Kwanzaa for White Allies, Day 4: Building and Sharing Community Wealth

The anti-racism movement can benefit from allies being both more generous and more financially strategic.

The themes of Kwanzaa can be readily applied to the four issues that allies should consistently reflect upon, which concern: 1) your personal journey toward more energetic allyship, 2) your degree of support for people of color, 3) your capacity to effectively influence racism skeptics, and 4) your ability to positively affect the anti-racism ally movement. The theme of Day 4, “Ujamaa,” concerns issues #2 and #4 above.

The typical definition of ujamaa is “cooperative economics;” when I reviewed commentary about what this meant from the creator of Kwanza as well as others, two related but somewhat distinct meanings emerged. Each of the meanings raises different types of activism for allies to think about and engage in service of racial equity.

One meaning of ujamaa has to do with familyhood, generosity, and wealth sharing. The core idea is that the resources of the world are not to be amassed and hoarded by a few, even if large-scale economic systems encourage such behavior. Rather, the spirit of ujamaa suggests that each person should be concerned with the degree to which their approach to both work and managing their resources reflects a mindset of fairness and equity.

As many allies know, the per capita wealth gap between whites and blacks (to highlight one group) has a ratio of about 10:1, with the net worth of the typical white family being $171,000 in contrast to $17,150 for African-americans. Given the way that historical racism produced this disparity, allies who want to apply the idea of ujamaa to their ally work can ask themselves several questions. For example, what is the degree to which your commitment to allyship is reflected in your charitable giving that benefits people of color? If you are fortunate enough to have investment resources, are you taking steps to steer your investment portfolio to benefit entrepreneurs of color, minority populations, social change enterprises, or minimally, corporations that are better than average on inclusion? Are there things you might do with your time that could be aimed increasing the wealth of people of color — such as formally or informally teaching financial literacy to people of color who you have contact with who lack knowledge you have?

The other theme emphasized in texts on ujamaa focus less on generosity and more on the building and strengthening of economic institutions. The article in this series on Day 2 of Kwanzaa discussed supporting economic enterprises owned by owned by people of color; certainly, this is an important course of action that allies should seriously consider. In addition, allies can think about contributing to the anti-racism ally movement by directing financial resources to businesses that are operating in a way that is aligned with the anti-racism movement.

For example, a quick google search on “Best Companies on Inclusion” will generate any number of lists of corporations that have been vetted, to one extent or another, on their level of progress on countering the common drift toward racial exclusion within large companies. Part of your allyship can include rewarding companies that are doing better than most by directing consumer or institutional resources toward them.

The same logic of supporting good actors applies on a local level, though following through may require a tad more work. Allies should consider contacting regional or local minority advocacy groups (such as the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, etc.) and asking about the businesses that have repeatedly purchased large advertisement in the program of their annual banquet. By definition, these are the organizations that are putting their dollars behind their commitment to equity; your allyship might include supporting these companies out of a sense of common cause. Finally, if you know people who are committed anti-racist allies who also own businesses, you should consider putting a little extra energy into directly helping them through your patronage and indirectly helping them by spreading the word to others about what they offer and why you support them.

The anti-racism movement needs to think about itself as social movement that is trying to increase its size tomorrow as well as an interest group that is trying to increase its power today. The motivation for doing this should not solely in response to the same thing happening on other parts of the ideological spectrum. As you may recall, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly criticized the Goya company for supporting President Trump, and afterwards, the company says their sales increased 1,000%. Consumer power is real, and is an underutilized weapon in the fight against racism. If enough allies take the idea of spirit of ujamaa seriously, the anti-racism movement will benefit from an important addition to the movement’s collective toolkit.

Dr. David Campt is a nationally renowned coach of anti-racism allies, and principal of the White Ally Toolkit. This is the fourth in the series of guides for allies framed around Kwanzaa. Here is an article on reflections from Day 1 of Kwanzaa for allies, and an article about reflections from Day 3 can be found here.

dialogue maven, civic engagement enthusiast, race relations expert, caregiver to elderly parents

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