Privilege in Activism - Ego is Not a Clan

"The denial of Native womanhood is the reduction of whole people to a sub-human level.  Animals beget animals.  The dictates of patriarchy demand thatbeneath the Native male comes the Native female.  The dictates of racism are that Native man are beneath white women and Nativefemales are not fit to be referred to as women." ~ Lee Maracle, from I Am Woman (1996: p. 17-18)

I've pretty much left much of my former activism behind but I am not saying I am leaving activism behind completely.  I am redefining activism by broadening the definition from sign carrying and so called "front lines," activism.  What I was given and dealt with in the past few years included - lateral violence, bullying, male privilege, counter organizing, favoritism, huge egos, sexism, ageism (from older activists) and more.  It is important to point these things out because we can't create a better world by oppressing others in work that is supposed to be "liberating."  My vision of a matriarchal and non-hierarchical model has been rarely honored.  I am finding that it is honored in small and appreciative spaces from elders, youth or close friends.  I constantly see people uplift others who have been openly abusive to others and in front of people in their community.  We need to stop doing this.  We need to stop uplifting people who bully, ridicule and hurt others.  While toting your pride, toting about how much you do "out there" while oppression reigns on others inside the community.  These activist's are full of pride, full of ego.  And folks, ego is not a clan!

I've been an activist in many ways, shapes and forms since I was 12 years old.  Whether I fought against gentrification in my hometown, worked on various environmental issues, mentored a youth and more.  I don't need to boast about it nor post about it constantly like others on facebook.  Look at me, look at what I am doing.  Activism is not just carting a sign and posting about it on facebook, while your life is completely different behind the screen.  Activism is so much more.  There are many activists who don't even identify as activists.  Then tend and care for the land.  They tend and care for an elder.  They support a youth, in being a positive role model.  They help someone who is in recovery from an addiction heal.  They offer prayers to the land daily.  They make a meal for a friend.  They donate their time quietly to a soup kitchen.  They try to change the dynamics of the family system they were raised in.

Activism is so much more that the limited definitions it has been given.  Survival is resistance.  When someone who is labeled "at-risk" survives and thrives this is a form of activism and should be applauded but rarely is.  Personal healing is also resistance.  Healing intergenerational trauma is resistance.  Additionally, personal healing requires that one looks inside themselves instead of focusing on the problems "out there."  This is the "activism" that gets little to no recognition because of the limited and narrow definition of activism.  As the old saying goes the personal is political.  But I'm saying that one must make a commitment to inner work and outer work in a circle but ah-ha... this is a life long process.  

"Our work towards liberation challenges us to think and rethink our approaches to change.  Revolution requires that we continuously ask ourselves what it would take to stay here, to work toward the liberation of the person across the room, across town, across the globe.  Such revolution does start at home, where our beliefs are formed by the daily practices of our lives.  At times, this work feels overwhelming: how can we transform a violent world, call mighty governments to account, and repair generations of injustice when we are still unable to stop activists committed to liberation movements from abusing their partners, sexually harassing their comrades, or otherwise harming people in our communities?  Accountability, understood as a human skill, offers each of us a path forward when we miss the mark." - The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities (2011: p. 278)

Then there is hierarchy in activism.  This hierarchy can include males who never check their male privilege or boasting that you have a degree from an Ivy League school.  In this hierarchy you may see someone hog the microphone and never allow anyone else up on the stage because of unchecked privilege.  This is not community work nor it is activism at all.  It is self promotion, plain and simple.  True community work is letting everyone speak in their various identities, life experiences and fully hearing them out.  Being a community worker is having a deep understanding of the multiple ways people have been oppressed as well as the privileges they might have.  A community worker sinks their feet down in the soil and is right there.  A community worker doesn't stand on a pedestal and promote, promote, promote!

Let me reiterate that ego is not a clan.  I am disheartened by being sidestepped, trampled and pushed aside.  I am disheartened that I am one of few people who holds onto a non-hierarchical and matriarchal vision of how things could be in the world.  Particularly regarding decolonization in the Native community and how our individual lives, families and communities could look like if we fully commit to decolonization. 

My journey has led me to humbling myself in the eyes of the Creator - Gitchi Manitou.  I will continue on my path as a word warrior through poetry and writing!
 

"I have my books,
And my poetry to protect me,
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, 

Safe within my womb..."

 ~ Simon & Garfunkle, I Am a Rock

 

Resources

This link explains historical trauma, historical unresolved grief, disenfranchised grief, internalized oppression, survivor syndrome and more.

A Letter to Male Activists

Aboriginal Communities Are Breaking Down

Bullying and Lateral Violence

Lateral Violence in First Nations Communities

Lateral Violence on the rez

Wawatay News - Ending the cycle of bullying