6 – Building Community Equity

By Tia Mo

If we wish to live in a new society in the future, we create its culture here and now. Capitalism is based on the transaction, where we depersonalize as many interactions as possible by exchanging money instead of labor or gratitude. The result, if we do not have other connections, is an endless poverty of the soul.

Changing this paradigm is, like most worthy endeavors, simple, liberatory, and sometimes terrifying. Instead of participating in a world of financial equity, we must build a world of community equity. Yes, we need that cup of sugar, but we need an obligation to each other, too. Childcare cooperatives, barn raising and quilting bees, community gardens, free skools, share fairs, squat clean-ups, potlucks; culture is the gift of time and attention that we give to each other for our collective good. To transform our communities, we need to take the idea that caring for each other is good for us and cross lines of class and race to include all our neighbors. There is no one we can leave behind.

The sharing of goods and time might be what you already do, or it might be a dream in your work-three-jobs-feed-two-kids life. However, the culture of transacting can permeate our non-money interactions if we don’t code switch. We might expect a favor in return or a gift of equal value, or we might expect gratitude and a smile. Women and service workers are expected to always perform joy, and folks without financial resources are expected to perform gratitude for scraps. In a culture of community equity, the gratitude comes instead from the “privileged”, as they return power to the group and re-establish their human vulnerability. In capitalism, shame and fear keep us separated. In liberation, compassion draws us together.

To recenter our focus, it’s necessary to always prioritize the person over the exchange. Every clerk gets a warm greeting with eye contact. Everyone spanging gets a friendly word with the food or cash. Everyone who needs a hand or a check-in or a couch-surf or a hug or a meal can at least have our acknowledgment, even if we don’t have the resources to share at that moment. We must see each others’ struggles without shame if we want to keep our heads above water. Stepping into a world of community equity involves moving past conscience into kindness. The road to our collective liberation is challenging, but also full of love and wonder if we head that way together.