Posts

The entrenched nature of racism in our current economic system is abundantly clear. All over the world, there are cases where one race or class of people are discriminating against and exploiting the ‘other’. This trend is seen with the Rohingya in Myanmar, Africans residing in China, and globally reflected by the massive civil rights protests for #BlackLivesMatter. The discrimination against an ‘other’ is unfortunately a key tenet of how our global economy operates.

It goes without saying that in order to develop a new global economic system that delivers social justice on a healthy planet, we must ensure that these trends do not continue. It is vital that this emergent system is actively ‘antiracist’. 

What does it mean to be antiracist?

Before we can define antiracism, we must define racism. In his book, “How to be an Antiracist”, Ibram X. Kendi defines racism as, “a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalises racial inequities.” 

Racist ideas suggest that one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist policies come about when these ideas influence decision making on how to distribute opportunities and power, often unfairly and unequally As a result, we see racial inequity, when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximate or equal footing to access benefits from our collective systems, such as the financial system or the political system. 

These definitions show that racism goes beyond individuals having prejudices; it is about how those beliefs translate into power imbalances that perpetuate massively different life chances and life outcomes between two racial groups. 

For greater clarification – this is about inequity, not inequality. See the graphic below which illustrates the difference of these two phrases.

Artist: Angus Maguire

In contrast, Antiracism is “a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” 

We are not simply looking for equality, which is giving everyone the same opportunities, but does not consider everyone’s starting points. We are looking to remove the barriers and address the systemic factors that have disadvantaged certain groups, so that everyone ultimately ends up with the same standing. This is equity.

Simply put, antiracism promotes equity, and racism promotes inequity. 

This framing allows for a simple way to identify which policies are racist or antiracist. For example, do-nothing climate policy is racist since the non-white Global South is being victimised by climate change more than the whiter Global North. 

Transitioning away from policies that promote inequity, requires a shift in how we think about our economic system. 

Our current system – underpinned by capitalism [‘an economic system characterised by private ownership for the means of production, especially in the industrial sector’] latches onto existing hierarchies in a society – like gender or race – exploits and exacerbates them, and creates new hierarchies”. As Cedric Robinson states, “Without this ability to exploit existing divisions, the profit margins of the corporations that drive capitalism would be seriously undermined.”

This insight shares the reasoning behind building racial hierarchies in society; to build hierarchies of value. In the Open Democracy Podcast, “Is Capitalism Racist”, Dalia Gebria points out that upholding these hierarchies, where some people do the dirty work that keep others alive, means that “you have to differentiate people into more worthy and less worthy, more human and less human, and with particular characteristics that make them seem ‘naturally suited’ to this work, all while concealing the fact that this differentiation is socially constructed.” 

Continuing to uphold these hierarchies in society will perpetuate the capitalist system that is underpinned by racist policies. Kendi says, “Whoever creates the norm creates the hierarchy and positions their own race-class at the top of the hierarchy.” Meaning that, to dismantle these hierarchies of power and to ensure policies are not racist, policymaking must be inclusive of all the voices of communities. Building policies that are inherently collaborative, is the process needed to build a Wellbeing Economy

In a Wellbeing Economy, people and the planet are the priority. The focus is on building equity in societies all over the world. As Kendi writes, “Changing minds is not a movement. Critiquing racism is not activism. Changing minds is not activism. An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change.” 

This is why a core part of WEAll’s network is focused on convening and connecting stakeholders from different focus areas and geographies and bringing them into each other’s work thus catalysing new powerbases of people that can shift policy and structural change in our economic system. This is created through our place-based Hubs, [ScotlandCosta Rica, Iceland, Cymru- Wales, California, New Zealand], which advocate for policy change, and the establishment of the WEGo Partnership, which is the world’s only living lab testing Wellbeing Economy policies.

To transition towards a Wellbeing Economy, our future policies must stop thinking of transaction, value extraction, and accumulation, but rather begin to think about togetherness, survival, and repair. We are all on the same planet, in this complex system; as one.

Visit our anti-oppression page to learn more about how to incorporate antiracist decision making into your work. 

Our upcoming Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guidebook will also outline the specific tools needed for policymaking that promotes equity. 

If you are interested in starting a WEAll Hub in your local area, see our Hub Guide.  

Written by Isabel Nuesse

By: Rabia Abrar

Over the last 24 hours, like everyone else, I’ve cycled through an overwhelming series of emotions: disbelief, frustration, anger, helplessness, sadness, dread. 

