Awareness, Analysis, Action

Liberatory Consciousness

Liberatory consciousness is a force that enables an individual to live his or her life in oppressive systems and institutions with awareness and intentionality.

We understand that inequity, racial and otherwise, is the result of cumulative disadvantage built into social institutions, via law, policy, and everyday practice.

We work from an intersectional perspective, which believes that organizations and communities thrive when they build cultures that are inclusive of wide-ranging ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, religious, and national identities and abilities.

We understand that the targets of oppression are required  to be at the center of efforts to transform oppression

We know the system sucks and we are doing our work every day to help dismantle oppressive systems, but we still have to show up at work tomorrow for that 9 am meeting with the most racist dude ever!!

Ughhhhh, How do we do it?

Liberatory Consciousness is how we do it.

There are four elements involved in developing a liberatory consciousness: Awareness, Analysis, Action, Accountable/Ally-ship.

The first step of liberatory consciousness, awareness, is based on acknowledging that something is not quite right. One does not need to be a member of an oppressed group to recognize the inequality taking place.

I do not have to be trans to know and believe that Trans Lives Matter. Understanding  and examining oppression  is the first step to dismantling it

Step two is analysis.The process of analysis is the most crucial in achieving social change. If one fails to educate him/herself about the injustice theyʼve become aware of, the likelihood that this awareness leads to any meaningful action is zip.

This is where we develop our anti-racist visions and strategies. We can not challenge the systems and create an action plan without a strong analysis. We discuss not only what is happening but what needs to be done to fix it.

Step three action which should always be informed by a deep analysis as well as the lived experience of the members of the oppressed groups. Awareness and analysis are not enough.
We need boots on the ground and participation. This can be organizing, donating, supporting.  It’s not about taking action sometime,  or occasionally but about being in the arena all the time fighting for freedom.

It is clear to me that it will be marginalized folks that fix the world’s problems. Black, Latinx, Asian, Native, Muslim, Immigrant, Women, Workers are the folks that will make us create a new vision.

This framework helps us reject the ways we have been socialized and centers not the dominant culture but the voices from the edges. We love each other through these steps and hold each other accountable. We act based on our values, awareness, and analysis not just upon “business as usual”.

Liberatory Consciousness lets us navigate the world from a place of balance, love, hope and optimism.

When we build our work on this framework, we become assured that we will win.

Let’s go get free together.

This post is based on “Developing a Liberatory Consciousness” by Barbara Love

 

 

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You Can Not Be Neutral

Photo from Boston Globe

 

I choose sides.

I have always chosen sides.  I have never felt like I had the luxury not to.

I take sides because in the fight for justice there is no sideline to stand on. Neutrality is a myth.

Many people will tell you that they want to stay positive, focus on the good and spend their energy uplifting.

Word.

I am down for that but I also know that I can not sit on the sideline when it comes to injustice. These issues have real life consequences and the impacts are severe.

School to Prison Pipeline
Police Brutality
Racial Equity
War on Drugs
Intimate Partner Violence

There is no sideline when the price for silence is a human dignity or human life.

There is no silence when we know that the value of a child’s life is determined by racial, economic, and social factors.

Our society will not be free until the most vulnerable people are able to access the resources and full human rights to live self-determined lives without fear, discrimination, or retaliation

That will never happen on its own.

That will only happen when people show up in the street and in the boardrooms. When rights are demanded via ballot boxes, policy and the dismantling of oppressive systems.

Choosing sides means:
Educating yourself,
Societal, institutional, and individual levels of analysis
Attention to historical legacies
Awareness of current issues

It means having a framework, not just an opinion. It means doing the work.

Choosing sides matters

Being neutral is being complicit.

Some may be quite vocal about a few issues, but remain neutral on subjects  “outside their area.”

How many times have you deemed something “not your issue”?

That is not my kid’s school.
That is not our neighborhood.
I do not use public transportation so those cuts do not affect me.
I am not Muslim.
No one in my family is LGBTQIA+

They are all our issues. That is how real community works. You do not have to be an immigrant to care for immigrants. You do not have to be black to defend black lives.

In community we are not just called to speak out against injustice, to name it clearly and directly.

We are called to actively fight it.

The ability to be neutral comes from a  place of privilege and power. Does neutrality maintain the dominant power situation?

