-Rachel Siegel, PJC Executive Director
Remind yourself: “It is not my job to be a good white person and fix the world. It is my job to be part of the movement to get us the fuck out of this situation.” — Braden Training Facilitator
I had 21 typed pages of notes from weekend two. I have summarized it here in 8. The amount of information I am being given and the emotions I am processing are broad and deep. I have been alternating between grateful, pumped up, overwhelmed, and numbed out. There is a lot to reflect on and I’ve done my best to distill my experience. The parts in italics are my reflections on the content.
In weekend two, we learned about and discussed:
- Women of Color Feminism
- Black Liberation Organizing
[continue reading here]
Feedback about weekend I
The facilitators started by reflecting on some dynamics that emerged during weekend one which are worth sharing here. They recognized push back from some participants about the facilitation. In this pushback, they saw a lot of white supremacy culture, and also class privilege: critique culture, deficit-based thinking, and individual focus. They reminded us to honor why we’re here. Take the best and leave the rest. Work to be more collective- and movement-minded which is hard because capitalism is deep in us. This work requires personal transformation. We need to create beautiful and powerful things that are imperfect. Some people enter this training with consumer purpose. Personal transformation and societal transformation are intertwined (personal is political).
I did have critique of the program. I felt squirmy when they pointed out the nature of critique culture and the connections to white supremacy and classist culture. But they said it all with love and with the assumption that we would use that feedback for the greater good. That we would get over ourselves. I’m trying to remember to center the movement, not my experience.
Patriarchy is a system of domination that is intertwined with racism. Feminism, if colorblind, is white-centered and therefore racist. We need to hold a commitment to destroying white supremacy along with patriarchy. How we fight the patriarchy – whether colorblind or with leadership of WOC (women of color) – will impact how successful the fight will be. Everyone who is not a cis man are targeted by patriarchy but if we are white we are insulated from it.
Strategies Used to Develop and Perpetuate Patriarchy
- Sexual and intimate violence
- Construction and Enforcement of the gender binary
- Marginalizing, Devaluing, and Outsourcing Reproductive Labor
- Control of Reproduction and Family Systems
- Control over and Privatization of Land
- Concentration of political and economic power with cis white Christian men
- Militarism and State Violence
I have a distinct memory of my grandfather telling me that now that I was “starting to bloom” I needed to be careful of a group of men outside his apartment. They were laborers and I think they were all black. I thought it odd but didn’t know enough to articulate the problem. I was probably 10. I’m sure it fed some of my unconscious racism. His insinuation that they were sexually dangerous used racism to uphold patriarchy.
We need to talk about white women so we can come to terms with how the construction of white womanhood in the US is weaponized for racism. Some examples:
- Anti-interracial marriage laws upheld by white women (eg, town clerks, social workers)
- ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights) was an anti-school integration movement in Boston in early 70s run entirely by white women in the name of “protecting” their children.
- The election of Trump – 53% of white women voted for him.
As white women we are targeted by patriarchy and also uphold white supremacy. We could be fighting together with WOC. Patriarchy pulls us from that alliance.
BIPOC and WOC Feminism
Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) feminism generally has a US context and centers oppression of black and indigenous people in this country. Women of Color (WOC) feminism – is generally more global. The Catalyst collective uses both terms because neither is complete
The tenets of BIPOC/WOC Feminism::
- The personal is political – there is no objective neutrality b/c we’ve all internalized messaged. The right to self-determination. Doing what we want with our bodies.
- Intersectionality – no one identity exists in a vacuum. The oppressors use this framework to turn us against each other. We need to use it also.
- Transformative Process is needed for Transformative Change – we must embody the world we want to see. The ends don’t necessarily justify the means
- Internationalism – solidarity around the world against the chauvinism of the US. US imperialism lands on WOC worldwide
“If black women were free, it would mean everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” Combahee River Collective
BIPOC women’s leadership is not emphasized so much as POC generally. I think we do a good job at relationship-building between staff. We don’t do a good job articulating our goals around anti-imperialism and Internationalism. Since most of our educational programs are so short, and we’re usually working with beginners, it hard to fit much in. I have a lot of guilt about having the privilege to stop and take care of myself — eg, taking time off to go to the chiropractor or take a walk with a friend — and it serves no one when I allow that voice to control my choices. That is not a good example of being the change I want to see.
