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You Can’t Have Social Justice Without Economic Justice

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This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the San Francisco Examiner 

I know the November 2018 election is a long time ago already, but I can’t stop thinking about Proposition C. I can’t stop thinking about how multi millionaires and billionaires, who tout themselves as liberals, tried so hard to defeat a tax that would benefit the most destitute of our community, while costing them what is practically a rounding error.

Don’t get me wrong, watching billionaires publicly spar on Twitter was entirely entertaining, but it hammered home the point that so many of the wealthy liberal elite seem to miss: you can’t have social justice without economic justice. You can’t claim to care about progress while doing nothing to dismantle the strongest form of oppression that exists: poverty.

Yes, supporting marriage equality is important, and helping to elect the first black president was super cool, but I’m sorry, that’s simply not enough. Until we destroy the systems that keep people poor, while simultaneously allowing the rich to get increasingly richer, everything else is just a pretty paint job on a rotten and decrepit house.

When people say they are “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” they are telling one of the most dangerous lies of all time, even if they actually believe it themselves. It allows them to have clean consciences and be accepted in liberal circles, while still supporting the systems that keep people impoverished. Because, as we’ve seen over and over again, “Small Government” means less taxes for rich people and fewer services for poor people.

To make real change, those of us with privilege need to be willing to give some of it up to help empower those without. You can’t say Black Lives Matter and then support laws that do nothing to change the plight of black people, even if they raise your taxes.

According to the SF Homeless Count, less than six percent of San Francisco is African-American yet 35 percent of the homeless population is black. And on a grander scale, the Washington Post recently reported that white families in the US have nearly 10 times the net worth of black families, and that gap is widening.

These very serious issues are not only able to persist, but able to expand because the people who have the means to make a real difference feel that having diverse employees and supporting gay marriage is what change looks like. That shouldn’t be the benchmark for progress, it should be the bare minimum for being considered a decent human being.

Unfortunately this doesn’t just apply to the one percent.

We see regular San Franciscans do this kind of thing all the time. I’ve gone to meetings where community members say that they support more navigation centers, just not if they are near their homes. Or just look at when residents of Forest Hill, along with the Forest Hill Association, fought against a 150 unit affordable housing development for seniors.

They said they were worried it would bring formerly homeless people into their neighborhood. I would put money on the fact that a some of these same people have signs in their windows that say any combination of “Black Lives Matter, Science is Real, Healthcare is a Human Right, Love is Love, Women’s Right are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Water is Life”.

I’m not saying that publicly declaring solidarity isn’t important, or that marching in the Women’s March isn’t significant, what I’m saying is that it’s not enough. To actually make America great it’s going to take radical change, and in order to make radical change, we need to take radical action. We need to actually be about the things we say we support instead of just saying them. We need to be willing have navigation centers in our neighborhoods, and needle exchanges in our parks, and employment centers on our corners. For things to get better for everyone in the long run, we need to be willing to be slightly less comfortable in the short run.

And we need to stop making excuses for millionaires and billionaires. Someone who makes $1 million a year makes $83,333 a month. $83,333 a month!! That’s more than most people I know make in a year. Even if they were taxed 50 percent of their income, which they aren’t, they’d still be making $41,665 a month! And these are the people who continue to get tax breaks. Jack Dorsey personally made $14.3 million in 2017, and his companies made over $3 billion that year, yet he was unwilling to kick in $1750 for every million dollars made in order to help solve homelessness.

So I’ll say it again: You can’t have social justice without economic justice. I’m ready for both of them, how about you?

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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