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Bringing Raised-Poor and Working-Class People into RC

I am so glad I attended the Working Together to End Classism Workshop (in November 2016, in Maryland, USA), led by the four wonderful International Liberation Reference Persons for class liberation: Dan Nickerson, the International Liberation Reference Person (ILRP) for Working-Class People; Gwen Brown, the ILRP for Raised-Poor People; Seán Ruth, the ILRP for Middle-Class People; and Jo Saunders, the ILRP for Owning-Class People.

Dan led the overall workshop with a focus on implementing the New Initiative on Ending Classism that can be found in the July 2014 Present Time. He spoke about and illustrated the difference the initiative would make, in ways that were easy to see and discharge about. Gwen, Seán, and Jo spoke eloquently about their groups and gave us a clear perspective on the people from those groups. I realized in the course of the workshop how mad I am about classism and how I misdirect that.

On Saturday I got myself to lead a topic group on bringing raised-poor and working-class people into RC. After doing several go-arounds and discharging, people shared ideas they had about their next step—even if it was very unusual, like maybe an RC Super Bowl party. [The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the U.S. National Football League.] Here, edited somewhat for clarity, is what they said:

I think about working on this in my Co-Counseling class, maybe more than once, to get people’s attention on it and get them discharging about it. Maybe my partner and I could go up to my sister’s house and teach my sister and brother-in-law Co-Counseling. It could be for just an hour and a half or so on a Sunday evening.

I think about the importance of doing this together and not each feeling like, “Oh my God, I can’t figure this out.” Seeing a group of people trying to figure it out is good, so I have to bring this back to my Area. Really, the only thing that gets in the way is the stuff that already feels impossible, so this isn’t another project; it is the project I’m already trying to do.

It is useful to think about what would be different if more people I am wanting to bring into RC were actually in. Imagining that kind of clears the obstacles. The obstacles don’t seem so insurmountable, because the promise is so incredible.

I think of seven or eight other carpenter women who knocked on doors in New Hampshire (USA) with me before the election and how it would be good to check in with them and see if there’s an opening to do something, like give them a session. My other thought is to see if you [addressing someone in group] would do a three-way session with me and my raised-poor partner, who is in a fundamentals class now, and help get her ready to come to the union activists’ support group and maybe a workshop. Most of my Area is owning-class or has owning-class roots, and a raised-poor person just joined and I’m thinking it’s not going to work. I’d like to see those of us with owning-class backgrounds work intensively on that for two or three months, to help move things forward.

My idea is to not do it alone. In my RC class I’m going to challenge us to work on and discharge about bringing in raised-poor and working-class people. Then I won’t be trying to do it on my own.

As we were talking, I kept thinking of more and more people. Then I thought, “You just have to start with one person and see how that goes.” I appreciate having the time to get the discouragement off. More of that needs to happen. I’m thinking of a fundamentals class specifically tailored to this and me being backed to teach it. It would be some combination of a one-on-one class and a regular fundamentals class and would have to be designed to meet people’s needs—be on Sundays, for example, because everyone I know works Monday through Saturday. It would have to be bilingual, and I actually think that would be possible, because I have the support.

I’m thinking of starting with a dinner and inviting the president of the local custodians’ union, the secretaries’ local, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, on the Sunday of Martin Luther King weekend [the weekend of Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday in the United States] and then figuring it out from there. I would start with leadership support and teach Co-Counseling off of that.

I’m thinking about my Area and Region doing more on looking at class and on ending classism. I have a bunch of people I could talk to about becoming part of the Area, but I’m nervous about it. I’ve done a lot of one-on-one teaching, and I find it’s a really good way for people to start learning Co-Counseling and for me to get a sense of who they are. I think I’ll do a couple of months of teaching one-on-one and then get a class going.

I have strategizing to do, and I want to think about that with the Area leaders’ class and folks in the Region who do labor or movement organizing. Then I want to think about my dad and my friend.

My first move will be to make more friends in general. I also think my Area could use more specific work on class, to put class in people’s minds more. I think that teaching one-on-one is really good. I could teach one person or two. The difference between making friends and bringing people directly into Co-Counseling is something to think about.

My thought is to gather people at a union hall or in my building at school—neutral places where people are comfortable gathering. I’m thinking about taking advantage of times at work when I could pull two people together on some regular basis. Doing something once a month might be manageable—maybe gathering around food, building it into taking turns listening to each other, and then seeing if people want to do it more frequently.

I need to keep supporting a friend of mine who is peripherally in RC and was raised poorer than almost anyone I know in Co-Counseling. I pull back from him sometimes, because I get frustrated with his addictions. Sticking in there and supporting him makes a difference. Sometimes it seems like people are doing us a favor by joining us, but it’s so clear now that people need a place to discharge and that I can no longer stay in my bad feelings and shyness. Now is the time to step out of all that, because the world needs it.

If you’ve gotten through this, thank you for reading, and please share any thoughts you have on how to implement the initiative.

Randy Karr

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 186, January 2017)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00