- Nudge our educational program facilitators to always check in with each other before programs about their needs, etc and after for feedback from each other.
I find talking about strategy really intimidating. One facilitator talked about her own internalized sexism and how she saw herself as a relationship builder, not a strategist and then realized that that gives other people (usually men) credit. She said, “It doesn’t affirm that I think.” Thinking is strategizing. It is normal when a framework is unfamiliar to see it as a threat and critique it. Sometimes we need coaching. I need coaching to be more strategic.
My leadership sometimes mimics ways of patriarchy rather than “fuck the way men have always done things.”
As a woman, I need to take space. As white person, I need to not. Ruminating on myself during or after an interracial meeting or event, wondering if I “did OK,” and in effect looking for affirmation that I’m alright holds me back from being in space fully as myself – showing up in my fullest self is in interest of the movement as a whole.
Black Liberation Organizing: NTanya Lee
National organizer with Left Roots. Feminist, socialist, organizer in black and latinx poor and working class communities. There is an alternative. Important to believe and name that. Puts black liberation at the forefront of socialist movement. Freedom and liberation dreams of black people are hope for us all. Media makes it seem like each situation is separate. Need to rebuild internationalism.
Any moment of black strength is followed by violent response from the state and the right. The right nationally had an organizing plan. This is not a spontaneous moment for them – they’ve been building for decades. White racism that’s happening is partially response to failure of neoliberalism (wages down for poor whites). We need to talk about alternatives to capitalism. Push the left edge. Talk with our families. Build organizations with liberation politics. We could have a qualitative win in the next 5-10 years that could be written in history books if we don’t fuck up. There’s no black liberation in capitalism. Believe in theory of change that says we need wide popular movements and strong organized left with clear vision and strategy. We need that now. 1000s of organizers could have clear alignment that we’re going in a common directions. Then the qualitative advancement is possible.
It is a protracted struggle. The only way to do this and stay sane is to know it is possible. Random hard work won’t get us there. Need work to be accountable to both our ancestors as well as our future generations. Need to be part of communities who will hold us accountable.
Take-aways from L’Tanya:
- How can I take more breaks and be more strategic?
- I love that she says we could have a qualitative win in next 5-10 years.
- I don’t see how we pull the left together. I don’t feel like we can even do it in Vt. I need to learn more about antisemitism and vet the VTJP articles before each enews to do all that I can to heal the fractures that we keep experiencing with some Jewish communities..
- I need to know it is possible to win. I’m not feeling it. I’m fried.
- Do not underestimate the right.
“If we’re not organizing white people around their pain, we can be sure someone else is,” Linda Burnham
We started the day with Dolly Parton! “9 to 5” is the people’s version of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. She is one step ahead and very savvy. She is vehemently anti slut shaming. She said, “Be who you are and do it on purpose.” She also said, “Dumb blond jokes don’t offend me because I know I’m not dumb. And I know I’m not blond.” I had no idea how much I loved her!
Poor white people struggle. Given choice to ally with whiteness and separate from natural poor allies of color, many go with whiteness because of the possibility of upward (white) mobility. Who benefits from racism? Rich white people. It is all of our responsibility to center poor and working class (p/wc) POC in our white antiracist organizing.
This cohort is about half poor and working class and half middle to upper class. Over half the spots were initially offered to poor/working class folks but then some couldn’t come (this is common). Catalyst is explicitly committed to centering p/wc in white antiracist work: They have a sliding scale, travel stipends, local travel costs, housing, lunch, child care on site or reimbursement for at home. This doesn’t solve capitalism or make it 100% inclusive but the more they do this the more it impacts who is in the room.
When our spaces are majority class privileged people, we’re not going to win. Solutions by those not impacted aren’t successful. Classism impacts who does this work. The professionalization of movement work and the need for formal education to get those jobs limits it. Who can work 70 hours a week? Not those with caretaking responsibilities who can’t outsource labor. We’re all on Team Tear Down White Supremacy. We need white people to tear down white supremacy. Same we need class privileged people to tear down capitalism. There is a role for us.
Journaling for owning/managerial class caucus:
What was my experience growing up related to class background. How has white supremacy impacted my family’s ability to make and maintain wealth?
