“Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building.” -Paulo Freire
Years of history repeating itself and deeply ingrained social conditioning have us taking things for granted, like the luxuries and privilege that we benefit from. Ordinarily, we’re not expected to look beyond the surface to identify and acknowledge our own role in perpetuating cycles of oppression. For most of us this is a difficult reality to face.
Truths: We are often blind to our own privilege and how it plays itself out in our lives. We are all products of a culture of sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, etc. When we’re confronted with this view, we get defensive and claim that we’ve “done this before” and have already achieved an inclusive and enlightened mind.
Due to these defensive mechanisms, radical inclusion (too easily referred to as “diversity”) is an afterthought in our social change work, by which minorities and oppressed people are brought on in the last stages of planning and are thereby tokenized. We often speak for (not with) these most marginalized and vulnerable communities: indigenous peoples, those living on the front lines, people of color, queer and transgender individuals, and women – to name a few. Overcoming these automatic modes of behavior takes time and a profound commitment to work that can be challenging and at times crack us open emotionally.
Yet, it is our responsibility as agents of change and justice-seekers to take this head on, to stand in those vulnerable spaces, if our objective is to guide others to a shift in paradigm. Only once we have acknowledged and overcome our own -isms, will we really be able to build authentic and radically inclusive communities. It’s critical to recognize that we often act in the margins AND in the mainstream: in the margins of society’s beliefs while in the mainstream of our own activist communities. Being actively conscious of our role as members of a mainstream will powerfully facilitate our ability to engage with this work.
So we invite you to join us on Saturday, December 8th at Centro Civico Mexicano (155 S. 600 W.) from 10 am – 5 pm for the second session of our Climate Justice Bold School on Radical Inclusion and Anti-Oppression. For this one, we are partnering with the Inclusion Center, a local organization that specializes in anti-oppression work within our community. And our commitment is to be in this conversation, for as long as it takes, challenging and supporting one another for the long haul; as this will not be a one-day, isolated event … but a journey.