Yeah, it does.

There is no sideline, there never has been.

We either all stand together to fight for our values and communities or we fail.

Let’s go get free together

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Photo from: Social Justice House | Barnard College

Oppression is Normal….

We are all socialized into systems that oppress.Our parents and teachers, grandparents and loved ones intentionally or unintentionally pass on their beliefs, norms, rules and expectations.

We learn to accept oppression as normal.

We do this through day- to -day interaction in schools, in temples, in churches, during doctors appointments, working with mortgage officers,  via cab drivers, and police officers.

We may not see how deeply embedded these rules, regulations,  and values help continue business as usual in this country, but they do.

We are born into a social system which teaches us to accept things as they are.

We are rewarded for accepting things as they are.
We are congratulated for accepting things as they are.
We become “model members of society” when we accept things as they are.

We gain comfort, money, connections and power when we accept things as they are. People who go against the grain, pay the price

I know as you read this a tiny voice deep in your heart is saying  ” I do not oppress people”

That might be true, you may not actively oppress others- but here is the reality- oppression is still happening because this cycle and the systems they support continue to run uninterrupted.

Oppression is the norm, not the exception.
Justice is the exception, not the norm.

Institutions influence individuals and individuals influence institutions.

This process is pervasive, consistent, circular, self-perpetuating, and invisible.

The simplest thing to do is nothing.

But we have failed to realize that we have become participants in our own oppression by doing nothing.

The Institutions/ systems of this country are not broken, they are doing exactly what they were meant to be doing.

They don’t need to be fixed. They need to be dismantled.

Will you take responsibility for the oppression that continues? Will you stand up and confront the systems, rules, and norms?

How, where, and when you confront injustice is irrelevant, as long as you do it.

You and I are responsible for interrupting oppression. We are responsible for dismantling it. We are responsible for creating new systems and ways to share social power.

Society will not transform itself. We have to break the chains.

We all have to pay the price so that can happen.

Let’s get to work y’all because freedom ain’t free.

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It Is Not About Diversity

 

It is not about diversity, it’s all about justice

 

Over my career I have had many, many situations where I was the only woman. Where I was the only person of color. Where I was the only one that came from a working class background.

The only one.

Do you have any idea how awful it is to know that when you speak some folks think you are speaking for an entire community or race of people? I was never allowed to make a mistake.  I was being judged by different standards.

It was exhausting

My work over the past few years has been focused on helping institutions—founded, shaped, owned, and dominated by white men—to create more welcoming and supportive work environments for everyone, especially people of color, women, and, more recently, those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBTQ++), and disability communities.

Language matters when you do this work.

Yet there is one word that I have grown to hate.  Absolutely despise. That word is diversity.

Diversity has become a code word way too often for “black” in many of these institutions and especially in the nonprofit world. When organizations say we can’t find any qualified diverse candidates what they are saying is we can’t find any “black candidates that meet our standards”.

Many of the nonprofits I work with want to create a diverse organization for many reasons, some are looking for diversity to bring new skills, competencies, and networks to their organizations; some are compelled by gaining access to different markets and honestly some want access to new funders and partners. They know what the research has shown: that if an organization wants to be sustainable and at all relevant moving forward doing equity and inclusion work is not optional, it is essential.

So back to why I hate diversity.

Diversity is about increasing representation; it has very little to do with changing institutional cultures. Diversity is about quantity. It has nothing to do with shared power and creating welcoming organizations.

What drives people out the door?

“It is typically NOT the headline grabbing incidents that drive most workers, people of color or LGBT folks out the door. Research shows that the last straw is typically just another slight after an extended period of enduring daily micro-insults against them.”

– Giving Notice, 2007

Organizations unconsciously use characteristics as their norms and standards that make it difficult, if not impossible, to open the door to other cultural norms and standards. As a result, many nonprofits, while saying we want to be multicultural, really only allow other people and cultures to come in if they adapt or conform to already existing cultural norms.  Every time you say you want to find a new hire that is a “cultural fit” you are saying I really want folks that act or look like me and will not cause me any problems.

To create sustainable organizations that are welcoming to people of color, significant and intentional work must happen

My goal is to help well-meaning organizations, understand that ONLY having black or brown people in your organization does not make you a diverse organization.