I am not comfortable sharing much of these reflections and information until I talk to my family since it’s a story about them too. But I will say that even my hesitation to share it is in part a manifestation of white supremacy and classism.
Class-based Caucuses (Poor/working class, middle class, and managerial and owning class group. I went to managerial/owning class.)
Class privileged people tend to struggle with detachment — move it from head to heart.
Remember: My security rests on other people’s insecurity. Negative wealth of others is owed to us. Life expectancy of rich is in direct proportion to that of the poor.
We call it privilege — not power. But really it’s power. There’s responsibility in power that I didn’t earn. Shame, pride, detachment keeps us from being responsible.
Class privileged people are socialized into belief of individualism
Stock market obscures the reality that wealth is coming from somewhere — exploitation and poverty. It distances us from direct exploitation and erased millions of people whose labor is being traded.
Can we invest ethically? Probably not through stocks.vSocially responsible investing firms still fuel the same system. It’s a way to absolve guilt.
Investing in movement organizations to buy properties, endowments for orgs — radical edge of investing. Can financial investment exist without capitalism?
Individual choices to shop differently, invest differently, that’s just personal — need to address systemic change.
Valuable to be out as a wealthy person allows other wealthy people to talk to us.
Reminded us that this is not normal: Only 9% of the US gets inheritance
How do we reframe redistribution as a self interest? We want to make a world free of exploitation so how can we be part it?
It was upsetting to realize that even “socially responsible” investing is based on a system of oppression. I am grappling largely with how much of my inheritance I will redistribute versus keeping it to cover the cost of college for my kids. Having no college debt has allowed me much freedom from stress, from logistical limitations, and to have a quality of life that my friends don’t. One one hand I want that for my kids. On the other, I don’t want them to be complicit either. Wealth is stolen (in capitalism that is always true). I want to learn more about economic systems and make sure I agree with that fully. Are there other forms of capitalism that aren’t stolen?
- Born on Third Base author works with money transfer — look him up.
- Ellen from catalyst is rich and has kids — talk to her.
- Need to mention connectedness of race and class at the beginning of all racial justice programs. Important to hold class and race at the same time AND important to not conflate the two — tell Kina and facilitators
- Make transportation available (esp on Sundays)
- Signature of email with accessibility statement — ask Christine to show me hers
How does class privilege show up in movement work? Tokening poor people — using to make money, meetings in bougie neighborhoods:
- Movement not at accessible pacing
- Decisions made unilaterally by wealthy about buying stuff
Way to combat classism in our orgs:
- Childcare collectives
- Wage stipends
- Transportation reimbursement
Class privileged people are socialized into belief of individualism
There are roles for people from all class backgrounds
All of our organizations need to use organizing strategies that center poor/working class people and POC and bring in people across race and class and leverage power
Need space for healing and transformative work
Shame is normal. It thrives in isolation. (We are as sick as our secrets.)
One element of this training is that we each are committed to doing individual, grassroots fundraising, asking individuals to donate to a POC led group that we chose. Each of us set a goal and based on those goals, we will be moving hundreds of thousands of dollars to POC lad groups and having hundreds of conversations about those groups. Pretty bad ass.
Many of the participants are organizers who haven’t done fundraising. It was pointed out that fundraising and organizing have a lot in common. They both are ways to:
- increase someone’s investment in the world you’re trying to build
- get them excited about the specific work of an org and how it’s going to get us closer to that world
- build your relationship with the person you are asking
- give them the opportunity to plug in by taking a concrete action
Donna (Catalyst Member): activism in the 60s
Donna impressed upon us the presence of internationalism in that era. At age 19 she went to Cuba and Che Guevara told her, “Solidarity isn’t charity. Their struggle becomes yours.” We aren’t used to seeing ourselves as part of worldwide struggle. It used to be different. For example, the Haitian people declared three days of mourning when John Brown died. When Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were killed, Cubans had a day of mourning. (Donna knew them.) In the early 70s when Angela Davis on trial, there were worldwide movement to fight for her freedom. Then in 80s and 90s with So Africa.
