Saturday, April 10, 2010

Annoying Activists

A super-late unofficial briefer from events transpired at Bodies of Dissent: Trans Access Conference – Peterborough, November 2008

(1) Just don’t dare say our families and social support networks are not open or educated enough
Lets get the first thing straight. If we don’t have access to resources, its because of institutionalized racism, systemic oppression, social services bureaucracy, lots of other things and because of you. Not because the Western education system didn’t educate us enough!

(2) Reports and statistics don’t speak the lived experiences of people of colour
Perhaps you have read a report that has given you numbers and statistics, perhaps you work for a social service institution where you have lots of fancy material, perhaps you do some sort of special academic/community research that you deem ground-breaking…either way, that just doesn’t mean you know what racialized communities go through and need.

(3) Stop enforcing labels and identities onto other people
Social justice, community development, transformative knowledge, and healing doesn’t happen through an obsession with naming and labels.
Its one thing to be able to identify oneself and have people and communities communicate with each other about how one identify, its quite another thing to get obsessed by what labels and words one should or should not use. Its one thing to look at words critically and what their meanings are, its another to get into an elite micro analysis of the history and semantics of such words.
Its one thing to reclaim medicalized, derogatory, discriminatory terms, its another thing to expect everybody to take on a name you think is universal.
We’ve had enough naming and labels put on us. Enough colonialism! No more colonial methods of naming and labels.

(4) Stop imposing English terms, interpretations and terminology if they don’t speak to us
What you may consider a universal umbrella term may not speak to us at all. What you may consider as your interpretation of a term may not be our interpretations of a term/word/identity/pronoun. Cultural-specific interpretations can be lost over translations. Don’t expect your interpretation to be universal.

(5) Adding the word “radical” doesn’t make one radical
no elaboration required, seriously…

(6) Intersectionality isn’t about how many identities or oppressions you can put in a list together
Stop listing out identities, its not radical, its not intersectional, that’s just not what intersectionality is about. That is not what anti-racism is about. If you think you can list out a marginalized group with race, it doesn’t mean you are anti-racist, it doesn’t mean you understand the relations or experiences

(7) Stop recreating your white innocence
This can take many forms. Stop blaming somebody else because you didn’t like how one of your workshop was scheduled simultaneously with a closed talk for people of colour and indigenous people. Stop pretending that you weren’t part of the racism that occurred.
And instead of going out and reporting how racist events transpired at the conference, reflect on some of the things that were exchanged and how you may have played a role in this situation.
Addressing racism isn’t about trying to be a white ally. Its not about talking to people of colour afterwards about how we felt. Its about taking your own responsibility first, reflecting on your own role first, and accepting you screwed up.

(8) Great bios aren’t about how many identities/groups you can attach to your name
Yes, we know how polished you are…all the great things you’ve done for different groups. Collect them all if you want, as many badges as you like, we are not interested in them…we don’t want your badge collection.

(9) Stop appropriating struggles
Something is clearly wrong when a conference with several committee members, organizers, and a multi-group initiative with efforts from people from colour, ends up becoming a single initiative consisting of only White people the following year.
You want to take the badges, take them, but don’t you dare appropriate our struggles and movements.

(10) Respect our spaces
Seriously, if there is a sign on the door that says this is a people of colour and indigenous people session only, you can’t just walk in coz you needed something in the room. Really we don’t need your presence in our safer places.

(+) Go through this list…and then go through it again…and then again…and again
…and if you think you finally understood what is being said, you clearly didn’t get it.

You=AWA (Annoying White Activist) also known as White activists/so-called anti-racist activists/so-called allies/academics/community developers/organizers/social workers
We=indigenous and people of colour who identify with these experiences

~ 10th April 2010

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