Doing this work in your organization is a journey, not a destination. The work is complex, and in many ways, at odds with your current culture and norms.

A truly inclusive organization – an organization that welcomes, respects, supports, and values diversity within the organization –   invests in programs that build relationships with diverse communities, develops and empowers diverse leadership, invests in staff and community development, through knowledge and action, systematically changes the culture of the organization so that all individuals and groups are encouraged to fully participate.

I work with conscious and caring leaders to give them the skills to cultivate rich, rewarding, and meaningful relationships and conversations across race so that organizational culture CAN change.

I am asked all the time why don’t organizations get any traction with their diversity efforts.  If I am being honest it’s because these predominantly white organizations and their leadership have not done their work.

It is past time y’all did.

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The Heart of Social Justice

Simply put, social justice is about human flourishing.

It’s about us living our best lives together.

It is not just about showing up for one another but it is also about how we show up.

Racism in the U. S has consequences. It requires all of us to live our lives in oppressive systems with awareness and intentionality.

Awareness and intentionality allow us to fight despair and build hope.

Awareness and intentionality allow us to hold each other and our selves accountable for dismantling those systems that hold us separate.

At the core of social justice is critical self-reflection. As with all personal growth work, it is an ongoing process, there’s always another layer to pull back, another piece of information or lesson to learn.

Our understanding of oppression, privilege and social identities (gender, sexuality, race, ability, etc.) are guaranteed to continue to evolve, and with that evolution comes opportunities to grow, challenge one’s beliefs, and figure out how to integrate new understandings into our work and life.

This self-work helps us find our people, those already committed to this work. It helps us build alliances and coalitions.

We question together.
We challenge together.
We dream together.
We disrupt together.

We do this because we can only get free together.

We don’t get free without the self-reflection, analysis, the lens that social justice asks us to develop.

You might not know where to start, and it might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

You will not be alone in this. You can’t do this alone. We have to 

It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing –oppressive systems ain’t gonna break themselves.

Let’s go get to work

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Taking A Stand

What can you no longer accept?

I think about this question a lot. What am I no longer willing to sit by and watch happen? What is totally unacceptable for me at this point in my life?

We are born into a specific set of social identities and that they predispose us to unequal roles from day one

We learn to accept these roles and are taught they are normal through our interactions with parents, teachers, colleagues, peers and other folks that love us.

We learn that power and privilege are organized according to race, class, and gender.

What we consider to be ” normal” is just as much a social construct as what we determine to be “different”

This socialization tells us what is beautiful, what is good, what is evil, what is healthy, what is educated, and even what determines a family

This socialization tells us things like only white people swim or  folks that belong to another religious group are weird or wrong or dangerous.

We are inundated by these unquestioned messages throughout our life. These messages shape what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about each other.

Our culture and institutions have been built to reinforce our divisions and justify our biases and prejudices.

We don’t have to accept this anymore. We can change the things that we no longer can accept.

What does it really mean to make change?

If we do this know that there is a price to be paid when we buck the system or status quo. You might be deemed a trouble maker, considered “mouthy”  or told you are too much. You might get a reputation for not being a team player, or someone that can not follow the rules or hard to manage.

People who go against the grain are considered to be a problem that needs to be fixed or handled. You might be held up as an example.

We are rarely taught how to speak up and interrupt systems that are oppressive and unless you have learned these skills this process may make you feel insecure about standing up and being heard.

But everyday people do it…. they show up , they speak up and they help to break chains of oppression.

What can you no longer accept?
Racism?
Classism?
Heterosexism?
Ablesim?
Sexism?
Religious Oppression?
Disparities in the Justice System?
Disparities in Education?

What do you know that you can not unknow anymore?

Name it. Claim it. Own it. 

Whatever it is that you can no longer accept, I ask that every day you take one step towards liberation.One tiny thing that helps work on that issue. On step towards freeing yourself and freeing others.

Change happens with intention…..one step at a a time.

Let’s go get free y’all

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Diversity is where we start not where we finish.

Diversity helps us understand ways that we are similar to and different from one another, but it does not necessitate us to do anything with that information. It is a basic level of understanding that does not require connection, collaboration, or compassion.

Enter social justice.

