If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.
– Combahee River Collective
We believe that each community is endowed with the assets required to self-sustain, but generations of extractive wealth transfer have robbed many communities of their resources. As a result of the conquest of the land, the genocide of its Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans to provide labor, and continued exploitation of peoples–including but not limited to exploited Chinese labor, wars for conquest into Mexico, Japanese internment, and multiple wars across Central and South America as well as East and West Asia–we have endured a troubling historical legacy of violence fueled by white supremacy and capitalism.
We acknowledge that the structures put in place by the U.S. as a settler colonial state not only harmed these communities directly but created conditions that often pitted marginalized communities against one another. We also acknowledge that this extraction-driven system devalued the rich diversity that existed within these communities across identity categories such as gender, sexual orientation, and cognitive and physical abilities, assigning value through the lens of white supremacy and extractive capitalism, and thus created a legacy of further harm for those who were positioned in the intersections of multiple marginalizations.
The healing and reparations process is integral to designing liberated futures, and we cannot overlook this necessary step in achieving our mission. In particular, as a financial institution, we must support healing in our relationship with financial capital, which many communities have rightfully come to associate with extractive colonial processes. In recognizing the part we play in our contribution to this healing process, we aim to change the historical dynamic of lending from one of extraction to communal responsibility and mutual care. In doing so, we acknowledge that the current system has arbitrarily created layers upon layers of complexity that have driven us into a world of scarcity, where the designers of the systems developed advanced structures in which resources are perpetually extracted and given to the hands of a few. We believe that we can be part of the reversal of this trend, driving resources back into the hands of those who have been robbed of them, but whose knowledge is integral to our survival.
This policy will serve as a guiding document that will influence strategies for lending that both hold us accountable to the past as well as work toward a co-created and liberated future, which restores the balance of abundance and wealth that our planet provides. Our approach to racial justice aims to address both the material (financial capital and tangible resources) and cultural needs (psychological, community values) of communities who have endured harm over several generations of US history.
For us, that means acknowledging that there is often common ground in community needs across historically marginalized communities in the United States, but also recognizing that each community has a unique historical trajectory and thus unique needs. One goal is to support the development of self-governing spaces where communities of color develop on their own terms. And to achieve this, we will work directly with our borrowers to determine a path for growth defined by their values, community needs and goals. By cultivating a close and more human, less transactional relationship with our borrowers, we aim to determine the best approach and success according to these principles.
Piecemealing ecological and social complexity into a series of separate and compartmentalized tasks or check-the-box activities will never yield the results that systemic redesign can produce. We support the transition to a regenerative economy, one that is ushered in by the leadership of populations who hold the ancestral wisdom to live in balance with the environment and one another. If we do not center, directly invest in, and credit these communities, we risk extracting and commodifying that knowledge and engaging in the same colonial processes that we are seeking to upend.