Anti-Oppression Meeting Minutes - March 24, 2012

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AOWG 3/24/12

Firuzeh, Jacob, Salma, Tom, Angela, Clyde, Michelle, Allison, Andrea Michelle – facilitated Processing Facilitator Role- Salma

Ways of Being Review

Share Expectations Bouquet of Facilitators • Everyone who wants to should have a chance • Aim to be as diverse – in terms of race, class, sexuality, people who are often facilitators in other spaces, people who step up who are not always facilitators – coach them, style, whole spectrum • Two facilitators – not always having a person of color, great goal and could put huge demand on people of color if there aren’t that many of them, some dimensions of diversity may be less visible, • Styles and influence diversity of structuring of meetings Progressive Stack • White people tend to make assumptions about race based on shades of color – not always obvious • Whole community • For marginalized people as a whole • But priority in stack is determined by context of discussion, e.g. in a discussion that directly bears on a particular marginalized group of people, representatives from that group should have priority • How do we know if there is a marginalized identity – especially if this is less visible? • In the context of a discussion bearing on a particular marginalized group, the facilitator may need to ask for those who experience themselves as carrying that identity to self-identify • Cultural dimensions of religion – spirituality is a marginalized identity Bin (different perspectives offered by those in attendance for this meeting) • Talk about religion, why these identities • Christianity has hegemonic power • More religious ways of knowing are looked down upon • Hostility towards religion – seeing it as foolish • In more radical groups, religion looked down upon, as conservatives • Don’t think about being Christian as an oppressed identity - cultural element of a religious tradition, not the practice • People who are Jewish not comfortable with saying so • Everyone claiming some aspect of their identity as being oppressed, then • Don’t see Jewish people as an oppressed group in this country, nor a Protestant Institutional vs. situational oppression • Irish were oppressed systematically, then became white. So whiteness trumped Irish. • Jewish – not oppressed in same ways as POC, • In the left, most people in the left are pro-Palestinian, and many Jews are on the left and sensitive to Palestinian issue. • If a person identifies with a system of oppression – Zionism and feels uncomfortable in progressive situations, is this something we should be concerned with?. because of Zionsist activists in this country, I’ve had to leave my Palestinian identity at the door. Left in this country is not necessarily pro-Palestine, it is dominated by a Zionist narrative OB has not touched even the surface of the issue of Palestine and how politics regarding Israel affects this country…..People do get silenced by strong Zionist activist when the topic of Israel is confronted in left circles. Some even think that the Jewish left (pro-peace) has played a role in maintaining that oppression, intentionally or not, but by dominating the discussion they set the terms for our activism sometimes and limit it to liberal Zionist parameters When I say I am Palestinian, there are people who immediately respond that they are Jewish and believe that that fact should somehow affect how I feel as a Palestinian about my people’s oppression • Saying one is Jewish can be viewed as a privilege that gives folks a lot of power in conversations about Zionism. • Your choice of religion is a personal choice and people don’t necessarily owe you anything but respect for your choice. We should treat any discomfort people have about being Protestant for example by adhering to our ways of being and making sure that person is not shamed or blamed for their personal religious choice. Point of clarification – institutional vs. situational. When a white person talks about feeling oppressed by affirmative action/reverse racism – it becomes a distortion of what is actually institutional oppression. • There is institutional and cultural level oppression against Jews in this country….for those who identify as white, it trumps it all. Wouldn’t want to categorically disappear Jews as a target group. • Intersectionality – the more identities you carry bears on how much privilege you hold in this society (Facilitator Michelle re-shared a diagram of a wheel of power and privilege in the United States context – inner wheel represents more privileged identities and outer wheel represents more targeted identities) • How do we do this with respect to progressive stack? Avoid developing a hierarchy of oppression….It could depend on subject – if talking about cognitive disabilities, then I would be on progressive stack. If not, then as a white woman on other subjects, then I wouldn’t • Historical oppression that Jewish have faced, has been wielded like a weapon …important to mention how situation has changed • Question of facilitator be sensitive to conversation – POC have links to a community, can speak to the experience of a community. There is specific nature to this experience • We had a meeting where there was someone who tracked group participation by race and gender. When he reported out at the end of the meeting what he had observed, he had gotten a lot of it wrong – he made a lot of assumptions that were wrong about people’s identities. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, but he also didn’t ask. I wonder what facilitators can do to do progressive stack – maybe people can self identify at the beginning of meeting? • Self identification in terms of stack – hard to teach people to do that. • First time in this group speak to your Palestinian identity, important for group to let you know that …came to this group came with cohort of friends who are no longer in the group. Over time and discussion, feeling more comfortable about my positions. • Not often truly prompted to think about issues of oppression beyond those I think about typically – thank you for speaking to your ouch. Prompting new thinking for me, behaviors of people and intersectionality. We don’t deal with internalized oppression in this group and this is an important topic to focus on • Don’t believe that there is institutional oppression against Jewish people. There a lot of checks and balances in our institutions today that safeguard against anti-semitism . Jewish Americans are a strong minority as well, hardly oppressed, and they wield a lot of power in many institutions. The accusation of anti-semitism is often even abused to silence people with valid criticism of