litigation and advocacy challenging discrimination in the issuance of predatory loans and their purchase for securitization by Wall Street; compelling production of records used by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in deciding to block municipalities from using eminent domain to prevent foreclosures; and appealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) refusal to disclose consumer complaints pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by MFY Legal Services, Inc.
Self-Care and Mindfulness
Advocating for economic and employment justice for people of color is a long game, a marathon that requires a lot of strategy, self-care, and support from others. A key part of my own self-care and ongoing personal growth is practicing the “Five Mindful Trainings,” derived from Buddhist teachings and compiled by Vietnamese Zen monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh and summarized here by me:
- Reverence for Life: Eliminate all forms of violence against one’s self, other human beings, animals, and nature.
- True Happiness: Practice gratitude and generosity and avoid stealing from or exploiting others.
- True Love: Cherish and celebrate others and practice sexual virtue in romantic relationships.
- Deep Listening and Loving Speech: Practice active listening and kind, helpful speech in order to facilitate equitable and peaceful relationships.
- Nourishment & Healing: Eat and drink in a manner that avoids bringing toxins or diseases into the body, and consume media of all forms in moderation.