Since I left the mines and joined the ranks of people fighting for justice in our world, I’ve met many people who I consider to be honest-to-God heroes. They are the local organizers who rose up in their own communities and sacrificed nearly everything to do what was right. They are the faces of truth, justice, and equality in a world dominated by wealth and unethical business practices.
And to be quite frank, it really pisses me off to see so many of these heroes struggling to make ends meet.
In some cases, Appalachia’s heroes survive on intermittent grant-funded positions with local non-profits, often earning less than a living wage. Before long, our heroes find their voices are stolen by these and larger organizations. They are used to give the illusion of grassroots status to potential donors. The non-profits continue to suck up the major donations from the masses of upper-middle-class idealists and from the large philanthropies, only to piss them away in ineffective campaigns that are led not by our local heroes, but by their stock of upper-middle-class employees whose lives wreak of privilege. These people work from offices located in the more affluent areas of the nation where they create positions for themselves, develop budgets, design what they believe are effective organizing strategies and vet potential future employees based on their education or experience as organizers.
As you can imagine, our heroes often find themselves at odds with organization leadership as they call bullshit to the ineffectiveness of their strategies and gross misuse of resources. They call bullshit to their own local organizations for being heavily influenced by larger non-profits and funders from outside of the region.
In the end, our heroes not only face the daunting task of bringing justice to their own communities, they must also fight for justice within the bureaucracy, politics, and elitism of larger non-profits, all while fighting to support themselves.
Before you donate to organizations, take some time to call a local hero, and find out where all the money you donate really ends up. Better yet, forgo your damn tax credit and give it to the people who need it so they can do the work that actually gets things done. Trickle down economics is just as ineffective in the world of justice activism as it is in the regular economy.