People felt deeply connected to each others’ struggles. Not feeling that so much now. But some maintain it more than others. All of our antiracism work is connected to Palestine. Activists from Ferguson have visited Palestine. We can’t just have a common enemy — we need a common vision of the future. AIM (American Indian Movement) also had strong ties to Palestinian movement. The Palestinian flag was the first as you entered Standing Rock (followed by 200 other flags of Indigenous nations). Our ability to move closer to the world we want is so much stronger when we learn from and with each other. Living in an empire it is easy to have blinders. Chances are so much higher when we see global connections.
We shared case studies with each other from Puerto Rico, Yemen, Palestine, Venezuela, Haiti, and Honduras. There were many common themes such as the US going in to a country with a socialist structure, destabiliizing it with sanctions, then sending in military intervention, setting up a new regime, and claiming socialism failed. Most of these regions become tax havens for individuals and corporations. We also see a theme of disaster capitalism — where people go in and build up regions after a hurricane or other disaster in order to profit off it. The crises caused by imperialism always have biggest impact on women, children, and gender nonconforming. We criminalize and racialize the people struggling in these countries. We are often tricked into thinking it’s so complex that we can’t have an opinion. You don’t have to be a policy expert. It’s a values judgement.
Jewish Voice for Peace
One member of the cohort, Ysh, works with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). They are an international organization doing Palestinian solidarity work and working to transform American jewish community. Palestinian led groups don’t have access to as much resources as JVP (not surprising since it is white led). The occupation of Palestine is unjust . To help feel like we have a “place,” Ysh emphasizes how powerful diaspora is. Diaspora means home. That is anti imperialist. The US relationship with Israel is horrifying. We sells weapons to Israel to test on Palestinians and then buys them back. During Ferguson same tear gas used as in Palestine. Palestinian resistors gave info to Ferguson. Palestinian activists saw the image of one of the cannisters on social media and shared info on how to deal with that specific gas. International solidarity makes us stronger.
In the 60s wages were high, the economy was strong, social justice and peace movements were growing and international solidarity was high. In 1973, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) embargoed oil trade to US in response to our support of Israel. The oil crisis impacted whole economy. Cost of holding control of imperialism got too high because people were fighting back. Needed to find more profit. Neoliberalism was created for this — to break working class power internationally. A way to benefit from imperialism without actually being there.
I am re-reading these notes and not fully getting it. I’m going to need to find a historian to walk me through this. If any of you reading this know something about how neoliberalism is connected to the oil crisis, please let me know!
Structural adjustment programs — large loans given to countries in crisis (especially to former colonies) with the cost of austerity measure stipulations to help us make money off them.
In the 80s and 90s, hundreds of countries were structurally adjusted. It is very much the same as neoliberalism at home.
What are the components of neoliberalism? It is multifaceted.
2- shift taxes
3- cut services
4- privatization of services
5- increase in policing and military
6- belief in individualism and free market
How does this play out: Currently, one example is that 100,000 people have no water in Detroit — that’s one sixth of the population — because it’s been shut off because of late bills.
What does resistance look like? One example is Water Warriors who bring water to people. Our resistance needs to be multistrategy too
I’ve only organized under neoliberalism — it’s the type of capitalism we’ve live in since 80s. It was a strategy used to avoid the collapse of capitalism. It might not last long. (Racial capitalism has always fucked people over — neoliberalism is just another version.)
Neoliberalism is thought to be a way to develop economies — but there’s no proof that it works
As we were getting ready to leave, it was announced that a hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli jails, was won today! After eight days of not eating, they were granted the following
- Phone access (after 20 years of demanding it)
- Return of prisoners from raids
- Transfer women to separate facility
What do I want to take and remember?
- I want to remember the concepts of neoliberalism and imperialism
- I want to center poor and working class people and WOC
- I want to slow down and do better with strategy.
Questions for myself:
- How can I slow down and be more strategic?
- What does a worlds without capitalism look like?
More things to do:
- Read more science fiction!
- Read: Winners take All — “An insider’s ground-breaking investigation of how the global elite’s efforts to “change the world” preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve”
- Print Israel/Palestine maps showing the different borders over time. If I am more familiar with the geography, it will help me in conversations.
- Consider having book discussions at staff meetings
- Assess relationships to other groups [Mark Hughes, Will Lambek, Jabari, Brenda, Kate]:
- What do you want our relationship to look like (dream)
- What’s happening now?
- How do we get there?