June 4, 2020
An Open Letter Regarding Racial Justice & The Buy Nothing Project
We are co-founders and co-volunteers of the Buy Nothing Project, and we ask the entire worldwide Buy Nothing Project movement to join us in affirming that Black lives DO matter, and that it is important to confront racism and white supremacy everywhere, including within all Buy Nothing Project groups everywhere.
The Buy Nothing Project is present in over 30 countries, with approximately 1.5 million participants in neighborhood groups under local leadership, and we are an entirely volunteer-run movement. There is great diversity across this movement when it comes to the forms racism takes. Each group has the power to dive into its own history, boundaries, rules, and culture to improve and build a better, stronger, anti-racist gift economy.
It has been our Buy Nothing Project mission to build an international network of hyper-local gift economies where people can give, receive, and share freely, without strings attached or any expectation of reward except the joy of sharing, and where the real wealth being built is a more resilient, interconnected and interdependent community. This cannot truly happen until we address the poison of racism and start to develop an actively anti-racist culture.
The Buy Nothing Project has benefited greatly from the labor of the Equity Team, a group of admins and members who put together a new Community Agreement for each Buy Nothing Project group to use. We are excited to post this here to the Buy Nothing Project website as soon as possible. We are grateful to each Equity Team member for their labor, and for their dedication to the Buy Nothing Project movement despite the flaws and racism we as co-founders built into the original structure of this movement.
We hope that each Buy Nothing Project group will begin to ask and answer important questions. Below are a few that we’ve been working on as we attempt to improve the impact of the Buy Nothing Project. We hope you and your group will add more questions, share those with the worldwide Buy Nothing Project community, and seek answers:
– How can our group insure that all People of Color are safe when giving, receiving, and sharing?
– How can our group become a brave space for discussions about white supremacy and racism, and about how these show up in the giving, receiving, and sharing that happens here?
– Do our group’s boundaries follow old redlines or other official or unofficial segregation boundaries? If so, can we reconfigure our group to cross these lines to form a new sharing group neighborhood identity that doesn’t gentrify or disrespect existing neighborhood identities?
– Is this group safe and welcoming to People of Color, both as members and as admins? Does our group fully include all neighborhood members as participants and leaders, however individuals desire to participate?
– How can change to become a more sustainable, more equitable gift economy community?
– How can we address racism, inequity, and injustice through our giving, receiving, and sharing?
– How can we encourage people of privilege to take their responsibilities seriously, educating themselves, listening to the opinions and suggestions of People of Color and acting upon them?
We ask everyone to join us in this work. Start from where you are. If you are a person with white privilege, start to educate yourself, or continue to educate yourself. Be ready for some uncomfortable conversations, be ready to change, and do not give up. This is very important work that rests on those of us who benefit from systemic racism (all white people). If you are a Person of Color, know that this work does not rest on your shoulders- ask your Buy Nothing Project group for what you need and want in order to participate fully, safely, and with joy.
We have also assembled a beginning kit of Racial Justice Resources to aid each Buy Nothing Project group. It’s a public Google Doc that we hope is accessible to everyone. If there’s a more accessible format for your group, please let us know. If you have other resources to add, please let us know in a comment here, or in an email to [email protected]. This document is not meant to absolve us or anyone from past harm, nor is it a complete list. We want to see it grow, to provide more resources to everyone participating in the Buy Nothing Project, so that each of us with work to do has access to educational tools to begin this process. Each Buy Nothing Project group has the opportunity to model how every neighborhood can become an actively anti-racist gift economy.
(We’ve put together a Bookshop with the book titles listed in the Racial Justice Resource, for ease of accessing them, if you’d like to support your local independent bookseller as well as the authors of the books.)
Yours in sharing freely,
Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller
Additional Public Statement from the Co-founders of the Buy Nothing Project:
7 June, 2020
In the beginning of the Buy Nothing Project, our white fragility and privilege so clouded our understanding and judgement that we asked people not to call other group members or items being offered racist. In fact, this white fragility and privilege is so deeply rooted in us that we didn’t even remember taking this stance until after releasing our statement above about racial justice in the Buy Nothing Project in June of 2020, almost seven years into this experiment, when a past participant took the time to remind us and call us out on our gaslighting and racism. We are grateful to her for her work to hold us accountable. She made it possible for us to see more clearly just how deeply entrenched racist norms are in us, even today, after daily personal work, education, and conversations about these issues over the past two years.
This makes us that much more dedicated to finding the other racist poison we have in ourselves, and the racism we have built into this project we have dedicated years of our lives to. We urge all white people to join us in this work, educating themselves, identifying their internalized racism, and working to actively dismantle systemic racism in their own projects and work as well as in society at large. We are not the only two white people who are racist – This is so much bigger than the Buy Nothing Project. Our work is to repair the harm we have caused here, and to dismantle the racist structures we have built.
Please, fellow white people, identify your own work and do it. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are impacted every single day, in so many ways, they are suffering and dying, because of the racist system we white people each play an active role in perpetuating.
We would like to apologize to every single person our racism has hurt. We are working to do better. We have a long way to go, and we welcome your comments calling our attention to where we’ve done harm, where we can make repairs, and where there are racist structures and norms we can dismantle and eradicate within the Buy Nothing Project.
Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller, co-founders & co-volunteers of the Buy Nothing Project