Social justice refers to a concept in which equity or justice is achieved in every aspect of society rather than in only some aspects or only for some people.

Since this term is being used a lot these days, here’s a more robust definition:
“The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others, their society, and the broader world in which we live.” -from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice.

Social justice work asks us to build coalitions and solidarity, teaches us to be accountable and responsible allies and helps us to build and sustain inclusive communities.

Social justice work is multi-faceted, requiring you to develop new ways of thinking, to seriously challenge yourself –which is exciting and necessary but can also be daunting. Developing these skillsets is best done in community, which is why Ericka Hines and I designed a new course that is centered on social justice.

This is the work that needs to be done and the Social Justice Intensive will give you the tools, support, accountability and the community you need to do it.
Social Justice Intensive
Get ready to learn:

  • How oppressive systems really work
  • The social and moral cost for maintaining privilege
  • Strategies to challenge oppression
  • How you can take action and create solidarity with marginalized communities
  • What past social movements you can learn from and use to guide your current work

The Social Justice Intensive starts April 2nd. We hope to see you there!

Click HERE to learn all about it.
(Not sure if the Intensive is right for you? We’re also launching another section of our program, Diversity is an Asset in April -you can check that out here.)

Let’s get free together y’all.

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Who’s Got The Power

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Power

Racism is not a problem to be fixed by an individual. It won’t be fixed by the awakening or enlightenment.

It can only be fixed by understanding power- who has it, and how it gets used.

Power-The ability to decide who will have access to resources; the capacity to direct or influence the behavior of others, oneself, and/or the course of events

Always living deep within questions of inequality and injustice is the question of power. We are born into a specific set of social identities and that they predispose us to unequal roles

Unequal roles = Unequal power

Racism, transphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, sexism and all the other “isms” are about Power.

Power

Those with the most power can thus afflict anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, color, community, culture, or country, who craves power above the need to respect the “Other”

We have created institutions and systems  that continuously place the desire for power above the desire for love and connection

So every day ask yourself:

  • In whose interest do institutions operate?
  • Who benefits and who pays from societies “norms”?
  • Who are we sacrificing when we follow the status quo?

There is no system that is neutral. There is no system that is fair as long as unfair and hidden advantages exist

Power maintains dominance. Dismantling systems is about dismantling an unjust power structure.

This game we play every day called life is not fair.
This game we play every day called life is not just

It is actually not a game at all. There are real life or death consequences as we navigate power in our everyday lives.

We all lose when we think oppression only happens in the hearts of a few and not see it as economically and politically structured.

We all lose when we do not call out the moral and social cost for swimming in these systems built around power belonging to some and not all.

These systems appeal to our lower-selves, because of socialization that is based up the dehumanizing many for the benefit of a few.

“Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

~Malcolm X

What does real power look like in your life and the choices you make? What does action look like for you? How will you show up?

It is time to fight the power, it’s actually past time.

Let’s go get free.

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Culture of Silence

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Culture of Silence

I spent my Sunday morning drinking coffee and studying the “Five Faces of Oppression” by Iris Young. In case you are wondering it is perfect brunch reading.

I am not sure that many folks understand the multitude of ways that we are oppressed by systems and institutions. Ways that we are taught to minimize our voices, our rights, our wants, and our needs.

Nor are we aware how this oppression manifests in our lives. I think we can all agree that we have systems that oppress groups of people in this country. We have symbols, norms, and rules that do not allow all of us to show up and participate in society as fully human.

As our best selves

So, what are the five faces?

The Five Faces of Oppression

•Exploitation
•Marginalization
•Powerlessness
•Cultural Imperialism
•Violence (or the threat of violence)

I have spent a lot of time meditating on powerlessness.

Ways that we have been taught not to speak up for ourselves or for others. Brazilian educational philosopher Paulo Freire believes that powerlessness is the strongest form of oppression because it allows people to oppress themselves and others.

Powerlessness creates a culture of silence.

We all pay a price for silence. Silence kills.

It kills our ideas. It kills our energy. It kills our relationships. It kills our communities. It kills our connections and it kills our humanity.

