Saturday, November 12, 2011
5 Tips for White Allies* in the Occupy Movement
Pay attention to who is talking in working groups: Speak less. Take on a role of supporting the development of people of color (POC) leadership in your group. Use progressive stack: a tool that encourages those who are traditionally marginalized to speak more often. Regularly discuss how to make the group more accessible for POC and how to get the group more involved in struggles that affect POC. Research and propose anti-oppression training for the group.
Listen from love: If a person of color tells you that they’ve experienced racism, listen to them. A negative experience that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you could be a very big deal for someone who feels marginalized at Occupy. It may be the last straw before they decide not to come back. Focus on listening and supporting the person; ask if there is any way you can help.
Share information and resources: Don’t assume that everyone knows the terms, acronyms and history of the Occupy Movement. Likewise, do not assume that anyone doesn't know. If you start a conversation with anyone who is new, make an effort to answer questions, spell out acronyms and lead them to information sources. People, especially those who feel marginalized, will be relieved that someone cares about plugging them in.
Make it clear when there is a risk of arrest: If there is a risk of arrest, let people know. The legal system is much harder on POC; mistakes can even mean deportation for undocumented immigrants. When promoting an event, be open about if arrest is a potential. If you hear people pressuring anyone to risk arrest, let everyone know that there are many valuable roles people choose to play. Arrest does not have to be one of them.
Support POC created events: Attend these events! At events organized by POC, focus on listening. Don’t jump in the spotlight. Be alert for white people who might be rude or aggressive at the event. If possible, ask them to stop their behavior and give them more information about the purpose of the event. Have this conversation away from the event, so they don’t disrupt it any further.
*Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who work to end ableism, and so on. by W Mae Singerman