Notes from AO Breakout Group at the GA Workshop on GA 2/21
GA Workshop at GA: Anti-Oppression/Community Guidelines Breakout Group Notes
Lenny: scale of oppression is it within all of the world or within OB?
Answer – OB
Anna: safer spaces statement of commitment to Anti-Oppression
Angela: ditto. Also interested in plans that structurally address issues of oppression, particularly around women’s issues and anti-racism. At POC white supremacy workshop: suggestion that all props submitted should have one or two sentences about how this addresses anti-oppression. Similarly, want all WGs to come up with sentences about how they address anti-oppression. We need to have conversation about age, about people with families (forced to choose between my son/wife and coming to OB) – it’s not a childcare issue, people who plan stuff in OB don’t stop to think that some people have families.
Brian: lots of things to say. One large thing: movement is predominantly white, led by white people (even though it’s “leaderless”) -- there’s a stifling of leadership from others, and we need an affirmative action type thing for leadership. We need to discuss progressive stack, a smaller issue that’s controversial but really important
Ashlee: identity progressive stack is problematic but it’s really important. I would love to discuss interconnectedness of all forms of oppression (e.g. sexism and relationship to racism) – OB needs to discuss this.
Allie: lots of what I wanted to say has already been said. some types of oppression are obvious and some aren’t. there are structural issues but also visibility --- make people aware that they are oppressive, ignorance is at the root of things.
Kendra: Issues of media representation within OB – Boston Occupier hasn’t had any articles re Black History Month. FAWG also has a lot of power… Money and accountability need to be discussed.
B: agree about proposals ideas. Progressive stack needs to be clearly defined and implemented – we need to call people out on this stuff. We need to address issues of oppression in real-time. We need a line to say, when someone is being oppressed – a safe space created with a line that isn’t even personally directed, but marks oppression.
David: we need this community agreement. we also do it to ourselves, segregating ourselves. I would like to see more people of color participating. Writing proposals is very European-centric, writing is not the only way to make decisions, it can be classist.
Mark: women friends of mine, people of color I’m friends with – during concerns or amendments, if someone is speaking out, down-fingers can be really oppressive (if they’re not part of an official temp check). Instead of quorum being the deciding factor, it should be diversity of FWG. If you don’t have diversity of Facilitators, there shouldn’t be GA.
Laurie: I do a lot of AO work. When we did the AO workshop, one thing that was supposed to come out was these guidelines, and we still don’t have them (surprising!). I would like to add another category, because it’s never added: able-ism. Invisible disabilities are horribly stigmatized, never mentioned (brain injury is never discussed – it’s more than wheelchair access, technology is a real divider sometimes – people can’t see etc)
Pashel?: ditto on need for diversity, ditto on education: for dominant group to understand why dominant culture is oppressive. Part of the ways of being of AO is “oops, ouch, what’s up with that” – that’s very difficult and challenging (people experience “ouches” that aren’t intended, because of diversity of experience. When a person of color is upset about a situation, a white person might take it personally, whereas it’s not intended). Different cultures process things differently.
Conversation about age:
Angela: need to discuss assumption that people are without children.
Kendra: might be generational, in meetings we used to run between people’s legs etc.
Another round of stack:
Brian: we need a hand-signal that oppression is happening (AO signal). Clyde talks about outreach and inreach – we need to create a space internally for people to stick to the GA. There are things coming out of the POC group: aiming for 50% leadership for POC , aiming for a target would give us a way to measure our progress.
Allie: whenever you see a problem that’s systemic in a community because of the problematic values, the way to attack is not systemic – that doesn’t get to the root. The process stuff, like hand signals, can cause a lot of resentment from people who don’t understand. What I think needs to happen is a real frank deconstructing of people’s understanding of issues. If we had community guidelines they would be everywhere, and people should also be talking about this stuff – we need an AO vanguard or something that would go and spread these ideas. Everyone needs to have AO discussion, not just the people who want to discuss.
Kendra: Media, FAWG, Spokescouncil are three areas of power – who speaks there? They need to be accountable. I have an understanding of what real power is, and it’s not about being in a group of people, on some level you have to be detached from power. I think we get caught up in the mentality that we need to have immediate output and evaluation all the time, but that’s something from our consumerist society. Don’t make yourself unhappy about what’s going on here, we are trying to move forward as a group, but some things take time. Power is a good thing, but it’s beyond consumerism and materialism.
B: addressing what Kendra said, three seats of power: it could be going to the group and saying if you don’t have a person of color in this meeting, can you really have a meeting? Sometimes it just needs to be pointed out – maybe important decisions can’t be made.
We do need a process, I think, contrary to what Allie said. We need a process thing that protects someone who feels harm in a meeting. Build a space for addressing harm.
David: GA doesn’t feel safe, at least not to me. I saw a person who was just attacked for speaking out of process. Decolonize the mind. Let’s call people on their shit.
Mark: we need a symbol to bring something up. People use it as an excuse “that’s not what we’re talking about” etc. I also second that it’s not really the people who volunteer to talk about AO who needs to do it.
Laurie: we’re doing a lot of work for the Decolonize Community Gathering… there are two ways to deal with oppression, one is to have workshops reminding white folks what they’re doing wrong. The other way I’m more interested in is creating allies – we can be there to have the backs of the people of color, so that you’re not dealing with the problems, and instead we have the responsibility, as white allies, to take responsibility. We need a certain quantity, we need to self-identify as white allies. I think everybody needs to do this. we may not make everybody in the room perfect, but we can make it safe, because if you know that we have enough allies, then the people screwing up are the problem.
Pashel: ditto, but I wouldn’t underestimate the need for our own education, and for POC to consider who is truly a white ally. There needs to be a basic education about culture differences that needs to be reflected in Ways of Being. Having had fracturing going on in AO recently, we’re recognizing it’s difficult.
Laurie: that’s not where my interest lies but I recognize that.
Angela: also issues of accountability to people in targeted groups. As a personal request, as a person who has been most vocal in calling these issues all the time, I’d like to take a back seat. I don’t want to underestimate that we can bring up some of these things, but when we start talking about structural changes, you’ll see how the shit will float up. The political dimension of anarchism has that political history.
Laurie: beyond issues of oppression, we need to start looking at decolonization, how those two are linked with each other. And how long before Columbus came here, people were burned alive and persecuted in white society before we even came here – decolonizing our minds is another way of looking at anti-oppression. It may be easier to look at context of decolonization (we’re doing that at the Monday CG for decolonization).