Moving Forward – Dismantling Systems
By Jess Pettitt
Ever ask yourself, “But What Can I Do?”
I mean, picking up this one piece of trash isn’t going to solve the world’s environmental problems. Or will it? While working towards equity, we need to also discuss systems that are either at the foundation of the social construction or perhaps neighboring adjacent structures that need dismantling first. Reflecting on the 2008 Housing Crisis taught homeowners many things while not impacting those without a mortgage.
Stability as a social construction
Two conversations have come up recently with my friend circle about rent and rent strikes. In one conversation, a friend of mine was telling me about her grandson and how he wasn’t going to pay the next month’s rent and she was very concerned. She told me how she explained that come the first of the following month, he will owe two months of rent and, living paycheck to paycheck, this is untenable. She knows this from her own experiences as a long-term renter living on a very tight budget. I explained that the time, that there was a possibility of a mortgage and/or rent freeze and that this would be the only way I would recommend not paying rent. She didn’t understand the possibility of a different system. Coming from the mindset of, your landlord has to pay their mortgage and can just find new renters, puts pressure on the renter to pay up. A mortgage and rent freeze would mean that both renter and mortgage holders would have a grace period which would be of course unprecedented, and this is an unprecedented time.
Ownership as a social construction
My partner and I talked about our mortgage payments and other fixed expenses while being grateful for his steady teaching salary and my monthly consulting retainer fees. We have paid several months in advance over the six years we have been in our home. We did transfer some bills around to lower or 0% APR and mathematically, we can break even through the end of 2020. We think. One dog has hookworms and 2021 is a long time away.
Advocacy as a social construction
Yesterday, a friend asked me about the rent strikes that are supposedly happening next month. The friend asked for my opinion on how to be supportive of others while taking care of yourself. She and her partner can afford rent, recognize the precarity of their temporary employee status, and have hoped to save money to become foster parents. We talked about it being illegal to evict people right now and their relationship with their landlord.
In response, I stated that rent and mortgage relief should happen at the same time. For real relief and support during this time, we must be careful not to blame those that own property and those that rent that property because this is a system of inequity, to begin with. More than half of someone’s accumulated wealth likely comes from property ownership and similarly to the 2008 “housing bubble burst” this system doesn’t affect everyone as many don’t own or rent. Similarly, the stock market’s performance only immediately impacts those investing, trading, or employed through the stock market industry. Now, I am not talking about interest rates or event economics, just perspective on who is part of different systems; who is an intimate player in different social constructions, and who isn’t included.
Solidarity as a social construction
What would happen if “rent strikes” included solidarity between renters and landlords, renters, and owners? A more diverse population could be involved leading toward a more inclusive response. The response could also lead to more equitable aftermath. My friend Bruce Turkel beautifully writes about the realities of the different boats we are all on during this unprecedented storm that will allow all to be grateful for new constructions.
I suggested that my friend pay her rent if they could afford it and communicate with their landlord that they are willing to be supportive of other tenants that may fall short this month. This way the tenants can support one another with not against the mortgage carrier who is also involved in the current housing and economic crisis.
This is dismantling a system through communication, realistic determinations about what is possible, and working towards an equitable solution for all involved.
Building an inclusive community within equitable systems from diverse sources requires us to:
Think outside of the known systems you are in
Fully understand what you can do to help others
Be curious when listening to other’s needs
Share generosity to ultimately support a greater connection between all
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Jess Pettitt has stirred up Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion based conversations for decades with a strong dose of humor and is an avid hand washer. (see what I did there?) ☺ For more information, visit: JessPettitt.com or click here.
Jess Pettitt, M.Ed., CSP, has always had a foot in two different approaches to her life. Perhaps it is her Texas roots, but she believes to thrive in this world you have to ride two horses at once – one of humility and one of ego.
This is why while hosting and performing stand-up in NYC she also worked as a diversity and inclusion specialist as a day job. She quit her day job after a decade and almost 20 years later still uses humor to deliver actionable content related to everything you ever wanted to know about where leadership and diversity collide but are afraid to ask. Though often referred to as a thought leader, Jess responds that she just makes leaders think.
For Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work to stick, the first step is a conversation that matters about what you don’t know you don’t know then you can do the best you can with what you have some of the time without getting sued, losing talent, or failing customers.
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