A Network for Anti-racist, Democratic Management
A Network for Anti-racist, Democratic Management
June 1, 2019 / 6319 AFK
I’m Taji Amani, founder of the Ujamaa Works Accounting & Finance Network. I’m a business resource provider and a student of finance and international political economy. I’ve connected dozens of small businesses to micro financing and even more businesses to professional services. If you’re in accounting, finance or a related, business services field, then I want to tell you about the Ujamaa Works Accounting & Finance Network. Membership is for anyone who shares our Common Aspirations. We have members on both coasts of the United States. And for the time being, membership is free.
The Ujamaa Works Accounting & Finance Network is a political, professional organization that’s rooted in pro-black, pro-indigenous, cooperative economics. This means that regardless of the color of our membership, we are here to develop ideas, relationships and financial practices that economically empower black and indigenous people, without replicating the destructive traits of capitalism. Government policy isn’t our primary concern, but we are a political organization because we understand that decisions made in the private sector are also political.
The socioeconomic challenges that black and native workers face are deeper than the decoupling of wages and productivity in the 1970s. In the Americas, the past five centuries have been marked by capitalism’s ongoing disruption of black and native people’s lives, communities and ecology. The legal invention of whiteness in colonial legislatures and the United States Congress, facilitated centuries of institutional racism in the forms of economic theft, systematic rape, economic discrimination and un-prosecuted, racist terrorism. So the invention of whiteness has had a foundational impact on the culture, practices and institutions of the private sector in the United States. Those of you who provide business and financial services have probably observed some of the ways in which black and native people are still fighting through institutional racism and the ongoing wealth extraction of capitalism. For instance, research organizations, Prosperity Now and Institute for Policy Studies have found that the median black household wealth is trending toward zero dollars. To this day, federal and state governments continue to violate US treaties in order to forcefully steal native people’s land for the sake of building ecologically destructive fossil fuel infrastructure. Major banks routinely give less favorable lending terms to black clients than their white, financial peers.
Some organizations choose to address issues of racism with diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility initiatives. But financial services professionals join the Ujamaa Works network because they don’t rely on the problems of colonization to be resolved within the colonial paradigm. We are joining movements to develop the financial practices that will create a new paradigm and we don’t mind starting small. Yes, members in their individual work refer clients to one another and share useful information about how to serve their clients in the world as it is. But our members also collaborate and educate one another about practices and resources that will help us evolve beyond capitalism into an economy based on solidarity. We’ll connect businesses with non-extractive financing. We’ll learn to overcome accounting and financing challenges faced by worker cooperatives. We’ll use systems and technologies that democratize economic activity instead of concentrating wealth and power. We’ll educate ourselves about racism, sexism, queerphobia, pollution and how to systematically eliminate these things from our work.
Some would call this wishful thinking and they wouldn’t be wrong. Unfortunately, any less of an ambitious path would require us to pretend that financial services are making great progress for the state of health, wealth and justice for black and native people. We would have to pretend that capitalism and its need for infinite growth will end the current mass extinction of species and provide clean air and clean water seven generations from now. That too is wishful thinking.
The good news is that the movements for cooperative economics and decolonization are old. Principles and practices of cooperative economics have been part of black and indigenous people’s cultures for many millennia. Indigenous cultures have never caused a planetary, mass extinction of species. Native American traditions carries the wisdom and humility to live in harmony with nature, not to try and subjugate it. And according to the work of economist, Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, we know that black people have built cooperative economic institutions to escape enslavement and to financially empower one another without exploiting other people’s labor. The seeds of the decolonized world we want to see were planted long ago.
Our members accept responsibility for restoring our ecosystems, creating equality of opportunity and economically empowering black and native people. And these tasks are inextricably linked. No matter what color you are, there is no livable, ecological future without the economic empowerment of indigenous peoples and cultures. Indigenous cultures are the only cultures that know how to live with the Earth. And there is no equality of opportunity in economic development that does not center wealth creation among descendants of enslaved, black people.
So, if you’re a financial services provider who sees greater opportunity in the risk of charting a new path than in the risk of following the dominant path, then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and join our email list from the home page.