Race Money Now + Beyond

Has #BlackLivesMatter changed the way we spend our money?

As Black Lives Matter protests heat up across the world, allies and activists have been confronting the issue of what constitutes a substantial change. Signing petitions, attending protests, and expressing solidarity are popular and important ways of enacting change, but they aren’t the only means of supporting the movement. The question is, how do we go beyond posting a black square and make a tangible change? Perhaps through our money.

Some would say the best thing to do is open your wallets. More than anything, these waves of Black Lives Matter protests have made us consider where our money goes. Race and economics have always been deeply connected in the United States and worldwide. The average Black American family only owns about 10% of the wealth as the average White American family. Redlining, segregation, and job discrimination have exacerbated the economic divide that sparked from slavery. Reparations for enslavement would total billions of dollars today, but that money has not materialized. Black families have been more deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as overpricing in low-income communities.

At the end of the day, money speaks.

Donations have been a greater presence in this wave of protests than before. Allies and activists alike have pushed for others to donate bail funds, funeral funds for Black victims of police brutality and transphobia, and Black Lives Matter organizations. Two bail funds in my city of Philadelphia have raised over $1.8 million in the past weeks. The Minnesota Freedom Fund alone raised over $35 million. While there’s controversy about how these organizations will use the money, there’s no denying the importance of the overwhelming display of support. At the end of the day, money speaks.

The importance of money goes far beyond just donating. The movement has called into question who we buy from, and who we should buy from. Recent comments from CEO’s of companies, such as CrossFit, have revealed the racist prejudices behind these popular corporations. Many supports of the BLM movement have realized that it doesn’t make sense to support BonAppetit if it does not adequately pay its contributors of color, or to give money to companies such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s who do business with the Trump family. The movement has become an important wake-up call that our purchases do not exist in a vacuum. Obviously, in our current economic system, it is near impossible to avoid giving money to problematic or exploitative companies. Still, the BLM movement has prompted an important examination of where our money goes.

Another way to support the movement is to support Black-owned businesses of every type. This could mean buying from a local Black-owned bookstore instead of from Amazon, to buy from Black clothing designers instead of outfitters like Dollskill and Urban Outfitters, which infamously steal from BIPOC designers, or to buy food from Black-owned restaurants. It’s immensely important to support POC-owned businesses, especially BIPOC-owned businesses, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, many restaurant owners of color, especially Black restaurant owners, had trouble securing government loans for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. Considering the financial impact of the pandemic now is an incredibly important time to support these small businesses.

The BLM movement has prompted an important examination of where our money goes.

I’ll give a personal example. I live in the Philadelphia area, one of the most diverse cities in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most segregated and has some of the highest income inequality. A new mobile app called Black and Mobile offers an innovative solution. Black and Mobile is a food delivery app by Black developers, which delivers food exclusively from Black-owned restaurants, and employs Black drivers to deliver the food.

Of course, money isn’t the be-all and end-all of the movement. Throwing money at an issue will never fix it entirely. We have a long way to go before we unlearn racism and uproot the racist systems that be. Nonetheless, we need to recognize the importance of money in anti-racist work.

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By Camilla Selian Meeker

Camilla Meeker is a sophomore at Vassar College specializing in nineteenth century history and literature. She is an avid writer, reader, and costumer with an interest in Middle Eastern studies, historical clothing, and journalism. Camilla loves creative work and writing of any sort, and is excited to join the Tempest's summer editorial fellowship.