Liberation from Oppression

New Steps Against Oppression Barriers

At two recent Teachers' and Leaders' Workshops, some new steps were taken in communicating about oppression. This follows up on the experiences last year in asking Third World leaders to speak directly to white leaders telling them what to do and how to act to contradict their unaware racism (see "Two Important Developments in RC Liberation Theory-Listening to Third World Leaders," p. 487).

In each case a "panel" of members of oppressed groups addressed the workshop. At the Midwest Teachers' and Leaders' Workshop in June, the panel members were all Third World RCers. At the West Coast Teachers and Leaders Workshop in September the panel consisted of a Chicano, a Chicana, a Lebanese Arab woman, a Japanese-American woman, a Sabra (native born) Israeli woman, a Greek-American man, a woman from India and a Native woman. Results were similar and excellent at both workshops and it seems likely that the same format would work well with a panel of spokespersons for women, young people, elders, disabled people, etc.

In the September workshop a competent counselor asked each panelist what had been good about being and growing up a member of his or her group and then asked what had been difficult about it. Considerable discharge took place for each person on the panel on one or both of these questions. This much has been done at many workshops previously. The advance came in the next step.

A five minute recess was declared, with the announcement that the panel would return after the recess and that all the other members of the workshop should be prepared with paper and pens to take careful notes because the panel would then address the following topics:

  1. "What I want you to know and understand about me and my people."
  2. "What I want you never to say or do again."
  3. "What I need from you as my allies."

When the workshop reconvened, all listeners were prepared with pen and paper and each member of the panel was counseled in turn. Each was first asked to make the statement, "I shall assume that you are my allies," to the entire workshop. To say this proved difficult for every one of the panel members, and the heavy discharge that was necessary before the person could say it with any semblance of belief was in itself eye-opening communication to the "majority" members of the workshop. On each of the following questions, much discharge occurred as well. In every case remarkably clear communication was achieved.

Encouragement from the counselor often took the form of a reminder that, though it must seem to the person speaking that what they are about to say is already obvious to members of the majority culture, the reality is that racist conditioning had operated on the majority when they were young to make it very difficult for them to think in these areas and the most "obvious" matters about racism were likely to need spelling out.

It seemed plain afterwards that the difficulties and divisions raised between people by the operation of racism on each side of the pattern has been more clearly faced by this method than almost ever before in our work. The listening and note-taking seemed to have a clear and profound effect on the workshop majority.

In the same workshop, the Jewish caucus assembled a summary of what should be said to the Gentiles in the workshop, and appointed a spokesperson to speak on behalf of all Jews about Jewish oppression and how Jews should be related to and treated by Gentiles. This also worked well.

Harvey Jackins

Last modified: 2014-10-18 21:31:55+00