On Equity: An interview with Chuka Ejeckam

September 15, 2021

Chloe Sjuberg
Communications Coordinator, SFU Public Square

The views and opinions expressed in SFU Public Square's On Equity interviews are those of the interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of Simon Fraser University, SFU Public Square or any other affiliated institutions in any way.

The On Equity interview series is part of our 2021 Community Summit Series: Towards Equity. In these interviews, you’ll get to know people working towards equity, justice and systemic change from a variety of fields and perspectives, and learn how you can support them. We hope they will inform and inspire your own conversations and actions towards equity.

Read on to hear from Chuka Ejeckam, a research associate with the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and a member of our Towards Equity advisory committee.

What do you want people to know about your work in pursuit of equity, justice and systemic change?

I don't know what I want people to know about my work specifically, but I would argue to any inclined to listen that to pursue equity, justice and systemic change is to pursue realized humanity through the liberation and enfranchisement of every person alive, and through care for every living organism on the planet. I would also argue that only in collective emancipation can one's own freedom and self be found.

Finally, I'd argue that the world as it is simply cannot be accepted. Yes, we have centuries for which to seek reparations, seemingly decades in which to do it, but there is no other choice. It cannot be allowed that only the wealthy remain.

 

How do we make systemic change?

I cannot claim to possess a definitive answer to that. However, I think one aspect must be changing what people believe they are owed simply by the fact of their existence. We've enshrined a system of “negative rights” (i.e., you have the right to not be interfered with, not be subjected to others’ whims, not have your person or property violated by others), and many of these are necessary, but they are not sufficient. I believe everyone, simply by the fact of their existence, deserves access to all the material and social resources necessary for a well-lived life of human flourishing and self-actualization.

 

What does equity look like to you?

In Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, Ruth Wilson Gilmore describes racism as "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death." If inequity is the production and exploitation of group-differentiated exposure to harm, I think of equity as the elimination of that harm and reparations for its impacts.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the guiding question for Towards Equity: What must we understand—and do—to recover equitably from the pandemic and reimagine our systems to confront the intersecting crises of inequality, systemic racism and climate change?

I think there is valuable perspective in reckoning with the way injustices cascade into one further injustice, both continuing and compounding over years, then decades, then centuries. I feel that it aids in imagining the scale of change that is necessary.

 

What gives you hope? What inspires you?

I am fond of the notion of “well-being.” If “being” is more than the corporeal fact of our existence, “well-being” points to something more significant than merely the physical and material needs of our bodies being met and sated. I think it raises a notion of existing in material, social and psychological harmony with the world around you. I find that notion compelling.

 

Do you think there is more potential for systemic change at this moment in time? Why?

I think, generally speaking, young people are less convinced by capitalist and neoliberal propaganda. However, I'm not certain that's universally positive. Yes, it does seem that young people are more amenable to the notion of, say, a radical internationalist emancipatory politics which seeks the abolition of money, private capital, national borders and so on. But, it does also seem that many young people stand by capitalist ideology and “Western chauvinism” despite seeing through the propaganda—i.e., they explicitly view the rest of the world as beneath them, and are often happy to declare this. I feel there is cause to be concerned about that.

 

What do you think is an overlooked challenge that more people should be paying attention to?

Canada's election cycles both encourage and reward short-term thinking, and thus are antithetical to the kind of politics that we require to contend with the coming century and beyond. Politicians are unlikely to admit this.

 

What should we be reading? Watching? Listening to? Please recommend books, articles, podcasts, films or other media you think people should read/hear/watch on topics surrounding equity and justice.

I recommend Raoul Peck's documentary series “Exterminate All the Brutes.”

 

What other questions should we be asking in this interview series?

I think a valuable question could be: "What do you fear?" We all know the things in the world we oppose, and we're often encouraged to find lift in hope, focus on what's in front of us, and seek to change that which we have the power to. But, I think we also must see clearly the outcomes that we wish to avoid, in all their horror and unfairness, because what I fear is that the outcomes most cannot bear to consider—such as wealthy, white-majority countries building gun-turreted walls to repel climate refugees—are those which are most likely, by far.

 

Who would you like to hear from in an upcoming interview? What other questions would you like us to ask interviewees? Let us know. Send your ideas to Chloe Sjuberg, Communications Coordinator, at chloe_s@sfu.ca.

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