Today the Fair Start Movement is releasing the assessment of Dr. Breeze Harper on the need for internal DEIJ reforms at the Fair Start movement, and the organization’s response to the findings and advice.
We are honored to have worked with Dr. Harper, found her to be the best consultant we had worked with to date, and agree that we have work to do, and commit to making the changes described below by May, 2023. We have begun by augmenting our Board and leadership with the promotion of attorney Esther Afolaranmi, and the platforming of fundraising projects by organizations in the Global South, and will continue to make changes.
We highly recommend Dr. Harper to other organizations, as she was able to digest our complex need and provide sound advice quickly, advising changes that many others find fitting.
Statement from Dr. Breeze Harper:
I have worked with Carter Dillard with FSM as a consultant over the past several months. Through our collaboration, I have helped FSM better articulate their intentions and outcomes more equitably— particularly through a more decolonized lens. My suggestions urge FSM to frame the concept of equitable family planning through:
● Alternatives to Eurocentrism, materialism, and utilitarianism methodologies
● Alternatives to [un]conscious white saviorism and paternalism
● Acknowledging that we live in a Plantationocene (as opposed to the more popular Anthropocene)
● Indigenous and Afrofuturism Methodologies, Ontologies, and Cyclical Systems
● Putting the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and other non-white racialized women and other gender minorities at the forefront, equitably redistributing resources to them as leaders in this movement, and prioritizing their decision making-power.
● Removal of “smaller families” language/requirement and shifting to language such as ‘equitable families’ which is more about restorative justice vs. quantity and quotas.
● It is important to highlight Carter’s positionality: He acknowledges his multiple levels of privilege as a white cisgender man born into wealth. Also, because he is childfree, he does not carry the embodied knowledge and challenges that parents face every day. The impact of his positionality is that he is unable to fully comprehend, reflect on, and represent communities most negatively affected by inequitable systems – Black, brown, indigenous, and other nonwhite people in the universal reforms Fair Start proposes.
In response to Carter’s awareness of his positionality, he has disclosed this: “While not a parent I developed an interest in reproductive ethics while working for the federal government, and did the base research and fundraising that led to the publication of his book, Justice as a Fair Start in Life, and much of the modeling, campaigns, and messaging of Fair Start.” Carter believes even the childfree are obligated to constitute just societies because the norms that create them foist costs on some to benefit others, and to orient from such norms and systems (as opposed to striking back at unjust power and going to prison, for example) is to endorse and support that inequity.
Response from the Fair Start Movement leadership and Board:
The Board and Executive Directors are grateful to Breeze for her work, and will be implementing her recommendations for the most part, though the recommendation on altering our messaging on family size presents the greatest challenges to our work and is discussed at the end.
We acknowledge the Eurocentric nature of the work and modeling, the continued process of colonization, and are in the process of looking for alternative models as you suggest, including Indigenous and Afrofuturism Methodologies, Ontologies, and Cyclical Systems which can be promoted as preferable alternatives to the atomizing and self-determination based Eurocentric human-rights model we use now. We are looking at those focused collectively on human duties and obligations, ones that would not have created the crises that beset us now. We have begun to make progress in this regard, assessing group circle organizational models. To the extent Fair Start can defeat colonization using its own atomizing premises, without harming the alternative mode, we will continue to promote it separately. This is especially crucial because starting from individual rights as building blocks can protect the vulnerable from group dominance, as in the context of FGM, other anti-patriarchy advocacy, or extreme child abuse of the youngest of children, for example and we are keen to ensure that – to empower while never disempowering – here in the context of existential justice that creates oppression ending empathy in children via improved birth and development conditions.
We will attempt to use Plantationocene where possible, other than where it would cause reader confusion or where impossible to convey particular meaning. We appreciate the thickness of the concept in capturing the oppression and inequity in something largely caused by colonizing forces.
We acknowledge the need to increase the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and other non-white racialized women and other gender minorities at the forefront, equitably redistributing resources to them as leaders in this movement, and prioritizing their decision making-power. We decline to remove white leadership currently in place and may preserve other white leadership including self-identifying males in a minority position going forward, because we want this message to come from a diverse set of voices, but with express statements of positionality – as you have included – that make clear the power dynamics at play. In this regard we will highlight Carter’s role and positionality, as you have begun to do. We will be altering Board membership as part of this process.
We understand the importance of removal of “smaller families” language/requirement and shifting to language such as ‘equitable families’ which is more about restorative justice vs. quantity and quotas. We have long wanted to abandon quantitative thinking in favor of purely qualitative approaches can imply equity between generations and the “just savings” requirement that entails direction for family choices. Equity can imply sustainable or regenerative family policies because it can imply one’s equal share of political systems (including decolonized forms of organization). And it can conceivably imply children-rights otherwise necessitated by a “smaller family” requirement if we abandon nuclear and other atomizing forms of families in favor of collective models. But as you have agreed, there are regional differences in how the changes in modeling we promote might be applied, and regions that think and word these issues exclusively in terms of population and the inherent dangers of exponential growth linked to family size, and we do not want to exclude those differences. We also have to achieve our deontological goal of creating a first principle that all could truly practice universally, here and forever, and one which triggers property rights-override for things like climate reparations, and as consumption rises such a rule becomes impossible without some visions of sustainable family sizes. We do however think we can achieve this by focusing on high consumption white families, like the Baldwins, and will focus there.
Carter and FSM leadership hold the dismantling of oppression of all beings as a core tenant of FSM’s mission, and decolonization and total liberation as the move to consensual relations between all sentient beings, now and in the future. We admit that many of us were beneficiaries of the ecosocially unjust family models Fair Start attacks, the ones many rich white men exploit to enrich themselves and their children at harm to others. They do so, benefiting from ecocidal growth, the acceptance of free markets in the absence of participatory democracy, and extreme birth inequity, things many decolonization organizations do not challenge. As such, FSM continues to purposefully platform BIPOC and PGM activists across the globe in order to elevate their voices in the movement for liberation and to bolster their regional projects through FSM’s platform.