Tools of Political & Social Reform: Economic Withdrawal


In Part 2 of the Stages of Systemic Injustice, I briefly mentioned that when collective oppression had reached stage four, the oppressed minority and those who break ranks with the oppressive majority would need to engage in a "wide-scale and well coordinated resistance" that would employ certain "tools".  These tools might be viewed as more aggressive then the more conversational and relational strategies highlighted in the earlier stages, but they are absolutely necessary to slow and hopefully reverse the advance of injustice.  I argued that among these various tools, the most powerful were those of the "Ballot Box and the Buck", the latter of these also known as "economic withdrawal".  Basically, this tool educates and inspires members of the resistance to leverage their collective economic might to effect social and institutional change.  They do this by targeting where they purchase, save and invest or to the opposite where they do not purchase, save or invest--that is, what businesses they boycott.  It turns out that even the most ideologically driven business owner get's surprisingly repentant of, for example, his discriminatory business practices when the cost of such bigotry starts to hurt his 'bottom line'.

dr king's final SPEECH

Dr. Martin Luther King, particularly in his last few years, began to advance a more concrete strategy for addressing poverty that crossed all racial lines in what would be called the "Poor People's Campaign".  He connected this to racially motivated economic injustice towards the black community in a portion of his final "I've seen the mountain top" speech.  Tragically the following day he would be assassinated.  

During this speech he made his argument for the use of economic withdrawal.  Some have wondered if it was his threatening financial "pain" on white-owned big businesses that got him killed.  Challenging the conduits of the powerful's unjust wealth can be a very risky endeavor.

What I would like to conclude with is a short clip of his comments on economic withdrawal which he shared on the night before a sniper's bullet pierced his neck.  This will lay a foundation for future publications where we will apply this strategy to systemic injustices we are facing today, including some that regrettably represent the same battles Dr. King was fighting in his day.  Here is Dr. King...