One of the greatest achievements of neoliberalism is the ways in which the state’s role shifted from caretaker to CFO. This ostensibly seamless transition saw the rise of the not-for-profit/non-profit sector (I use the terms interchangeably in this post), stepping in to provide necessary social services that were once the responsibility of our governments and elected officials. In other words, governments need not-for-profits, and not-for-profits, which might receive some funding form government agencies and need to comply with municipal by-laws, often prop-up governments without tackling the root causes of systemic marginalization. But perhaps the greatest achievement of all is a widespread perception and banal acceptance that this is a relationship between citizens and government that has always ‘been there’ and that no other alternative exists.
This economic system founded on quantifiable outputs, results, and unfettered accumulation has seen the transformation of many not-for-profits from radical origins to mainstream models that mirror businesses. And while I’m not saying that all not-for-profits are bureaucratic houses of mirrors, they are workplaces and all workplaces are open to labour abuse.
Moreover, not-for-profits do not exist in isolation; they’re part of a broader system of power and resistance. How these organizations elect to navigate said system varies. Some remain radical; others not so much. Regardless, labour abuses within this sector are relatively overlooked.
With this in mind, the formation of Tituba’s Revenge earlier this year—a New York City collective comprised of anti-capitalist non-profit for workers who are predominantly queer women of colour—couldn’t be more timely. An ongoing working project, Tituba’s Revenge is dedicated to, in part,
* dispelling myths about non-profits
* redressing the current vacuum of analysis devoted to exploitative conditions within this feminized sector
* highlighting the ways in which many non-profits help to reproduce capitalism
* facilitating strategies for workplace organizing
The collective is named after Tituba, a Black Caribbean woman brought to Salem, Massachusetts as a slave and later persecuted during the Salem Witch Trials for her use of African healing rituals. In this way, the act of naming is a powerful one: it gives voice to an individual lived experience and highlights shared histories of resistance.