Hola mi gente,
I attended a coalition meeting this past Saturday and it compelled me to write to short pieces. One I posted yesterday and this one — a reflection.
I can’t stay quiet and I abhor conscious communities stop questioning assumptions.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
— Assata Shakur, An Autobiography
The following is a work in progress. Assata’s words bring to mind what I call conscious radicalism. A method of inquiry and practice that questions everything and takes nothing on face value.
It is our duty to fight for freedom…
It’s winter in America, as brother Gil Scott Heron noted. But there’s a new resistance here…
Rather than passively accept second class status, movements for the liberation of people of color (and our white allies) are defining, resisting, and rising against white supremacy and its many tentacles that have been choking our people for centuries. Unfortunately, I might add (fuck it, I’m keeping it real), some social justice organizations have become part of those tentacles. This newer resistance, however, composed mostly of young black and brown people, is involved in the struggle to be free from subjugation, oppression, and domination. Its pursuit is the manifestation of a truly just, sustainable, and equitable society.
It is our duty to win…
The sheer weight of the task of unraveling a massive social habit of and addiction to violence and injustice cannot be underestimated. It comes with the convenient amnesia about historic transgressions of such enormity it overwhelms the mind. It proves daunting at the least, stunningly and increasingly destructive on mental, physical, material, and psycho-spiritual levels. Even as the effort is meant to liberate, its current methodology was for the most part forged within the same construct it seeks to undermine: competition at the cost of collaboration, power over equality.
We must love each other and support each other…
I am no longer surprised to the degree of chauvinism in the nonprofit sector when it comes to self-care. We work long hours with little pay. The boundaries between our personal lives and mission-related work have become blurred or have ceased to exist at all. In fact, I have observed many within the social justice field take pride in how much they can do without. I get it, this is hard work, and much of my personal mission is closely tied to my collective endeavors. I understand how easy it is to be obliterated in all the mess. But this serves no real purpose.
Keeping it 100, this is a reflection of the oppressive forces under which we labor. We mirror the same power dynamics of the larger dominant society. We earn little, work long hours, and have even less to show after decades of doing this work. How is that justice? If this set of circumstances was being played out by corporate interests, we would be (rightfully) outraged. Yet we do it to ourselves. We adopt the same oppressive hierarchies that keep us down and then we expect change. We run our organizations and our movements just like corporations and we inflict the same harm, with just a few reaping even a decent living.
Yet I do see a change coming. I see young people seeking a different form of consensus or at least attempting to define a consensus that is truly equitable. Liberation can only come about through love and until we do away the master’s tools, we will continue to flounder. For too long our methodologies have been forged within the crucible of the dominant mindset of colonization, capitalism as religion, corporations as superhumans, domination of people and planet, zero-sum mentality, rape and plunder as spoils of victory, human and natural resources taken as objects of subjugation to the very few privileged — the one percent.
I am taken aback to how easily we fit into our internalized oppression. Even when we are conscious of how the structures we resist can manifest in our work: suppression, depression, martyrdom, and simply taking the abuse until there is no room left in our bodies to contain all that destruction. Eventually, it turns inward and, like the disease that it is, eats at us from the inside-out. Without the habit of questioning our most cherished assumptions, and the practices of self-awareness, and undoing vicarious trauma — in other words, without love — the degree of suffering we will unwittingly bring upon ourselves will be too much.
We have nothing to lose but our chains…
Conscious radicalism is about bringing a focus and a method of inquiry that keeps us aligned with our missions. In the final analysis, this movement isn’t about a particular legislation, incremental or revolutionary change, a particular jail closing, or even mass incarceration. This is not about subject and object, practitioner and observer. This is about liberation. A liberation that is both personal and collective. It is not about branding, or taking photos with people in power, or sidling up to the symbols of our oppression. It’s about leadership predicated on the models passed down to us by our ancestors, who have been resisting for centuries. This isn’t about seven effective habits, positive thinking, or prosperity gospel. This is about love in the service of true freedom.
We all bear the scars and wounds of this struggle. Therefore, when we bear witness to this suffering writ large, we also bear witness to the wisdom of liberation from that suffering. And we bear it together.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
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