I’m writing this as someone who personally has benefited from tax evasion and wealthy people hoarding wealth. I’m writing this as an anarchist who doesn’t believe that the state is interested in our liberation.
By Yahya Alazrak
Walking into my family’s factories, the sound pulls you in like an undertow, humming electric and mechanical. Light seeps in through dented and dirty windows high in the metal ceiling. It smells like sweat and burnt plastic; to anyone else, a strange combination, but to me, this was a part of home.
When I was young the working men would smile and play with me. As I’ve became older, it’s felt like they weren’t happy to see me, the way they used to be, rather, I began to feel the immense weight of being the heir of their patron, their employer, their boss. I began to feel more embarrassment when I would visit, when my dad would begin to yell at a worker, blood in his face, spit in the air, and my helplessness. Wanting with all my heart to say to my dad’s employees “I’m not like him, I’m on your side” and knowing that I wasn’t – I was running away from that world as fast as I could, I was betraying them and my father.
I am remembering them in the midst of the reality of the class warfare of the tax bill sinking in. I’m writing this as someone who personally has benefited from tax evasion and wealthy people hoarding wealth. I’m writing this as an anarchist who doesn’t believe that the state is interested in our liberation. I feel mad with waves of heat in my body.
My dad has made a lot of money over the years in Morocco passing through his trading of plastic raw materials as agricultural products (taxed much lower in Morocco). This loophole has let my dad undercut a lot of plastics importers and make more wealth trading than we used to as just manufacturers.
When I ask why, he points to government corruption. When I ask my 17-year-old brother what he thinks the biggest issue facing Morocco is, he says, government corruption. When I follow-up and ask “what about poverty? Do you think poverty should exist?” He says, “Without poverty, we couldn’t be rich, poverty has to exist.” I cannot explain to you the myriad ways my heart broke hearing that. Because of his youth, because he’s my family, because we share an analysis of the system, but differ so vastly on whether or not that is a good thing.
Like I mentioned before, I don’t much like the government, or borders, or police, or the military. There is a younger version of myself who refused to vote. But I know from my lived experience that taxes and the programs they fund keep people alive and are the best way we have to force some amount of wealth redistribution. I know this because while my dad was making millions in Morocco, I was getting breakfast and lunch for free at school. As a small child, if it wasn’t for WIC (Women Infants and Children) I’m not sure what my family would’ve eaten, or at the very least whether or not it would’ve been healthy. If it weren’t for things like the Earned Income Tax Credit, we might’ve experienced homelessness longer and more frequently than we did.
This is why I showed up in D.C. this week to protest the passage of the tax bill. Being a member of Resource Generation (a national membership org of people 18-35 with wealth committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power) has challenged me to use my power and privilege in these fights. As a young person of color with access to wealth, I now know that stopping racialized capitalism requires taking risks, that solidarity means to take equal risk and to fight here in this home in ways I haven’t been able to in Morocco. I looked our politicians in the eyes and ask if they were going to vote to steal money from poor and working people to give a christmas present— decades in the making— to the wealthy. I had to shout at the top of my lungs if these agents of empire were going to take health insurance away from 13 million Americans, so they could make a dollar for each one. I know that the wealthy don’t need more. I know that trickle down wealth is a myth, and business owners are always going to look for ways to reduce labor costs and increase profits. Even my 17-year-old brother understands that for the rich to get richer, the poor must get poorer.
I was among the protesters in the Senate chamber waiting for Pence to call the vote on the tax bill. It felt as if the room got quiet, my heart started beating loudly. Then, it was as if I had plunged into freezing water, or out the door of a plane, it felt as if I was falling, I was screaming for my life. As I yelled, “Kill the Bill, Don’t Kill Us” with a group of protesters in the chamber, I was screaming for the lives of my friends getting arrested with me, people with cancer treatment costing $91,000 a month, people who stand to lose their insurance now that this bill has passed. I was screaming for the lives of so many, screaming for my own liberation, and of everyone I considered beloved.
Everything else in the gallery faded, all that remained were my comrades from Resource Generation, the fearless 18-year-old hijabi in our group, the dozen other comrades taking risk, and grimacing Senators. The frenzy was over quickly. The police were ready for us, within a minute we were zip-tied and escorted out of the lobby, still screaming, still chanting. From there, it was the paddy wagon and then the Capitol Police Department office across the street. A night spent cuffed and waiting to be fingerprinted and photographed, unable to sleep. Uncomfortable for sure, but a small price to pay for bearing witness to the largest transfer of wealth from poor and working-class people to the rich.
People with access to wealth will get richer from this bill regardless of their politics — and there are people hoarding wealth across the political spectrum. Those of us who care about social justice have a moral obligation to redistribute our wealth and take action in solidarity with the thousands of others in the fight for racial and economic justice and the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power, especially poor and working-class communities. I am ready to fight for the rest of my life.
Author Bio: Yahya (they/them) is a National Organizer and Coordinator of POC Programs at Resource Generation (RG), the only national organization in the U.S. organizing young people (18-35) with wealth toward the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power. Yahya comes to social justice work out of a deep sense of love for their family and community and a need for our collective liberation to be possible. Studying Religious Studies and Community and Justice Studies at Guilford College was a part of their constant journey to understand love and make it visible. They spent their early years in Morocco, Florida, and Massachusetts. They are now in Philadelphia and learning to call that new place home. When they close their computer, they can be found cooking for friends, dancing like that’s all that matters, or being overly-confident at board games.
Featured Image: Photo by Jimi Filipovski on Unsplash