One of the greatest enforcements of continued wealth accumulation by the already wealthy in the United States today is familial wealth transfer. In order to break a seemingly unbreakable cycle of the unrelenting aggregation of more financial resources into less hands, I believe we must have honest, radical, ethically rigorous and inter-generational conversations about social and economic justice with our families as we discuss asset transfer and estate planning.
In this context, understanding settler-colonialism as the literal and ideological framework of the creation of wealth in the US is foundational. As a member of the founding core team of the Honor Native Land Tax, here’s how we’ve come to understand settler colonialism:
– Settler colonialism is the ongoing process of non-Native settlers occupying Native land, demanding their world views, morals, and economies be followed, while attempting to erase, assimilate, and replace the original inhabitants (source).
– Settlers are non-Indigenous peoples who have come to the so-called United States and live on land stolen from Native communities. All settlers, regardless of when they arrived, benefit from the stolen land and stolen labor that the United States is built on.
In my role as one of the stewards of the financial administration team for Honor Native Land Tax (we’re called Cats & Bolts, like Nuts & Bolts, only in a feline-adoration kind of way!) we’ve engaged an non-hierarchical process for developing a calculator to support people in contributing to the Honor Native Land Tax. The origin story of our calculator is a long one that involved many thoughtful conversations, disagreements, creative proposals, and reflections. Our process was guided by our goals that the calculator be: easy to use, a representation of our values, an effective tool for political education around class and capitalism, and that it support us in achieving our fundraising goals. At first we thought the “tax” should be based on an individual’s income but we realized that class is much more complicated than just your paycheck, and income-only calculations would replicate our dominant capitalist economic system where poor people subsidize rich people (think about predatory lending practices.) So, we set out to create a calculator that would capture more of the often invisible factors that make up our class experience and distribute financial responsibility more equitably across class levels. We created monthly contribution levels with the goal that they would be both reasonable (and therefore sustainable) but also would challenge people’s entitlement to money made on stolen land. We also took into account the specificity of wealth inequality in NM. Finally, this calculator is a living document and reflects our value to resist perfectionism and white supremacy culture. We worked with people across the class spectrum to come up with our initial giving levels, and then agreed to try this out and see how it worked and are open to changing as we learn more. It’s a living document and not “the truth.”
This process, has helped me learn about participatory governance, financial administration and team-building from a place of inquiry and values-based practice. I believe this is the future for justice-based financial craftspeople: not a technical-only approach, but rather an approach that looks deeply at social context and understands that there is no distinction between the personal and the political in any work towards collective liberation. Here’s how the #GlobalPOV Project (developed at the Blum Center for Developing Economies at U.C. Berkeley) answers questions about the role of technical expertise in social problem solving.