Racial Justice Initiatives in Your Cooperative
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These are recommended steps to take in order to practice anti-racism and racial justice in your Co-operative.
- Form a People of Color Caucus that is represented on the board and part of the co-op's accountability structure around racial justice
- Include community representatives from racial justice organizations to ensure continuity of a racial justice agenda and analysis, and to build relationships with community racial justice organizations
- Hold regular anti-racism trainings for new white board members
- Evaluate organizational racism and progress regularly; plan action steps and goals toward becoming an anti#racist organization
- At meetings, include "vibes watchers" and encourage facilitators to use a weighted Stack to level meeting power dynamics. (A "vibes watcher" monitors power dynamics and may intervene in the facilitation to call attention to dynamics and make suggestions. A weighted stack allows the facilitator to choose who speaks based on a variety of factors - how many times someone has spoken, who has not spoken, who is directly affected by the issue etc.)
- Be aware of white cultural norms in meetings i.e. sense of urgency, "only one right way," perfectionism, overvaluing the written word as "legitimate information" (See Tema Okun’s White Supremacy Culture).
- Use Board and Staff exit surveys to track patterns in turnover; look for trends related to race and racism.
- Take steps toward full transparency for all members regarding decisions and the decision-making process
- Adopt affirmative action practices for hiring staff
- Ensure that staff have grievance processes for voicing issues about racism
- Budget for staff training funds directed toward anti#racism/cultural sensitivity so that staff can better meet a diverse group of members’ needs and incorporate anti-racism into member education.
- Form a committee/working group/change team to focus on anti#oppression member education and initiatives
- Set board composition guidelines for participation of targeted groups (note: without an anti-racist analysis, this can be tokenizing).
- Note: This section is specifically targeted at housing cooperatives. Many of the points, however, can be used in most forms of cooperatives.
- Develop a culture of appreciation for everyone's work; hold everyone equally accountable for their work
- Continuously engage the co-op and broader community in racial justice dialogues by screening documentaries highlighting race and racism, or hosting potlucks with thematic discussions around contemporary race topics
- Be selective in the membership process by requiring new members to have a working knowledge of power, privilege, and oppression for building safe spaces
- Host anti-racist workshops and discussions for your co-op system and community
- Fundraise money at parties, potlucks, or documentary screenings for local racial justice organizations; build relationships with local racial justice organizations
- Spend time volunteering as a house (for those who can) with a community organization/cause i.e. organization working with youth of color, addressing homelessness, working toward environmental justice, providing translation and interpretation services; build relationships with local racial justice organizations
- Create a chip fund where members chip in monthly (if they can), and money is used to subsidize rent for members with more financial need, directed to an emergency rent fund, or donated to a local racial justice organization
- Every month, replace a house meeting with a few hours of fun to build relationships and community
- Include a "vibes watcher" at house meeting and encourage facilitators to use a weighted stack.
- Consider having a retreat for members when there is high turnover to discuss safe spaces and racial justice goals; ensure that the retreat is accessible for everyone
- Develop a social justice library for self-education
- Be flexible with food needs and purchase culturally appropriate foods for individual members
- Strive to be as transparent and engaging as possible with decision-making and financial issues
- Encourage members of color to take leadership positions i.e. treasurer, food buyer, house president, board representative etc.
- Starting a diversity committee in cooperatives
- Anti-Oppression Resources for Cooperatives
- Examining Power and Privilege in Co-ops (Activities/Discussion Starters)
- Power Dynamics in Diverse Groups (Facilitated Discussions)
- Power Dynamics in Cooperatives (Longer Activities)
References and Notes
- This article originally adapted with permission from the North American Students of Cooperation.