Black Economic Self-Determination with Ed Whitfield
Natural Investments hosted a webinar called “Black Economic Self-Determination: To Move Forward We Must Understand The Past” with Ed Whitfield of Seed Commons. Reconstruction, the period that followed the Civil War, was a time when attempts were made to repair our country and our economy from slavery. Reconstruction failed, and set us up for what we are experiencing now–a political, social and economic system based in white supremacy and white nationalist violence. The increasing racial wealth divide exacerbated by COVID, killings of Black people, flagrant racism under Trump, modern day red lining and the January 6th insurrection are all ways that we see and feel the vestiges of failed Reconstruction.
Historian and scholar Ed Whitfield presented an accessible account and framework of Reconstruction. He talked about how we can continue to be on the path towards racial justice and repair for Black, Indigenous, POC and working class people. Ed also connected his work with Seed Commons and Downtown Crenshaw Rising to the ongoing fight for Black economic self-determination.
It was a privilege to connect with him on the intersecting histories of slavery, our economy, and reconstruction. You can find the recording of the webinar here. Towards the end, Ed summarizes:
“One of the things that happened with the financialization of these systems in the United States, is that even if people who were not directly involved in the early accumulation of that, ended up coming to this country at a time when they could gamble on a table that was loaded down with stolen money. While you can make a legitimate claim that you yourself did not steal any of the money that was put down on the table, and that you are indeed a good gambler, and that you brought your own ante to get into the game–still you are playing at a table loaded down with stolen money. It creates opportunities for you that would not otherwise be there and those opportunities are historically rooted in the system that piled that money up on the table. Consequently, there is a need for everyone who has access to that, to pay attention to the justice claims that are associated with how the money got on the table in the first place. Certainly the genocide, the unfinished incomplete genocide against the Native population is part of it. The entire slave system, which is another part of it, has helped create this pile of money on the table that folk are gambling at. We who believe in freedom and justice want to put an end to the gambling game, and reallocate some of those resources back into communities in such a way that helps people meet their needs and elevate their quality of life.”
Additional resources discussed during the event:
- Ed mentioned his writing on Liberated Zones, which you can read here.
- If you’re looking for more of Ed’s scholarship, you can check out his Schumacher Lecture “Building Freedom: Our Challenges” or his LIFT Podcast interview “Racial Justice meets Non-Extractive Financing.”
- Ed recommended The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist and Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert. The novel Tiffany mentioned is The New Africa Chronicles by John Hatch.
This event was a follow-up to last year’s webinar “Invest in Black Economic Liberation” and continues to be a part of our firm’s commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.