ANTI-OPPRESSION PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES  In order to build a world free from domination, we will use the following principles and practices in our lives and in our work.

 

PRINCIPLES

1.                  Power and privilege can play out in our group dynamics in destructive ways.  We must challenge supremacist practices which marginalize, exclude or de-humanize others.  Privilege, like power can be used for positive purposes but should be used with awareness and care.

2.                  We can only identify how power and privilege play out when we are conscious and committed to understanding how white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, heterosexism and all other systems of oppression affect each one of us.  Each person who enjoys privileges granted by systems of prejudicial power  (no matter how radical or revolutionary) must recognize the benefits and costs of their privileges.  We must take responsibility for our prejudices and actions which perpetuate oppression.

3.                  Until we are clearly committed to anti-oppression practice, all forms of oppression will continue to divide our movements and weaken our power.

4.                  Developing anti-oppression practices is life-long work and requires a life-long commitment.  No single workshop is sufficient for learning to change one’s behaviors.  We are all vulnerable to being oppressive and we need to continuously struggle with these issues and behaviors.

5.                  Dialogue and discussion are necessary and we need to learn how to listen non-defensively and communicate respectfully if we are going to have effective anti-oppression practice.

 

PRACTICES

Personal Practices

·        Challenge yourself to be honest and open and take risks to address racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia head on.

·        When you witness or experience an abuse of power or oppression interrupt the behavior and address it on the spot or later, either one on one, or with a few allies; this is about ways to address oppressive behavior that will encourage change.

·        Challenge the behavior not the person. Be sensitive and promote open dialogue.

·        Don’t generalize feelings, thoughts, behaviors, etc to a whole group.

·        Recognize the when someone offers criticism around oppressive behavior, to treat it as a gift that it is rather than challenging the person or invalidating their experience.  Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t make assumptions.

·        Be willing to lose a friend but try not to “thrown away” people who fuck up because you don’t want to be associated with them.  Help them admit what they did and help them take responsibility for making reparations for their behavior.

·        Challenge “macho bravado” and “rugged individualism” in yourself, your friends and in activism.

·        Take on the “grunt” work of cooking, cleaning, set up, clean up, phone calls, e-mail, taking notes, doing support work, sending mailings.  Take active responsibility for initiating, volunteering for and following through with this work.

·        Understand that you will feel discomfort and pain as you face your part in oppression, and realize that this is a necessary part of the process of liberation and growth.   We must support each other and be gentle with each other in this process.

·        Don’t feel guilty, feel responsible.  Being part of the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be an active part of the solution.

·        Maintain these practices and contribute equal time and energy to building healthy relationships, both personal and political.

 

Organizational Practices

·        Commit time for organizational discussions on discrimination and oppression

·        Commit time to learn about each other, to share stories about our lives, our history, our culture, our experiences

·        Set anti-oppression goals and continually evaluate whether or not you are meeting them

·        Promote an anti-racist, anti-heterosexist, anti-transphobic, anti-ableist message and analysis in everything we do, in and outside of activist space

·        Remember these are complex issues and they need adequate time and space

·        Create opportunities for people to develop skills to communicate about oppression.

·         Promote egalitarian group development by prioritizing skill shares and being aware of who tends to do what work, who gets recognized/supported/solicited.

·        Respect different styles of leadership and communication

·        Don’t push historically marginalized people to do things because of their oppressed group (tokenism); base it on their work, experience, and skills

·        Make a collective commitment to hold people accountable for their behavior so that the organization can be a safe and nurturing place for all.

 

Meeting Practices

·        It is the role of the facilitator to ensure that the space safe and welcoming for everyone and the responsibility of each groups member to contribute to this.

·        Become a good listener

·        Don’t interrupt people who are speaking

·        Be conscious of how your use of language may perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia or ageism

·        Try not to call people out because they are not speaking

·        Be conscious of how much space you take up or how much you speak in a group  Practice “stepping up, stepping back” so we can each contribute to equal participation.

·        Be careful of not hogging the show, speaking on every subject, speaking in capital letters, restating what others say or speaking for others

·        Respect different views and opinions

·        Balance race, gender and age participation

·        People who haven’t yet spoken get priority

·        It is the group’s responsibility to challenge racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic remarks.

 

Guidelines for use of the space and for meetings: We have also established the following guidelines for the use of the space and for meetings, which will cover anyone using the space for training, meetings, performances, making art or any other purpose:
Use of the Space
  1. This space / meeting is open to all people who abide by our principles and practices
  2. This space / meeting is not open to law enforcement officers
  3. This space / meeting is not open to the media without the consent of all participants.
  4. No violence or threats of violence (verbal or physical) will be tolerated.  Violence includes racist, sexist, homophobic, and any oppressive remarks/behaviors.
  5. Respect for the health and well-being of everyone in the space, and the space itself.  No actions or substances are allowed that would jeopardize this climate.
  6. Everyone is responsible to take part in maintaining the space.  Leave your workspace / meeting space cleaner than you found it.
  7. This space, and all activities in it, are non-sectarian and non-authoritarian. 

 

This document is compiled by Lisa Fithian from the “Anti-Racism Principles and Practices” by RiseUp DAN-LA,  Overcoming Masculine Oppression by Bill Moyers and the FEMMAFESTO by a women’s affinity group in Philadelphia