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By Yolie Contreras, professional zinester and fledgling fundraiser

As I’ve grown as a writer, I find that more and more (white) people are sharing my work, whether it be in newsletters, curricula, or lesson plans. While that is amazing and gets my name out there, BIPOC writers don’t generally see extra income from the sharing of our work.

We all know that white men are at the top of the career food chain when it comes to earning power — with white women being a close second. BIPOCs under-earn compared to their white counterparts — so seeing as pay equity isn’t happening anytime soon, there needs to be creative ways to tend to this gap — at the same time we also push for systemic change.

There are many ways to tackle this inequity, and I will present a few of my humble offerings towards this goal. 

As I’ve grown as a writer, I find that more and more (white) people are sharing my work, whether it be in newsletters, curricula, or lesson plans. While that is amazing and gets my name out there, it doesn’t always turn into a type of quantifiable success. BIPOC writers don’t generally see extra income from the sharing of our work. 

A disclosure: Community-Centric Fundraising pays all of its writers a very generous sum for published articles. While this is a great place to start and while I love sharing my writing with the world and having difficult conversations, what some are expecting from my writing and me is an education — and that’s an entirely different matter when it comes to compensation. 

Now, we are all aware of the history of tipping — it was created to keep wages low and put the burden of paying a cost of living wage on the consumer instead of the business. The history of tipping has very clear racist and classist undertones, because the majority of those in the service industry are working class BIPOC.  

And I’m suggesting that we flip that notion. In addition to our base pay/stipends/salaries, I want abundance for my BIPOC siblings. So I’m telling you to throw a little extra our way, redistribute wealth in the form of virtual tipping and/or donations. I am specifically talking to the white people who consume our content and share with their white colleagues and friends. Giving a tip is a small price to pay for engaging with BIPOC work and art. 

Here are some ways that I am trying to incorporate pay equity in both professional and creative settings. 

Open your wallet in the workplace 

As a woman of color, I am expected to work harder and more efficiently, all for the same amount of pay or less. We are taught to be grateful for crumbs and expect nothing more.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is Yolie so obsessed with money?” 

Because BIPOCs have so little, that’s why! For many of us, it’s a constant struggle to keep our heads above water in order to simply live. 

I also want to see the antiracism community in action, helping each other to make everyone’s lives easier and manageable. I also want to recognize that it’s capitalism that has enabled the wage gap to widen — and until capitalism burns to the ground, why not try to support our community members as best we can? 

Okay, so let’s talk about how we can incorporate the practice of donations/tipping into our nonprofits and other professional settings. I’ll use myself as an example. My “official” title at my organization is fundraising coordinator, but for a while I have been taking on media duties since we are currently without a media coordinator. This has meant more work and responsibilities for me, which I have been happy to take on because I love the organization that I work for. 

My team (mostly comprising BIPOCs) noticed the extra work, time, and effort that I have been putting forth and decided to send me a stipend in appreciation and to compensate for this additional labor. I was really blown away by this act. The thought never occurred to me that I should expect to be paid for this extra output — because why would I? 

As a woman of color, I am expected to work harder and more efficiently, all for the same amount of pay or less. We are taught to be grateful for crumbs and expect nothing more. 

Seeing as I have worked in predominantly white spaces, I found the stipend completely unexpected but very much welcomed. This is why I urge you to take a good look at your team members and see what their actual output is. If they are consistently taking on responsibilities beyond their stated roles and/or above their pay grade — either give them (or advocate on their behalf) a full-on raise or provide a stipend to recognize their efforts. 

My organization also has dedicated stipends for BIPOCs who volunteer with us. Because sometimes, being able to devote time and energy to volunteering is something that very few can actually afford. (Most of the time, volunteering seems reserved for affluent white people, let’s be real.) So my organization offers these stipends to our BIPOC volunteers in order to make volunteering more accessible to people who have been marginalized. 

Another way to support BIPOC in a professional setting, is to start paying people who are being interviewed for a job, especially if they identify as BIPOC. It takes so much time and effort to not only apply for a position, but also to go through multiple rounds of interviews. Work the cost of paying interviewees into your yearly budget. It shows BIPOC communities that they are valued and sets an amazing precedent. 

BIPOC creatives need love and abundance as well

All of this to say that I welcome white audiences but am also asking for donations/tips for engaging with my knowledge and art.

I have been given so many amazing creative opportunities this year, and it has opened my mind and heart in re-evaluating how I can give some monetary support to other BIPOCs. The work is also internal. Let’s not forget that! 

I will be hosting several online panels in the near future and all will include honorariums for the panelists in attendance. It’s a fairly new concept to me, that people of color would actually get paid to speak about our knowledge and experiences. I will also be requesting that panelists put their Venmo/Paypal accounts in the chat in case the attendees want to send a tip their way. 

This is all voluntary of course — we don’t want to force or shame anyone who might not have access to funds. You can start incorporating this into your own personal/creative pursuits as well. Add your Venmo, Cash Apps, or PayPal to your bio. You might be surprised how the community shows up. 

Alright, say you run a blog and you can’t afford to pay people right now. That’s okay! Another example of closing the pay gap that I have from my own life is when I recently wrote an article for another blog and they couldn’t pay me, which was totally fine — but they had a unique way of compensating me. Each writer included their Venmo or Cash App into their bio, and I found that to be a genius way of ensuring some abundance is sent our way. I took their practice and applied it to my creative and professional practice. 

All of this to say that I welcome white audiences but am also asking for donations/tips for engaging with my knowledge and art. 

I suggest you take these small steps and make them bigger. Fold them into your daily lives and in the workplace. The bottom-line is to stop asking for, expecting, and giving away free labor. (If people want free, well, Google is free.) If you are using BIPOC words and art to learn and to educate your fellow white coworkers, friends, or colleagues, then open your wallet. 

A parting reflection

I know it can be hard to ask for tips, my beautiful fellow people of color, but please consider this a lesson in receiving. We are so used to giving and having things taken from us that it’s so hard to open ourselves up to receiving. 

Also, I do realize that people of color are not a monolith and that embracing the notion of accepting donations/tips in relation to art and work might not be for everyone. 

But I do encourage every BIPOC creator to consider it, because I believe it’s a small way to bridge the wealth inequality gap and help support BIPOC creatives and professionals in more tangible ways. 

YOLIE CONTRERAS

YOLIE CONTRERAS

Yolie Contreras (she/her) is a Salvi-Chicanx writer, fundraiser and neurodivergent babe. She believes that words and actions matter, and as long as systems of oppression exist, it is our duty to dismantle them. When she’s not working, Yolie spends her time writing zines about depression, anxiety and OCD. She currently lives in Tucson, AZ with her husband Billy and their cat named Frida. Find her on Instagram @Yolie4u. Send her a tip via her Venmo, Yolie4u.

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