Israel But what is their internalized view of themselves? Why do Jewish people think they are still oppressed institutionally, that could be important to explore. • Have seen this issue so divisive and violent against Palestinians. Make a difference between Zionism and Jewish history. Zionism started by mostly non-practicing Jews. Heavily influenced by European colonialist movement. Late 1800’s – not propelled by religion, but by desire to create a homeland for Jewish Europeans. Which is fine, any people can have such a desire….But Zionism is a colonial settler movement. They would not dream of demanding a homeland say in Germany, they considered places in Africa and then Palestine, where non-white people have been traditionally colonized. At first, Zionists had a hard time getting Jewish people to immigrate to Palestine. Then with the holocaust more went there when they would have preferred to stay in Europe or go to the US – though not wanted there. Try hard to distinguish between Zionism and the Jewish religion • PTSD – some attempts at colonizing before the holocaust, in reaction to traumatizing event, Continually experiencing this trauma. This forced state – bringing a lot of traumatized people together, only there from a place of trauma, only connection. Can’t talk to post-traumatic people because they are so stuck in their fear. It’s so weird • Religious community of Europe didn’t support Zionism. Human beings taking an action. Any rabbi today who doesn’t support Israel wouldn’t have a congregation. Would not allow for rabbis to be called – never met one who wasn’t at least a mild Zionist. In inter-faith situations, these rabbis couldn’t even be in the same space as Muslims. Either me or them. Jewish religious community has been institutionalized into Zionism. This creates Jewish community is 90% convinced of this narrative. • Zionism tries to link Zionism with religion… Other complicating factor, is power. When picking leaders – of UU churches,– Zionists are members of influential boards in this country, many relay experiencing oppression and silencing by such members, for example members of the Board of MFA have tried to repeatedly shut down the Palestine Film Festival. So Palestinian narrative is often not heard and is actively being censored. • Christian right became apparent during Bush administration, talks about making armageddon happen. One reason is…..Christianity supporting …why has this alliance happened? This will be a good topic for a future meeting – the alliance of the Christian Right and Zionism. March on Friday, 30. Palestinian – national land day. Open Jerusalem – to Christians and Palestinians. 6:00 Copley Square. Michelle will send this out. The Decolonize to Liberate Working Group endorsed this march last night; Clyde will seek the POCWG endorsement. A joint announcement will be sent out if possible. AOWG Purpose and Where it Is • Who are we? Do we know who we are? Do we contact people and find out if they want to come back? Much more diverse in the beginning? • People of color WG has also discussed that a lot of POC have given up on OB. They’ll keep up with the POC Caucus, don’t see the governance structure as viable. Decolonize in Oakland has separated out. Seeking to hold GA’s in Roxbury and will talk about things through a democracy sensitive to POC cultural styles. • It’s a spiritual thing – understanding energy to do something is spiritual, can’t do things out of duty. Need to feel energy for it. • Topic for another meeting - why has the alliance between happened? • People who want to deconstruct systems of oppression – a lot of spontaneous that re-does the same dynamics will get old. • POC – are numerous, 20 or so. Getting sustenance from being with each other. Take turns • Why have so many people of color left? o We should ask people individually o Don’t know who was here that left o We should be clear about whether they give consent to sharing feedback o Quick generalization – they left OB, not this group o Want to know where they are with this work in general o Have different perspectives about stuff – when talking about OB and people’s negative associations with it. Mine might be different than others’. Where to talk about this that’s safe? What are the group dynamics that allow for change? Seeing that in WG’s. Haven taken on intervention scenarios. There is confidence about saying what they don’t know. People are asking a lot of questions, more open. i don’t get to decide to get off the bus of social justice/movement building. My head inoculated from headaches. For viable mass movement to emerge, good time to be looking at what needs to happen and do we think we need to contribute in some way. Don’t see as GA broken, it’s just immature, under-resourced energetically to create its own change. Facilitator WG as being targeted for GA’s. People play Monday morning quarter backing on aspect of movement. AOWG if not attached to OB, I would pull out of AOWG and do my work I do everyday. Come because of its existence in terms of OB. Some of the dismissal of OB makes me sad. • Shouldn’t be preaching to POC about how they should feel – 20ish attend meetings, in contact with 40 people. They had an experience of being drawn up and had less than nurturing in OB….average age of POC is 60. Younger people who have only this experience of working with white people who are most burnt out. Those of us who’ve worked with white people know it’s going to be a long process, maybe several generations? OB Oakland are average age 35. Facilitation • Trying to try 2 hr meetings. Longer meeting can perpetuating burn out. • Agenda – ask the group about potential ideas and trust them to do o Film: Race the Power of an Illusion – analysis about racialized wealth. o Themes from this meeting • Integration of this group to OB • GA • Progressive stack (Angela will find what exists) • Why alliance between far right and Zionism? • Facilitation – Michelle and Salma • Ways of Being – what we did well o Appreciate everyone who’s shown up • Need to be around people who are learning • Figure out anti-oppression working group o Appreciation for what was said – deep gratitude for support of Decolonize and AOWG for March 30 March (Clyde will try to get support from POC for March) o 30 second rule o Courage to step out there – opportunity o Facilitation – recognizing where my eyes o Ouches • For everyone who shared – the best part of our conversations, • Apology – immediately offered and accepted allowed us to deal with something right away. • Jacob o Notetaking o Email is not the place

March 31st 4:30-6:30 ASC March on Friday, 30. Palestinian – national land day. Open Jerusalem – to Christians and Palestinians. 6:00 Copley Square. Michelle will send this out.