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Universal basic income is the recognition that racial justice and economic justice are inextricably intertwined

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
3 min read
Universal basic income is the recognition that racial justice and economic justice are inextricably intertwined
Photo by Cooper Baumgartner / Unsplash

Hearing protestors chant in unison, “I can’t breathe,” is something that hits viscerally. It’s a call for the importance of our individual lives. We have the right to life, and we want to stay alive. George Floyd was dispossessed of the air he needed to exist. He was killed.

Withholding air is also not the only way of dispossessing someone of their rightful access to what they need to live. We all need air, but we also all need food. We can’t breathe if we can’t eat, and understanding that is understanding that poverty itself is injustice. It kills.

Poverty is misunderstood as a lack of resources, but poverty as it exists today is a legal status. It’s a violent act of dispossession that creates poverty. Hundreds of years ago, there was no such thing as having nothing, because we all had the planet as a shared natural resource.

Free access to the Earth is a form of natural wealth. We destroyed that access, and we did it on purpose. Or I should say some people did it on purpose, because they recognized it as wealth, and saw that if they had it and others didn’t, they could force others to do what they wanted.

This is why racial justice and economic justice are so inextricably intertwined. By dispossessing people of their natural inheritance that is rightfully theirs, and thus their access to what they need to live, they can be subjugated. We will do what we must to eat and breathe.

We will never live up to the founding principles of this nation so long as we withhold access to the basic needs of life, on the conditions of those determined by those with control of the resources. The laws are written to recognize that we are all equal.

We must make that real.

Achieving racial justice within a monetary system requires economic justice. We must make sure that as we are all equal under the law, we are also all equal with a minimum access to resources. We have to eliminate the poverty we created. We must stop withholding access to basics.

Unconditional basic income ends the poverty we created. It returns universal access to what we need to live. Instead of access to the Earth, it provides that access via money. That access not only ends poverty. It also ends the theft of power that resulted from dispossession.

If no one can legally prevent our access to food anymore, existence is secured to a degree that only the rich have ever experienced and inherited. If race is no longer a line between those with more access to food and those with less, that is racially a redistribution of POWER.

Black Americans have never had that kind of power. UBI is about so much more than money. It means the power to refuse being subordinate, to refuse to work for racists or buy from racists. It’s the ability to donate to black candidates seeking local and national office.

UBI is the time to run for office or to volunteer to help others run for office. It’s the ability to pay for legal defense and lawsuits and to avoid being jailed for lack of money. It’s the power to strike, the capital to start and support black-owned businesses, and to build wealth.

Economic justice requires UBI because nothing else is UNCONDITIONAL UNIVERSAL access to resources that treats everyone equally. A floor underneath us all is the act of repossession and the return of natural inheritance, and thus the return of power.

UBI is the breaking of chains.


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Unconditional basic income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Author of Let There Be Money; Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward; BasicIncomeToday.com editor; Fund for Humanity board member