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Archive for March, 2006

31
Mar

its not about sex

If you haven’t heard about the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, this shit is FUCKED UP! 46 members of the Duke Lacrosse team took DNA tests after some of the players were accused of raping a womyn who was hired as a dancer for a private party.

Rape is a tool of oppression - a tool of power-over. It is used as a tool to enforce a gendered hierarchy, for sure. But this case reminds us that it is so much more. It is also used to enforce hierarchies of race, class, ability, and age. Rachel, of Rachel’s Tavern, has a great post reminding us that this is an “incident that reveals how racism, sexism, and classism intersected to make this young woman particularly vulnerable to a sexual assault.” And another about “the discrepancies between how White men’s crimes and black men’s crimes are covered in the popular media.”

Rachel and Blackamazon (and several others that i haven’t gotten to yet) have made it their persynal mission to get the word out about this case and to bring justice. (Update: looks like Alas put together a pretty good round-up of blog postings on the topic.)  I’d like to join that mission. As someone who is moving in two months to where this all took place, i can’t possibly imagine ignoring it. So online and offline, you’ll be hearing me talk about it.

[tags]Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, rape, Duke, racism, classism, sexism[/tags]

31
Mar

letter writing sunday… on friday

A lot of self-described radicals laugh when i tell them that i regularly write letters to members of Congress, corporations, local governments, mainstream newspapers and the like. But as someone who worked on Capitol Hill (a fact that some may find hard to believe), i know that letters can make a difference. I would agree that it is problematic if you feel that your power is relagated to writing letters, but for me letter-writing is another tool in the tackle. It is also a great way to show solidarity (we shouldn’t forget our friends in prison).

For those who “don’t have the time” to write a letter, many organizations have now instituted online petitions and click-and-send email letters. One of my regulars is the United Farm Workers weekly action (it caters so much to laziness that they will even email you once a week with a button to click that will take you to the action of the week). This week is the Bush administration’s immigration policy - something i’ve been slack on and haven’t written about once despite all the posts floating in my head. But you’ll get plenty of it on the tenth of April as i battle it out with another blogger (more on this to come).

When i was in college, i instituted a weekly letter writing session. I quickly found that this was a great way to educate White liberals (the only folks that ever showed up) about all the really messed up stuff that is going on around us. Sure, we had our “stop clubbing baby seals” letters, but it also introduced a lot of folks to new issues like the struggles of the Dine nation (at a time when John McCain was first gaining popularity among liberals). So i figured i would start up that tradition again. Except this time, instead of meeting in a worker-owned cafe, we’ll meet up in the blogosphere. Every sunday i’ll put up a post with at least one important issue and where to send the letter (or a link to a click-and-send email if applicable). It’d be great if you let me know if you also sent a letter by saying so in the comments. I’d also encourage others to post their own letter writing ideas on their site. Obviously you don’t have to do it on sunday, just thought it would be nice to know that we aren’t writing our letters by ourselves. One problem with armchair activism is that it is so isolating.

Today’s letter is the above link to the UFW’s campaign for a reasonable immigration policy, which is summed up in the first line of the letter, “Please honor the people who feed America by supporting the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan bill now being debated on the senate floor.” Simple enough. Of course you can also make it a little more persynal. I usually do (and i usually change the subject heading so that its not immediately deleted). Just so you know, don’t expect responses from form emails. If you want a response, send it snail mail or send it from your persynal email account.

And just to give you a heads-up, i have already dedicated some time this weekend to writing letters to prisoners, so i’m sure that’s what i’ll be talking about this Sunday. Oh, and we might as well start up a technorati tag, so here goes:

[tags]letter writing sunday[/tags]

30
Mar

you gotta work

Debbie over at the procrastinator’s handbook reminded me of something that i’ve been meaning to bring up here. A few months ago, a local grassroots organization asked if i would do an anti-oppression workshop at an upcoming Wilderness First Responder and street medic training. I was glad that anti-oppression was being included in such a training (i can tell you that my EMT training was a far cry from anti-oppressive, with such comments as “You have to be careful around Haitians. They will hide razor blades under their tongues and cut you by spitting them at you”) but i couldn’t help but get tired of the same old tokenization.

First off, what the hell is an anti-oppression workshop? Am i supposed to cover every form of oppression in four hours? Even if i pick one form (as if they aren’t intersecting) what aspect am i supposed to focus on in the relatively short amount of time that i’m given? And how do i choose which form of oppression to include?

