Anti-Oppression Home

Anti-Oppression Training at #Occupy Boston

Sunday, October 16, 2011, 7 PM


Background – facilitator Stacia

In a former General Assembly, it was consensed upon to do an anti-oppression training at a GA. Intro to the plan for the evening. We will be using race as a lens to view how oppression works. In future discussion and in breakout groups tonight, we can also think about how other forms of oppression happen in our larger society and in Occupy Boston.

Groundrules – facilitator Mariama

Respect each other, listen to each other.
Christy is taking notes, and we'll share them back with you. We'll make the notes public as well.
Honor the step up, step back rule
Honor the one mic rule
Don't engage in side conversations, as hard as that might be

Mariama introduced Steve from United for a Fair Economy
A lot of us here are concerned about the economy, and race was an issue that came up for a lot of folks, prompting this training tonight. Steve will address the intersections of economics and race.

Race and Economics – facilitator Steve

First we'll screen five minutes of a movie clip from the film Matewan about a coal miner's strike in the 1930's. To give you a little background, it's a strike of mainly Appalachian workers where the coal company owners try to break the strike by importing other workers from other parts of the country, Blacks from south of this town and Italian immigrants. This scene is a clandestine meeting of coalminers that one of the African-American workers comes into. And there's an outside organizer who's played by Chris Cooper.

What you have tried to do here at OB is replicate what they tried to do in the movie clip, to recognize that there is a 1% and a 99%. But the 99% isn't homogenous. There are a lot of differences in the 99%.

We'll do an activity to illustrate this. Asked for 20 diverse volunteers from the audience. Volunteers line up on a starting line. The objective is to get to the other side, the wealth.

Steve made statements that represent policies, rules, laws, events and trends in US history. If it applies to you, take a step forward or step back:

If your ancestors lost land by the conquest of the US government, take a step back.
If your ancestors got land in France from the US government, step forward.
If your ancestors took advantage of the Homestead Act, take a step forward.
Take a step forward if your ancestors gained assets through the slave trade (a tough thing to admit)
Take a step back if your ancestors were brought here in chains to be slaves.
Take a step back if your ancestors were restricted to living in ethnic communities because of their race
Take a step forward if your ancestors could live anywhere they wanted to.
Take a step forward if you had the choice to go to public school of your choice.
Take a step back if your ancestors were denied that choice.
Take a step back if ancestors that after becoming citizens and becoming eligible for public education, they had to sue to get an equal education.
Forward if you or ancestors went to college on a legacy admission.
Back if you or ancestors lost property due to internment in a camp during WWII.
Forward if you or ancestors worked in jobs that provided health and retirement benefits.
Back if denied retirement benefits. [Social security deal made by FDR in 1930s was passed with agreement of southern democrats that domestic workers and agricultural workers would be excluded, most of them Black.]
Back if you or your ancestors arrived as immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Africa or the Caribbean.
Forward if ancestors arrived as a refugee or an immigrant from a country targeted as a communist enemy, like Cuba or Soviet Union.
Back if you or ancestors banned from union membership.
Forward if member of a union
Back if denied a mortgage because your neighborhood was too risky to make loans (redlined)
Back if offered a subprime mortgage and ended up in foreclosure
Forward if able to get a loan and buy a house in neighborhood of your choice

We'll stop here on our march towards wealth. Observe this group. [The front of group, closest to wealth line, is all white folks. The back of the group is almost all people of color.] For the next couple of minutes, turn to person next to you and discuss:
Based on what you see here, what meaning do you draw from this that you can apply to OB orOccupy around the world, the movement you are building?

What do you see here that applies to your own behavior in the Occupy movement?
Turn to the person next to you and discuss these two questions. What's the meaning of it for you as part of Occupy Boston? And for you as an individual? Where do you fit in this line?

Couple of responses from participants:
– What I observed was was that the majority of the people in front were white, but they're so far away from the 1%, so it's a race war for wealth but no one's getting anywhere anyways.
– Informative discussion on race and inequality, but not sure it's accurate to have all the women in front. Keep that in mind in the movement too.
– Many questions were asked here tonight. Where you belong and where do you want to be? I find myself, after a lot of money being spent on education, in the same place. And I don't think it has nothing to do with my race, it has nothing to do with my gender, it has to be with being here and not up there [points at tall building].
– I see myself although I may be a white person, I have a glass ceiling because I'm a third generation immigrant on both sides. I look up and see an education I can't get, and even if I did, the jobs aren't there for me, and there's no future for my children.
– While most people here are not economically where they want to be, there is a huge racial divide. Look at this group and see how divided it is by race. That's important, especially because we're running a movement where the majority of people making decisions right now are white.
– I volunteered to do this activity assuming that I'd be closer to the front than I ended up, because of the privileges I do have. Given the lens of what questions were asked, I ended up second to the back. It took me by surprise and reminded me how much it continues to be important for me to acknowledge internalized oppression for times in my life I've been oppressed. I'll say more about that another time.

