What Are Your Best Arguments Against Financial Transparency in Social Justice?

Seriously, I want to hear them. Tell me, please.

4 min. read Replies open ↓

In social justice activism, which I’m using as a big bucket to include everything from intersectional feminism to environmentalism to racial justice and more, we have a money problem. Several, actually. I’ll focus on two here.

The first money problem is one we talk about quite a lot: there isn’t enough of it. We struggle to raise funds, support justice work, fund activism, and challenge entrenched political powers who are sitting atop mountains of cash.

The second money problem is the one we don’t talk about: the fact that we don’t talk about the money we are (or aren’t) paid. That is, social justice activists aren’t open about the ways we receive income, from whom, and in what amounts.

Where a formal non-profit is required to disclose their annual fundraising and spending, there is no Form-990 for justice activists, or for-profit companies who have “social justice” in their mission, benefitting from the social justice zeitgeist in product sales.

There’s a feeling that “conscious capitalism” is booming, and that tons of people are making bank off of socially-just side hustles, or cashing in with they “go viral,” but there’s no public conversation about the actual numbers.

This leads to a lot of confusion and misleading assumptions, as well as outrage whenever a number does get published (e.g., a social justice educator’s training fees get shared publicly). People see a big number get out like a racial justice educator charging $15K for a training and they do math like “15,000 times 365 days equals THEY ARE MAKING FIVE MILLION EFFING DOLLARS?!”

Over the years, I’ve talked with a ton of other social justice activists across the gamut about this, privately. I’ve heard a bunch of compelling arguments against disclosing our incomes (whether they’re super low, middle, or super high), and I’ve also heard compelling arguments in favor, which has landed me here:

Currently, my stance is that radical financial transparency is the best route for us to advance social justice, and actually a necessary step we’ll have to take if we want to live in a socially-just world.

In this book, I’ll be writing about this, and doing my best to advance this case, walking through all the pros and cons, and integrating it into a larger theory of money within social justice (and disclosing, in detail, my income – a stone I won’t be able to unturn), unless you disagree, and convince me otherwise.

Convincing me otherwise will save me a lot of personal pain, and allow us to continue going along with the status quo, which is just easier, for all of us.

So, if you disagree that financial transparency is something we need in social justice, please tell me why. Here are some outlets to do so, in order of my preference (from most ideal to least):

I’ve probably heard most of the arguments you’ll make, so be ready to go a few “Why?“s deep, or provide your rationales in a 3-dimensional way (e.g., highlighting the downstream benefits/setbacks, pointing out harmful implications I might not be aware of, scale issues, or more). Also, one thing I’ll be particularly sensitive to in any arguments against this is whether or not they’re justifying one injustice today to get us to a socially-just tomorrow.

Without getting into it right now, one of the things I’m going to be talking about is how I see those two money problems above as feeding into one another.

I’m worried that our lack of money stems from our lack of talking about the money we make (or don’t), and our not talking openly about the money we are being paid leads to a general lack of money for our causes and movements.

More on that and more if we think this is a worthwhile road to walk.

<3 sK

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I opened up replies on this post because I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm @Killermann on Twitter if you'd rather talk there.