What’s that word?

A glossary for the movement…

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The State / State Violence

“The State” refers to all of the people and groups inside and outside of the government that manage and protect the interests of those in power. Under our current system the folks with the most influence and decision making power over law, policy, and development are the owners and executives of major corporations and foundations, and the elected officials who primarily cater to their interests.

Cases of police brutality and murders are often clear examples of state violence, but it can also refers to long-term harm caused by disinvestment and structural poverty, mass-incarceration, gentrification and displacement. These represent some of the primary root causes of violence and crime in the community.

Capital / Capitalism

Capital simply means privately owned land, money, equipment, buildings, or resources that can be used to invest or make products or services for profit. Capitalism is the economic system we live under where people who own capital use other people’s labor to make money for themselves.

The majority of workers hardly make enough in wages to meet basic needs, much less accumulate capital, and have no meaningful decision making power in their workplaces. Capitalism has to constantly grow by design, so it not only fails to meet the basic needs of communities and people, but harms our environment and our health in the process and fuels wars with other countries for control of land and resources.


The current strategy of capitalism, beginning in the 1970s, where increasingly the job of the state is to make it easier for people with large amounts of capital to make as much money as possible. This is done by reducing government regulations on businesses, and defunding and privatization resources that were once public.

This includes slashing social services that primarily benefit the working class, in favor of corporate welfare like local tax breaks and giveaways to VW and Amazon.

White Supremacy

White supremacy is one of the foundations of capitalism and the glue that holds it in place. It is a system that gives certain privileges to white people and oppresses and exploits people and nations of color, particularly Black people, in order to maintain the power, wealth, and privilege of the mostly white male power structure.

We use the term white supremacy instead of racism, because white supremacy is a historically-based system that is part of all of our institutions, laws, and policies and is not simply a matter of individual prejudice.


A process through which historically neglected and disinvested communities are ‘revitalized’ to attract and benefit middle and upper class predominantly white people.

This is driven by public land and tax policies and heavy investment in urban real estate. Middle and upper class people move into these communities in order to exploit relatively cheap property and low rents. Over time, they increase their wealth through increasing property values, which drives up the cost of living and very often forces out or displaces long-time residents.


In their 2014 report, Development Without Displacement, Oakland-based Causa Justa/Just Cause stated that “Displacement in gentrifying communities is, more often than not, an involuntary occurrence in which residents are forced out and development is pushed forward by the profit motive of investors, developers, landlords, and government.”

These neighborhoods are primarily Black and underdeveloped due to their history of redlining and other forms of state violence, like the mid-20th century ‘Urban Renewal’ projects nation-wide that put interstate systems through working class Black communities for the benefit of the growing white suburbia. Folks are also forced to leave their generational communities through related forms of state violence: to send their children to better-funded schools, find jobs that pay living wages, or through being criminalized and incarcerated.


The process through which actions and individuals are made into crimes and criminals. Previously legal actions are made illegal through legislation and court rulings, and entire communities are treated as criminals through the growing power and presence of police and expansions like the ‘War on Drugs,’ ‘Secure Communities,’ or locally the increasing role of police in City codes enforcement.

In Building Momentum from the Ground Up, the Center for Popular Democracy writes that “Police and prisons have become the answer to nearly every social problem in low income communities of color. The criminalization of poverty, mental illness, perceived anti-social behavior, and drug addiction has led to mass incarceration…” This process greatly empowers law enforcement “… who are often incentivized by quotas and political pressure to arrest and incarcerate as many people as possible.”

Non-Profit Industrial Complex

According to INCITE!, a national  organization led by women of color working to end violence against women of color and their communities, “The non-profit industrial complex (or the NPIC) is a system of relationships between… the State (or local and federal governments); the owning classes; foundations; and non-profit/Non Governmental Organizations, social service & social justice organizations… that results in the surveillance, control, derailment of as well as the everyday management of political movements. The state uses non-profits to… Monitor and control social justice movements… Redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society; Allow corporations to mask their exploitative and colonial work practices through ‘philanthropic’ work; Encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them.”