Dismantling systemic racism is essential to realizing ILSR’s vision.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. To reach this vision, we build local power to fight corporate control. We work to ensure people of all colors and backgrounds are able to exercise power over their lives: how they provide for their families, how resources are shared and allocated in their communities, and how decisions made by government, corporations, and business affect them.
We cannot confront concentrated economic and political power in the United States without dismantling systemic racism because the institutions, laws, and policies that fuel monopoly power carry hundreds of years of racial exploitation and oppression in their coding. Today’s racial and economic disparities have their origins in slavery and Jim Crow laws, in racialized New Deal policies, and in the depletion of our social safety net and regulatory protections. Monopolies have weaponized these racial divisions which has helped drive historic levels of corporate concentration. Politicians looking out for wealthy interests often pile on, advancing racist policies and rhetoric to foster divisions among working people. Racial oppression and concentrated economic power are so intertwined that it’s impossible to unravel one unless you also dismantle the other.
Some specific examples of how ILSR’s program work is driven by the need to address these racial inequities include:
- The loss of community banking institutions disproportionately deprives Black communities of the resources they need.
- The decline of small independent business threatens a long-standing means of building wealth for immigrants and communities of color.
- Many extractive and harmful corporate models, such as dollar store chains, appear to target neighborhoods based on race, taking advantage of low political power.
- Likewise, coal plants and oil and gas pipelines are disproportionately located in communities of color, resulting in economic, environmental, and health consequences.
- Waste incinerators are also disproportionately located near communities of color. These incinerators cause harmful, costly, and avoidable public health risks.
- Availability and cost barriers to high-quality home Internet access are impacting the academic success of students who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
Calling out these harms and advocating for policy improvements is integral to ILSR’s mission of building strong local communities where everyone can thrive. At the same time, we must consider whether ILSR’s work and the solutions we advocate for adequately address systemic racism and the root it has in preserving the economic power of a few.
Accountability and Transparency
We are committed to internal improvement and to ongoing reflection on how we can better center the needs and experiences of historically marginalized communities.
Over the past two years, we have made a more conscious attempt to examine the relationship between racism and ILSR’s work on concentrated power, but also how our internal operations, staff, and practices can incorporate these lessons and help build a more racially just world. These efforts have included:
- The formation of a staff-led Racial Equity Working Group to help guide ILSR’s work and ensure that we are making progress toward established goals.
- Beginning ongoing, regular organization-wide discussions to explore how racial justice intersects with ILSR’s work.
- Workshops on racial equity and policy attended by all ILSR staff.
- A series of discussions identifying how ILSR initiatives have advanced racial justice in the past, as well as instances where we have missed opportunities to acknowledge the racist impacts of policy.
We acknowledge that there is more we need to do and that this work will always be ongoing. In the immediate future, we will improve our hiring policies and practices to better promote equity, diversity, and inclusion; identify more in-depth training opportunities for staff; and develop concrete goals for better incorporating a racial justice framework into both ILSR’s program work and internal management practices. We will share updates on this work here, and we invite you to reach out to us if you have questions or feedback to share.