It perpetuates the illusion that some people voices matter more than others. That some folks are worthy of speaking and being heard, while others are not. It makes us think that we as individuals do not mean anything, so of course, our voice doesn’t either

  • How many times have you sat in meetings and did not speak up, because you felt it would get you nowhere?
  • How many time have you let family, friends or colleagues say blatantly false /racist/sexist things because you wanted to keep the peace?
  • How many times have you stopped talking about your own oppression because you are tired of folks not believing you and you’re worried about your safety?
  • How many difficult conversations has your organization not participated in because they seemed too overwhelming and y’all did not want to rock the boat?

Most people believe that if given the chance to speak up that they will. Very few actually do. Giving voice to problems save us. They save our businesses, our institutions and they save our lives. There are cost and consequences to creating cultures of silence, and I think we are seeing that play out in our country currently.

We have a kind of silence that goes so deep and is so insidious it literally is eating us alive.

We do not talk about race issues. We do not talk about class issues. We do not talk about religious oppression or gender issues. We do not talk about able-ism or ageism.

We pay a steep price

Not talking keeps us blissfully ignorant. Blissfully silo-ed. Blissfully segregated.

It is not discussing these issues that divide us, it is not talking about them that does.

Our silence has been socialized and institutionalized. That is not by accident.

How do we change this?

Cultures of silence can be changed. We can change it through education and by creating brave spaces for folks to speak a whole lot of truth.

We speak up in our personal lives and we invite others to speak. We invite others to dialogue.

We stop thinking about what we lose when we speak up and start thinking about what we gain.

We invite those folks on the margin that we never hear from, that we never see. Those folks that we have allowed negative images and stereotypes to speak for them. Let them tell their own stories, in their own languages, using their authentic voices.

Some of us are forced to be silent, but many of us are choosing to be. And it is literally killing us

We get free by using our voices to challenge those in power. We have to speak freedom to life.

Let’s go get free y’all


The “Culture of Silence” is based on work of Paulo Freire in his book The Politics of Education

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Liberation is Love

849c0475-3fec-4d04-8891-fd1656111f63Liberation

I spent time this weekend studying The Cycle of Liberation by Bobbie Harro. It’s a beautifully written framework that basically says:

“I know this social change work is overwhelming, all these really big complex issues, but here is a blueprint to fight them.”

This cycle shows how we all can play a role in the breaking of oppressive systems. My greatest, take away from the reading was this:

You want to get free? You need the following at the core of your work and your life:

Self Love
Self-esteem
Balance
Support
Security
Spiritual base
Joy

These are the qualities that hold our movements together. No matter what happens in the courts or in the streets these fundamental values must never change or our movements will fail.

Harro views liberation as transformation. Nothing can be transformed without these 7 qualities.

It is an internal and external game.

I can not want liberation for you until I want it for myself.

We all have multiple social group identities- ways in which we navigate the world.

We have a society structured to remind  people on a daily basis on conscious and unconscious levels:

  • Who is privileged and who is not.
  • Who is deemed beautiful and who is not.
  • Who is worthy and deserving and who is not

Liberation changes our worldview. It changes old narratives and allows new stories, language, and leaders to be born.

This work must be centered on love.We can not win without it.

The skills, strengths, and roots that I have invested in myself are also the same skills, strengths, and roots I need to fight oppressive systems.

I need courage, to fight oppressive practices
I need community to fight oppressive systems
I need to consistently question myself and others to fight oppressive systems

I learned that you protect what you love, and I love me.

I love me.

Race is a social construct but I am not. I am real and I live and navigate oppressive systems that have financial, social, emotional and psychological consequences.

The struggle is real for million of people every day across this globe.

This struggle while hard also heals.

The struggle for liberation can be medicine- it can restore our health, strength, and well-being.The struggle can fill us up. It can be affirming and enriching.

We do not need to feel hopeless as we do this work. We do not need to feel tired as we do this week. We do not need to feel discouraged as we do this week. If we ground our work in joy, support, community, and security we will win.This is about sustaining for the long haul- for organizations as well as for individuals.

I am ready to love me as an act of rebellion. I am ready to love, protect and defend you as an act of rebellion as well. These core values guide our interactions as we do this hard work as we build community.

So I ask you:

  • How would it be to participate in movements with these fundamental values at the core especially in the current state of our society?
  • What would it look like to lead organizations rooted in these principles?

We have a long way to go and many fights ahead of us.

I ain’t no ways tired.

Let’s get to work

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