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the answer is yes

October 15, 2011 at 12:20 am

Hey kids, I’m going to be selling prints tomorrow (Saturday October 15) at the RISD student & alumni sale! I think my table is in front of the College Building, near the corner of Benefit & College St. 10am-4pm. Come get some beautiful (or weird looking) stuff…

Also, more excitingly::::: a potentially large number of people, including myself at some point, are going to be occupying Burnside Park in downtown Providence (next to Kennedy Plaza) starting at 5pm on Saturday, ongoing into the future until we build a new society of some kind that doesn’t feel so broken, and doesn’t make us feel that we are broken. How about that? Sounds good, right? I am excited. But it’s not just about camping out & yelling at the cops and the Bank of America skyscraper… we also have to listen to each other & actually hear each other… and I think the white non-trans guys (and probably the trans guys, too) are going to have to shut up.

On Wednesday night, I was at a ‘teach-in’ (that happened at the fancy liberal arts college up on the hill), which was three.5 hours long, and overall extremely great & extremely inspiring, and which got me excited about the potential of this occupy thing happening here. A young female-bodied person of color stood up in one of the question & answer sessions and asked the question [deeply paraphrased]: “In any activism project I’ve ever been part of, my questions & my voice are never heard, my concerns are never listened to. How can this movement say it’s building something new if it’s still not listening to women / people of color / queer people / poor people / etc?”

One of the faculty speakers, also a female-bodied person of color, answered her: “Basically you have to call them on it every time it happens. Every single time. You can’t ever let that erasure of your voice go un-confronted. Because then, at least they can’t say they didn’t realize it was happening. And maybe eventually they will realize they need to change.” …. It was a pretty intense, brutally realistic answer; and the only answer given during the talk that was actually in the form of advice: ‘this is what you should do.’ I was pretty stunned by it. I wonder if anybody else heard, hidden within that answer, its converse that the professor did not state: “White people, male people, non-queer people, people with money, you need to shut up & listen. And you, too — YES, YOU — need to confront the erasure of the voices of others… every single time it happens.” Did anybody hear that? Or does the burden rest only on the shoulders of the people whose voices are already not being heard?

Here are two good essays about the potential of the “Occupy” movement, and about white people shutting up: one from the Revolutionary Autonomous Communities of LA… another by Manissa McCleave Maharawal.

I don’t have energy right now to write a lot more about this all (got a bunch more to do to get ready for the sale)… but I’ll just say that I am excited for this scenario, the occupation, to happen. However, from what people have said about the Providence general assemblies, & the occupation in New York, I have the feeling that there will be a lot of male voices & male privilege in effect there… as there is usually in an activist context… which is why I have avoided many activist contexts in the past. And I know that I won’t be able to be part of this occupation for long, unless that privilege is confronted whenever it becomes apparent.


I am very intimidated by speaking up against white male privilege, as a female-bodied & female-raised person who now is in this weird place of being accorded some aspects of male privilege & camaraderie, while still not actually being listened to or taken seriously in many ways. I still find myself wanting to be polite & not say things that will insult or offend people — and especially not say things that will make people “not want to be my friend”. Hmmm. I also am worried, as someone who has always been a person who talks a lot, & has opinions & a certain amount of confidence, about becoming or already being “that guy”, who dominates conversations and silences other voices.

I’ve had a bunch of run-ins lately with unseen & denied privilege… the very strong phenomenon of people not being aware of the ways they are privileged, and then “people getting defensive when they are shown evidence of structural inequalities which benefit them” (as my housemate Chris & I wrote about in the print we made recently… more on that later…). I’ve been trying to find conversational strategies to bring these things up to people in a way that allows them to think about it instead of reacting defensively. But there is a little ambiguously-gendered faerie sitting on my shoulder saying “it’s not your responsibility to educate these assholes…..!”

Well I don’t know what’s going to happen, we might make a ‘faerie camp’ as part of the occupation (inspired by Sean Minteh)… we might just end up being “those obnoxious queers/feminists/women who call everybody out on stuff” or we might end up bailing & realizing that something that is dominated by white non-trans men doesn’t have a chance of building a society that has a radically different structure. We’ll see. I don’t want to be pessimistic. Hells, I spent the last two days working on making a poster for this darn thing! But I want to put my energy where it can be used… I want to support my friends, and support people whose voices are not being heard… but I don’t know if I have the stamina to continually be trying to educate people who should be educating themselves about privilege.

oh and on a less serious note, remember:

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