Class & Giving

I recently joined the Giving Project, an initiative of a social justice foundation in Chicago, which brings together a diverse cohort of people with the purpose of raising funds and then distributing them through grants to local, grassroots organizations engaged in community organizing and activism. In preparation for the fundraising and grant-making portions of the project, my cohort completed two day-long workshops, the first focused on race and the other on class. The workshops were intended to help us come to a shared understanding of how the intersection of race and class play out in our lives, communities, at work, and within organizations. As you can guess with these topics, the conversations were deep, sometimes emotional, and I feel like we came away with a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The workshop on class was really transformative for me in many ways because it 1.) forced me think and write about my class status now, and growing up, which is something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately; and 2.) opened my eyes to intersections of race and class I hadn’t thought of before, such as the experience of being poor as a Black person living in a majority White suburb, growing up upper middle class in your childhood, but then experiencing being poor as an adult, and what rural poverty looks like.

I’ve struggled in the last year with my complicated class status, which is different in many ways from the one I grew up with, but not so different in other ways. A main takeaway from the workshop is that class isn’t just about income or even wealth, it’s about access to resources, social capital, and networks. Even though, financially, I haven’t moved up much (or maybe I’ve actually moved backwards-student loans!), a combination of my education, access to resources, the zip code I reside in, and the network I’ve been able to build has given me some social capital and opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. In thinking about how my cohort will soon move into the fundraising aspect of the project, how can I utilize the network I’ve grown to meaningfully contribute in the redistribution of as much funds as possible to help as many organizations as possible do their vitally important work? I’m still thinking through what that looks like, but I have some rough ideas.