Race + Class → Justice

December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

“Justice is when…

  • The well-being of all people is prioritized on an individual and collective level
  • All people and communities have enough to prosper and there is interdependence
  • All people have dignity, safety and security
  • Land, wealth and power are equitably distributed
  • Mechanisms of power and decision making are transparent and accountable, and led by those most marginalized”

Mijo Lee of Social justice Fund Northwest and Nitika Raj of Resource Generation offered this definition in their workshop “Race and Class: Why an Intersectional Approach is Critical to Undoing Structural Racism” at the Facing Race conference.

Their main point is that we can’t get to justice without dealing explicitly with race and class. They offered several key points to a standing-room-only crowd:

  • Race and class reinforce once another.
  • Race was constructed to maintain class hierarchy.
  • Neither race nor class is more important than the other.
  • By addressing race effectively, you are also addressing class, but the reverse is not necessarily true.
  • When we deal with race, if we’re not also talking about class, we are not seeing the full picture of the history and current impacts of racism. Without the full picture, our strategies cannot be as effective as they need to be.
  • With an intersectional analysis, we have the opportunity to engage new allies.

They also offered four steps to integrate a class lens into our work:

  • First, look for it. Understand how whatever you’re working on is experienced differently by people who are situated in different places in the class structure.
  • Self-reflection. Understand your own class position, including its fluidity over your lifetime.
  • Build shared language and talk about class, money, wealth, power and classism with other people.
  • Ask yourself and your team “How would our analysis deepen if we looked at this issue or population from a race and class lens?”

I take this as a challenge to continue to stretching myself into a genuinely intersectional approach to racial justice work—to take on class as directly as I’ve taken on race. How do these ideas speak to you?

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