The first year I went to Making Money Make Change (MMMC), my life was changed.
I see all too often across communities of color the ways trauma can lead us to use the tools of capitalism, classism, and white supremacy in an attempt to find a sense of security that we and perhaps many of our ancestors were lacking.
I’m a light-skinned person of mixed Arab/North-African and White heritage and come from a mixed-class background having mostly been raised in a poor to middle-class home with my mom and having access to a wealthy father and family*. That looked like free and reduced lunch during the year, counting coins sometimes to keep the lights on, and then spending summers on jet-skis with a family with net wealth around ~$15 million. My dad has given me cash gifts ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, but I have negative net wealth because of student loans I took out when I stopped talking to my dad for a few years. That is to say, parsing out my story, like for so many people of color figuring out the intersection of class privilege and race, is complex at best.
At my first MMMC, in a workshop lead by the amazing Cara Page (former Executive Director of the Audre Lorde Project, black queer feminist organizer and cultural worker) and Iimay Ho (then Resource Generation’s Associate Director, currently our Executive Director) on Giving and Receiving I discovered a deep and humbling truth.
I consider myself to be a fairly generous person, sharing a lot with my communities, but I know that this generosity has its limit, that there is a place where scarcity will start to kick in. In examining that feeling, that tightness in my chest, I came to recognize the fear of not trusting the world, or my communities, to provide for me in my times of need in the ways that I am willing to provide for my communities. That at the core of my limitations around giving are insecurities of self-worth and a lack of trust for those around me. I could go on and on about why I think that is, but more importantly, I left that workshop knowing where to look, where to poke, where to ask questions. I left with clues. That maybe, if I work on trusting more, loving myself more fully, and deepening my relationships, there is a deeper security than money can ever replace.
I know that a new world is possible and that it will involve radical new ways of building interdependence and relationship. Whether it’s a campaign to win dignified wages or improving our personal relationships, being in it for the long haul starts with one step. One inward turn to ask: “What kind of world do I want to live in? What kind of person do I want to be? What are my memories of liberation?”
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My first Making Money Make Change was the first time I experienced being in a room with more than 10 young people of color with wealth who shared similar values with me.
I grew up Asian American in the South and am deeply familiar with the alienation of being the “only.” I also grew up in the top 10%, with my parent’s net assets currently exceeding $1 million. Due to their wealth transfer, I have direct access to $100K in net assets. I never talked openly about my wealth with other people of color before I found Resource Generation. The immense relief of not being alone, of hearing my life experiences and grappling with racism and class privilege reflected back at me, was healing and affirming.
As we journeyed together through the conference, sharing meals, caucus spaces, and sitting together at workshops, we laughed, cried, made snarky commentary, and generally experienced the magic that can happen when people of color build relationship with each other. We held space for each other to examine the contradictions of our lives — the pride in our parents or in ourselves for being able to build wealth as people of color, the cost of that wealth building in the form of assimilation and internalized classism, and how our wealth buffers many of us from racism (especially those of us who were not Black) but doesn’t shield us entirely.
We saw how our wealth creates many different stories about us — we are tokens, wedges, exceptions, role models, threats, a safety net and pillar for our families and communities. And together we started to weave a new story for ourselves, one that asserts that although individual wealth may offer some safety and access to power for a select few, it cannot ensure communal safety from racialized violence by the state, corporations, or climate change.
If you are a young person of color with wealth, join me at MMMC this year. Help Resource Generation continue to build our multi-racial base and power to fight for a world where all people, regardless of class background or access to resources, can be healthy, powerful, and free.
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Deadline to register is Wednesday, October 18, 2017.
*We define “wealth” as having income or net assets in the top 10%. This range generally starts at $100k in income, $50k in personal net assets, or $1 million in family assets.