STEVE: the top 1%, which is mainly white and mainly male, have rigged the rules of the economy and society to benefit themselves and let us have the crumbs. But we also have to recognize that the top 1/10 of the 1% has as much wealth as the bottom 40%. That needs to change.

POPCORN – ONE SENTENCE OF HOW YOU CURRENTLY FEEL
– cold but happy
– this is the moment I've been waiting for
– hopeful not hopeless anymore
– I'm learning
– grateful for the opportunity to recognize everyone's humanity while also acknowledginig the – differences within us
– I really want us to get this
– I want to talk about how we can fight racism. Tonight.
– Guilty and privileged

Mariama noted that this is the largest percentage of women she's seen at a GA.

GROUP CHECK IN – facilitator Vonds

Now we'd like to talk about specific steps we can take to create change and to bring other sympathetic supportive people into this movement.
POPCORN STYLE RESPONSES FROM AUDIENCE
– I would like to talk about the unable, we're not disabled, we're just not able and we need help
– I want this to be a continuous conversation that never ends and we will continue to change
– I feel [points up at camera] under surveillance. I also feel liberated by all of you.
– We must remember that power concedes nothing by choice.
– I just brought hot rice and beans. Go over there.
– Three things: continuous commitment to genuine conversation. Ability to question without fear. Commitment to experiment with new ways. Giving each time to see how well it works.
– I'd like to talk about how people with kids and young children can also participate in democracy. I left my kids tonight, I can't get a babysitter very often, and this is fantastic.
– As a white hetero male, this is really hard for me. And I feel very blessed to be supported to tear my privilege down with ya'll.
– My hope for #OB is that we can learn that racism, sexism, homophobia, etc has been a tool in the legacy of the history of keeping us, that that 1%, is there because of the degradation and exploitation of all of us.
– I think that it is critical that as we continue this conversation with each other and ourselves that we think of this history, this difficult history, as a global history, a shared history, in which we are all implicated.

GROUP STATS – facilitator Jason

We want to try to count off how many people are here. We got to about 35. Good job! We're estimating that it's about 250 people in this space. And we want to see who we are, who is in this space. If able, please sit, kneel or crouch down. I will make some statements in the first person, and if that statement is true for you, please stand up.

We want to see, are we the 99%? I have some statistics about who makes up Boston. We're going to do this piece by piece. This is not a calling out, this is about recognizing where we are. This isn't about guilt, this isn't about blame, it's about taking responsibility for who we are, knowing we need to see ourselves to make change. Let go of the guilt so we can take action. Thank you.

I am under 18.
In Boston that's about 19.8% of Boston. We're at 1%.
I am over 65.
In Boston that's about 10.4%. We're at 1%.
I am a woman.
In Boston that's about 51.9%. For us it's 54% tonight.
I am Black.
In Boston that's about 25.3%. For us it's 7%.
I am Native America.
In Boston that's about .4%. We're at 3%.
I am Asian American, Asian Pacific Islander.
In Boston that's about 7.6%. We're at almost 3%.
I am Latino/Latina.
In Boston that's about 14.4%. For us it's 6%.
I am White.
In Boston that's about 54.5% We're guessing we're at about 80-90%.
I am an immigrant.
In Boston that's about 25.8%. For us it's around 7%.
My first language is something other than English.
In Boston that's about 33.4%. For us it's 11%.
I have a Bachelor's degree or higher.
For Boston that's 35.6%. Are we more than that? YES!
I or my family own the home that I live in.
For Boston that's about 35.6%. We're probably close to that.
My household income is $39,600 or more in my household.
For Boston that's the median of where we are in Boston. 50% of households make less, 50%make more.
My household has an income of $18
That's 19.5% of Boston. We're at approximately 10%.
I fabulously identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer.
That's about 12.3% in Boston by some estimates, but that's got to be low. We are at 20%. Allmovements have high percentages of queer folks, even when they've been oppressed in thosevery movements.
I identify as a person with disabilities.
Boston 11.3% of people who self-identify on one survey they found. WE're at 4%.

There are other identities in this space, in this movement, but knowing some of who we are is how we can move forward with transforming this space.

DEFINING OPPRESSION – facilitator Mariama

Defining oppression. Prejudice plus power combined that creates systems that privilege some at the expense of others.

There are four forms of oppression that we want to look at. We use the 4 I's of oppression:
Ideological (cultural) oppression – the one that people talk about the least. Widely held beliefs that are reinforced that one race or groups is superior to another group and deserves more rights and privileges in a society. Those folks might not think they're getting anything special.

We're starting with the lens of race. It gets much deeper than that. But for tonight we're starting here.

Interpersonal oppression – discrimination. It's held by individuals. It's not connected to system (even though it may come with power). It's individuals acting against members of a certain group.