I felt especially sad because, while yesterday’s violent acts of white supremacy in Washington D.C. are news, white supremacy and the institutional and systemic racism1 that enables it, is far from new.  

This past year has been a reckoning in the face of racial injustice and police violence. These systemic issues aren’t going away just because 2020 is over. 

At the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), we are working with a global network to bring about a Wellbeing Economy, an economy2 that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

I’ll speak to the situation in North America. We are not there yet. There is still so much work to be done. 

I had to go out for a walk to clear my head. As I trudged through the snow, I kept asking myself,

“Where do we go from here? Where do we even start?” 

I don’t have all the answers (does anyone?!) But here’s what I do know. 

1. Protect your mental health.

As I walked, I had to remind myself: does my frustration, on its own, help anyone? No. If we are to effectively deal with societal issues that are upsetting and exhausting, we’re going to need to protect our mental health. In the wise words of Oprah, 

“Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your gifts that you have to give with the real reason why you’re here. The number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself…and to fill yourself up, and keep your cup full.”

In short: You can only give or contribute to positive change if ‘your cup runneth over’. Honour yourself.

The New Economics Foundation suggests Five (Evidence-based) Ways to Wellbeing, around the themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving. 

Breathe deeply, get some fresh air, talk to a friend, listen to music, dance to shake it off.

Today, I did all of the above.

2. Support organisations doing the work. 

The social justice and environmental crises we face are multidimensional and interconnected. We don’t have to look any further than the COVID-19 crisis to see this. Indigenous and racialised communities are not only disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but also by environmental issuesthe effects of climate change, and poverty – and these issues reinforce one another. And since these issues are all interconnected, your support for organisations working to address any of them, is helping (as long as we hold them accountable to take an intersectional approach). 

Once I’d had enough of reading and watching videos of yesterday’s riot on Instagram, I started to google social justice organisations I could donate to. Here’s a good list of Canadian social justice organisations I found.

Not everyone has the privilege to be able to donate. And even if you do, you may not have a lot that you are able to give. But if you can, even donating $5 is still $5 that is flowing in to help move forward the change we need.

“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Author and Animal Activist

3. Examine your own role.

All countries have their own systemic social justice issues. That includes Canada. For example, Indigenous people represent about 26% of those in a correctional facility, while only accounting for about 3% of the population.

Halfway through my walk, I remembered this excerpt from the Living Hyphen team’s anti-racism statement: 

“We are committed to continuously (un)learning our role and responsibility in […] dismantling the mentality of white supremacy that exists as a result of this colonisation.” 

Institutional racism in our economic, legal, and political systems is tied to power imbalances rooted in colonialism and capitalism. Before we can reimagine more equitable institutions and systems, we have to understand and acknowledge the impacts of colonialism that continue to exist today. 

Living Hyphen has created Indigenous Allyship resources and Anti-racism resources to help in this task. They also raise tough questions we all need to ask ourselves, as a starting point: 

“Can we celebrate our communities’ achievements while also interrogating and rising up against the systems that led us here? How can we hold all these truths at once?” 

While this felt like a heavy thought, it was also an empowering one. If I have a role to play in enabling or challenging systemic racism, I am not helpless to its effects. And I can get started right in my own small social circle.

With all of this in mind, I finished my walk feeling a little lighter and with a new emotion: resolve. 

“Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community.”

Valarie Kaur, Author of One World

1 refers to the ways that white supremacy (the belief that white people are superior to people of other races) is reflected and upheld in the systems in our society. Read more here.

2 a system that measures how we produce and provide things

Connect with Rabia on Twitter & LinkedIn.

Alongside our entire membership, WEAll has been learning and working to deepen our understanding of systemic racism – and the ways in which we can be actively anti-racist.

We came across this resource: The Anti-Racist Educators Network which is a grassroots movement holding individuals accountable for working to combat systemic racism in their communities.

The guiding principle of the Anti-Racist Educators Network is that by addressing the bias in our education system, we can educate the next generation to create a society that is open-minded and reflective.

We agree with their statement that “education is the greatest weapon we have to change the world.”

Here you can find a list of resources that the network has curated, from a Black History Resource Bank to a list of organisations that could use our support, to a virtual library and list of book corner classics.

Learning from resources such as these is a critical first step to becoming actively anti-racist and enacting much-needed change in our communities, work environments and beyond.

Do share with us your experiences as you move through this educational process. We’d love to support your learning! For more resources on how to support anti-racism efforts, please visit our BLM page.