Linked with Suzanne Pharr – USA.
Published on SuzannePharr.org, 1996, 137 pages.
(Page 15): … THE MERGER OF ECONOMIC INJUSTICE AND OPPRESSION: During more than two decades of massive economic restructuring and changes in class politics, progressive people have not managed to keep a strong economic analysis in the public debate. Perhaps this failure has come from old fears derived from a history of red-baiting and memories of the fairly recent McCarthy era of anti-Communism.
Certainly today, when progressive people point to the growing disparity between the rich and poor, conservatives immediately accuse us of “trying to start a class war.” Of course, the answer to this accusation is that it is not progressives who began and perpetuate the ongoing warfare against the poor and middle classes of this country; it is those who have redistributed wealth upward, leaving working people without adequate wages.
I have seen this warfare up close in over fifty years of living and working in the South and traveling this country. People who discuss economic injustice and suggest redistribution of wealth as a remedy are inevitably labeled as neo-Marxists.
Unfortunately, I am not schooled in Marxism, only in capitalism as it was taught me in school and in the everyday life of this country, but my own lived experience has revealed injustice and made me long for economic fairness. The way I have learned to understand economics is as a value system; an analysis of a country’s economic system and government budgeting reveals what it values most.
Hence, it is not as an academic or an economist debating statistics and poiis and studies that I present this discussion of the link-age of economics and oppression, but as a social and economic justice worker reporting what I have learned from my work.
First, some definitions:
Economic exploitation is using both people’s labor and natural resources for the benefit of the few without adequate compensation for that labor or consideration of the environmental destruction created by the removal and disposal of those resources.
Oppression is the exertion of power and control over individuals and groups through discrimination, scapegoating, and violence, result-ing in the denial of civil and human rights and the imposition of psy-chological violence.
For a long while the primary focus of progressive people has been the analysis of and remedies for oppression, and our failure to recognize its connection to exploitation has caused difficulty in both our analysis and in our organizing. For example, exploitation and oppression are almost always combined for people of color, but not always for other groups such as lesbians and gay men where oppression is pervasive but exploitation is intermittent. Thus, one of the most critical and damaging divisions we have among ourselves is along lines of class. Affluent white women are divided from low income women and women of color in the women’s movement.
Affluent white gay men and women are divided from low income lesbians and people of color in the lesbian and gay movement. These divisions have created our deepest fissures and led us to create incomplete politics based on oppression alone.
It is difficult for systematic economic injustice to be sustained without the backing of pervasive oppression. How does this work? One of the simplest ways I’ve found of explaining it is through a chart devel-oped from an idea presented by Judith Stevenson to the steering com-mittee of the NCADV in 1982. Since that time. Catlin Fullwood and I have expanded it in racism and homophobia workshops, and hundreds of other trainers and educators have used the “Power/Privilege Chart” to get people thinking and talking about the ways economic injustice and oppression work.
First, some definitions: …
… (Page 134/137): THE WOMEN’S PROJECT’S MISSION
All proceeds from this book go to the Women’s Project to support its work to eliminate sexism and racism. Since 1981, That work has been guided by the following mission:
Our goal is social change, or as the poet Adrienne Rich writes, “the transformation of the world.”
We take risks in our work; we take unpopular stands. We work for all women and against all forms of discrimination and oppression. We believe that we cannot work for all women and against sexism unless we also work agailist racism, classism, ageism, anti-Semitism, ableism, heterosexism, and homophobia. We see the connection among these oppressions as the context for violence against women in this society.
We are concerned, in particular, about issues of importance to traditionally under-represented women: poor women, aged women, women of color, teenage mothers, lesbians, women with disabilities, women in prisons, etc. All are women who experience discrimination and violence in their lives.
We are committed to working multi-culturally, multi-racially, and to making our work and cultural events accessible to lowincome women. We believe that women will not know equality until they know economic justice.
We believe that a few women working in coalition and consensus with other women can make a significant change in the quality of life for all women. (full long 137 pages text).