Internalized oppression – this is huge. We all live in America. We all come from different parts of the world where these things have existed. We live in this stew. We all take on things we have heard all our lives. Example of skin lightening cream.

Institutional oppression – the policies of dominant group, intended or not, to have differential effect of minority groups. Intentional or not, if the effect is unequal but you don't know or are not measuring that effect – it doesn't matter what your intentions are. Policies that are considered neutral. Structural and institutional are connected.

Iceberg image. There's always a piece of the iceberg above the water line – that's the individual. But it doesn't stand by itself, it's held up by the institutional and cultural oppression.

What is making our icebergs disappear is not that something is happening here at the top of our iceberg, it's that the temperature of our ocean is changing and they are melting from the bottom up. We've got to do the same thing in our group, in our culture. Change the temperature of our ocean to melt the ideological and institutional oppressions, to melt the whole thing.

SHOUT OUT about other oppressions beyond racism that work the same way
- transphobia, oppression against trans people
- interreligious oppression
- corporations as people, locational privilege
- sexism
- anti-semitism
- homophobia
- ageism
- biphobia
- ableism
- zionism
- discrimination against children with special needs
- xenophobia
- classism
- islamophobia
- secular discrimination against those who are religious
- socioeconomic within same race 2 vs 1 toilet irish
- militarism
- language oppression in the melting pot
- discrimination against immigrants
- us hegemony
- homelessness
- animal oppression
- americanism
- network television
- media monopoly
- manifest destiny
- eurocentric valuation of knowledge
- incarceration and discrimination against formerly incarcerated people
- compulsory institutionalized schooling
- workplace hierarchy

We've all experienced some of them and we've all been part of reinforcing them.

Now we want to give ourselves the chance to talk through some of this in small groups. We are doing this not just because it's effective, but we're hoping this can be incorporated into the GA experience as well, for better relationship building and giving not-as-talkative people chance to share.

Not just our heads but our hearts. Build relationships in a deep way.

SMALL GROUPS – 30 minute breakout


We will talk about how to extend this into Occupy Boston. We don't have to end this dialogue, we can talk about how to move it forward.

On cards, one side write a hope or idea you have for how to move forward. On other side, write your name and email or number so we can be in touch about staying in touch.

Invite deep listeners but not big talkers to step up and share what you are thinking. POPCORN STYLE SHARING FROM LARGE GROUP:
- I'm curious to know if we can have regular check-ins to have systems of accountability to address cases of oppression and marginalization within Occupy Boston.
- In regards to racism, if you see something, say something.
- I wish Occupy Boston would talk a little less about college graduate debt and a little more about the kids who aren't graduating high school.
- I want equal opportunities for everyone.
- My hope is that Occupy Boston will continue to work with organizers of color and youth of color and listen to their voices about the organizing that's already been going on in this city and I would like to see teach-ins about specific issues of how the corporate system disproportionately affects communities of color, such as the PIC, immigration, redlining and other issues like that.
- My hope is that there will be higher percentages of all of those statistics of marginalized communities that are not being adequately represented at Occupy Boston right now.
- I hope that out there today we find better ways to break the apathy between people of color so that they can feel that it's worth to fight against the system, that we have a fighting chance and that we're gonna win.
- I actually think forms of oppression are structural and the main way that we're going to attack them and our own ideas are through action and there are things going on in Boston that Occupy Boston can get involved in. This Monday, tomorrow, City Life Vida Urbana is holding an anti-auction protest in Dorchester. I think it's at 10. People should find out about it. Second thing, Tarek Mehanna is a Muslim man who's been in solitary confinement for almost 2 years. His trial's October 24. Occupy Boston should march to the trial. Occupy the Courthouse!
- I think that racism is structural but we enact it within ourselves so that in addition to learning about the ways it has affected structures, we need to understand how we enact it in our daily lives, even when we do not want to.
- I think it's important in the issue of race that we reach out to these communities that we so questioned tonight. Muslim communities, Black communities, Latino communities. Invite them to be part of this. Have them here to speak for themselves.

Closing.

MARIAMA: That's a good segue to how we're finishing now. I've been a facilitator, for a moment I'll be myself.

When I first saw OWS, wasn't sure how it was going to feel. When it came to Boston, started off with a bump as we tried to negotiate Occupy with a local action that was already happening. So I made a commitment to come and see. In this movement, I've had a lot of beautiful moments but also a lot of painful moments. This is giving me hope. That this many people wanted to be here tonight. We're not done, we've got a lot deeper to go. But it means something that people are committed. We are a movement within this movement. We can go deeper. If we come together in an authentic way, we are going to be stronger, and we can say to the 1%, this is really what democracy looks like.

This doesn't only have to happen in official forums – it's the 2 AM conversations, talking over dinner.

We will get back to folks by Thursday to bring a report back of how we will move forward. We'll make sure the notes from this are online, so you have access to them. We want to get them on the official occupy site. We'll get the notes up by Wednesday night.

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