The workshop is a week and a half away and i have yet to finalize anything. Which is a little crazy, cuz i’ve spent so much time thinking about it - far more time than any other workshop that i’ve facilitated. I’m bringing this up here for a few reasons: 1) to highlight how anti-oppression work is tokenized rather than instituted, 2) to share with you the process i’ve been going through in finalizing the workshop, and 3) to ask for your input.

Regarding the tokenization of anti-oppression work, i feel its important to highlight Catherine Jones’ article “The Work Is Not The Workshop”. In her essay, Jones talks about the pitfall that White activists fall in whereas they feel that how to be anti-racist is to attend anti-racist workshops. Voila! Insta-anti-racist! I have to say that i’ve fallen in that trap before. In reality, attending a workshop is not anti-oppression work, it is consciousness-raising and sometimes alliance building, which are both very important parts of anti-oppression work, but not the work itself. The work is much more everyday. It requires looking critically and consciously at our every action. An attendee at a workshop i did a few years back asked, “surely you can’t expect us to be conscious of our every action.” I expect nothing. But if we are sincere in our battle against oppression, then yes, our intention will be to become aware of our every action.

The Wilderness First Responder training is no different. It is assumed that by including a four-hour workshop that the training is now anti-oppressive. I don’t care if there were two days dedicated to talking about oppression or even if a majority of the time was spent talking about oppression, this does not make it an anti-oppressive training. Sure, its important to have such discussions, but who is a part of those discussions?

If the WFR training wishes to be anti-oppressive, it will start from the beginning. Who does the event cater to? Who does it ignore? Who can afford to take the time off of work for a week to attend such a training? Who can afford the fee? Will there be ASL interpreters? How about spanish interpreters? Our small city has a pretty big Ukranian immigrant community, what about them? Where was the event advertised? I know it was targeted to environmental activists, is it assumed that such activists are White and middle-class or punk-culture? If so, were all other populations ignored as a waste of time or only marginally marketed to?

Who organized the event and who did the outreach? Was is all White people? All or mostly male? All able-bodied? Did it need to be so? How could it be otherwise?

What about the pedagogy of the training? Freire, hooks, and others have certainly shown us that how we learn is largely cultural. Is the training carrying out the same cultural imperialism as the public education system? Is anti-oppression being incorporated into the training itself? Are the struggles that these activists will be focusing on being linked to the struggles of the indigenous people of the region? Or the people that now inhabit the area?

I know, it seems like a lot for one training, but that’s only because we are not in the habit of looking at these things. When we begin to incorporate this critical analysis into every event and every action, then it becomes routine for us. Just as oppression, domination, and marginalization have become routine for us. And when a workshop addresses these questions it can begin to call itself anti-oppressive without merely being tokenizing of the struggles of so many people. I’m not trying to pick on the WFR training, that’s just what’s on my mind.

For about two months now i’ve been trying to figure out exactly what these four hours would look like. The only thing i knew was that i would not be doing a workshop on gender. Not that the participants didn’t need it, but my experience has been that such a workshop doesn’t challenge radical environmentalists - they’ve become too comfortable with it as it has become a hot topic over the past year or two. I am also wary of becoming tokenized as the voice of trannies. So my first thought was to do a workshop on racism. Knowing the organization and the organizers, i knew that the event would most likely be all White. But i didn’t want to make that assumption and prepare a workshop for a group of White people and leave anyone else to merely observe. However, i feel that this group is in desperate need for a critical and self-reflective discussion on White Supremacy, so i will be incorporating racism into the workshop by talking about racism in the environmental movement.

I would also like to include a discussion on ableism. I have yet to see a flier for an event in this city that showed that it was wheelchair accessible or provided ASL interpreters or even a large-print flyer. I’m pretty sure that there are folks in wheelchairs, def folk, and people with visual impairments.  Yet they are routinely excluded and never discussed. Considering the fragility and temporariness of our bodies, you’d think we’d be more inclusive of the differently-abled. But instead, we prefer to act as if they and our own fragility don’t exist.

There is so much more that i would like to include in the discussion, but i’m not sure how to do so within the time frame given. And this is where you come in. What do you think i should do? Are there any exercises that you’ve found particularly eye-opening? Can you think of a way to challenge folks to the core in four hours? Should i have said “no, i won’t do the workshop, but i will work with you in creating an anti-oppressive training”? I sincerely want to know your thoughts on this topic. Thanks!




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