While you are upset, I want to talk about your money.

Photo by Elisabetta Foco on Unsplash

While you are upset, I want to talk about your money. I first wrote a version this essay in the days following the most recent presidential election. I’m sharing it again in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville. 
I’ve been asked by people in the last few days how they can protect things they care about. These questions come from people I know who are privileged and who have resources to spare, and this is some of my thinking for them.

You are upset, and you want to help. But if history is any guide, some of us will soon allow our attention to shift to other things, finding it difficult to sustain a commitment born solely from adrenaline. Not everyone has the privilege of setting these emotions aside, but those of us who have the most often do.

So I am asking that you take this moment of grief, anger, outrage and confusion and form it into something more enduring — take some time to think about your values, your money and your time. I want you to give and to give more than you have before.

  1. I urge you to make sustaining contributions with your money instead of a one-time donation. Pledge to give $10 a month or some other recurring amount. The causes you care about need to be sustained. If organizations can predict a stable stream of income they are in a much better position to be nimble in the short term and have some space to consider longer term movement building.
  2. Direct resources to organizations that are led by and advocate for communities of color. If you are not a regular supporter of an organization that is led by and for people of color, stop, do some research, and make that your next gift.
  3. Understand the difference between giving money to a non-profit (let’s say Planned Parenthood) and their associated Political Action Committee or PAC. Each are worthy of your support, and each can use your money in very different ways. Why not both?
  4. There will be new causes too. There are many conversations happening about the best ways to organize, resist and protect locally and nationally. As new entities and coalitions emerge there will be new need for your support — financially as well as with your voice and your body. Set some resources aside for things that will happen that you can’t yet see.
  5. There will be fewer federal dollars for things you care about. This means that your congressional delegation will need you to push them to stand up. It also means they might spend all their time trying to shore up what we have — and still lose. We need to keep the most progressive elected officials we have in Congress, and push them to take some hard stands. We also need to elect the most progressive voices we can find.
  6. Are your resources helping to take apart the structural problems in our society or are they helping to ease the pain of things as they are? I’m not arguing against direct services or support to individuals, but the campaigns that often appeal to our hearts (a hungry child, a sad dog), sometimes do not address root causes. Help the people in your community, and also support the hard work of dismantling some of the uglier, more systemic forces that keep us in these cycles of despair.
  7. Think about where you keep your money. Is your money in a multinational bank that might use it to undermine the very things you care about? Explore local credit unions that are invested in your community. The money you tuck away is being used by institutions, and you should understand what they do with your money. Ditto for your investments if you have them.
  8. Consider where your money or your eyeballs will NOT go. There are companies (Hobby Lobby, ULINE, Yuengling) whose leadership has openly supported the current administration. There are others that are helping his family profit. Let those companies know that you won’t be spending your time or your money with them.
  9. If you are willing to make a donation to a cause, consider also giving your time. The closer we are to the issues that plague us, the deeper our understanding. Not everyone has the privilege of determining that distance. Stand close to the things that anger you, and see what you learn.

Lastly, I would just ask why we have all this money in the first place. So much of our capitalist drive is predicated on earning more money that ultimately keeps us separate from other people. Maybe it is time for us to make less and share more. That interdependence makes us reliant on one another in good ways. Many of us are using money as a way to protect ourselves from the knowledge that we are vulnerable and interdependent creatures. Maybe we need to let that in.

Make some promises to yourself right now while you are feeling upset. How much money can you give? How much time? Where will you lend your loudest voice? Formulate the resources you have within your control that can be shared. It is an incredibly powerful thing each of us can do.

Chime in with other ideas, please.