Sunday, July 27, 2014


Sometime last month, or maybe even 2 months ago, I was walking out of a therapy session (more on that-- maybe. but maybe not) and for some reason happened to look at my tire on my front driver side. It was wicked bald and on the inside the wires were starting to pop out. Same thing on my other front tire. With a drive up to Detroit the next day, I wasn't sure they'd last another 24 hours. Literally. My therapy mind quickly jumped to problem solving-- and before too long I was driving up Cleveland Ave looking for a used tire place.

I found one, but it wasn't the one I was looking for. I doubt it would have popped up on google. It was small, dirty-- and open. They had the tires I needed and the price was the same as the bigger googleable shop further down the road. As one of the fellas switched my tires out, I sat watching a world cup match on the oddly nice television-- inside the terribly build addition to the garage- that was now the office. Next to me on the chairs that were once white, three women chatted in a language I didn't understand. They were wearing clothing I couldn't imagine wanting to wear. A young woman (a teenage perhaps) wandered in and out of the door in the office-- seeming both confident and a bit on edge. The shotty addition, the dirty chairs, and the unfamiliar women were honestly part of what made me glad to stop by. The place wasn't comfortable to me- but I appreciated it. 

My tires were replaced, I paid in cash (another thing I liked), and I drove on back home. 

Just the other day, when I finally decided to pay attention to my car, I headed back to that same tire shop to replace the back tire- that somehow had an oddly flat spot on it that thumped every time it rotated. I was glad to see the shop was once again open, but with a little less hustle and bustle. It seemed quiet. As I pulled in, the same mechanic who replaced my tires last time remembered that back tire (which he told me at the time needed replaced). Once again, I waited on the dirty chairs, this time watching the ever disturbing news by myself.

As he came in, I got up to walk out and pay him. But he stopped and sat on the desk in the corner.

Wait a minute...

(pause) mhm?

You Married? 


You married?

ha- no.

You have a boyfriend?

i've got a partner... do you have a boyfriend?


I'm looking for you.


You. I'm looking for you. 

Oh. uhm, no?

Through his thick accent, I actually couldn't understand him that well. He said something more-- maybe two or three things more... as i lowered my gaze to the ground and slightly shook my head no and backed out of the office. Once I was in the parking lot, I was able to catch myself. I asked how much I owed him, and handed him cash. I felt relieved my keys were in my hand.

I don't know what he was saying- but the answer was no. no. I've never really been afraid of strangers. I know-- deep inside my body as well as from statistics- that men I know are much much more likely to assault me then a stranger. But everything inside of me screamed no, yelled at me to get out. Oddly (or maybe not so oddly...) I could barely shake my head no and back out of the room. It's like I couldn't physically do it. 

It took me... a while... to shake the feeling. To let it go, let it leave and for me to.. rebalance. That's also unusual-- that sorta shit rolls off my back (again with the strangers...) within short moments. But it felt hot and full in it's suffocation. That place where feelings sometimes come from-- some folks call it intuition-- was confident i needed to escape. 

Today, several days later- I still have an intense feeling from that interaction. I still don't really understand it. I wonder what role racism played in my reaction, and in what ways i felt more afraid because he wasn't white and because enlglish wasn't his first language. because he was 'other'.

Unfortunately, I suspect racism did tint that-- and created something where those feeling felt... so... big. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Towards Collective Liberation

Several months ago, I started hearing lots of folks talking about a new collection of essays put together by Chris Crass--- Towards Collective Liberation. It's a book that focuses in on stories and experiences on fighting racism and sexism, while building power.

While the book is interesting upon it's self, the most interesting and exciting part about it was reading it with some friends. About once a month or every section-ish, we'd get together on a video chat and talk about it. To make that even better than it sounds, those friends were EK, Bex, and Cole.

I enjoyed reading it, and more so talking about it-- but I have to say: I didn't love it. More particularly, I wasn't that found of the parts the Crass wrote--- there's something about white guys writing about anti-oppression that feels like... not that great. I did find valuable insight, and we had some interesting discussions, but overall i was underwhelmed by it. I think that's mostly because I had high expectations and that so many folks seems to be saying it was a great book. It was fine, I'd even recommend reading it--- but--- not highly recommend it.

What I Liked About it...

There's one section where Crass talks opening about some of the things he does, in his daily life, that are sexist as all get out. It was actually hard to read ("... i know that my instant reaction is to take men's opinions more seriously... almost never having zoned out on what a gender-privileged man is saying because i was thinking about him sexually... etc. from Going to Places that I'm Scared of, p 124), but i gained a lot of respect from the honesty that was said and laid out. As someone who also (like all people, if i dare say) has thoughts or actions that don't match up with what I want in the world, it feels really compelling to see someone owning that-- not apologizing or explaining-- but owning it and working to make it different.

I loved having space to think about the ways privilege and skill sets intersect with expectations and power consolidation (Food Not Bombs essay, p 78) and the complexity of sharing the skills we do have (Going to Place that Scare Me, p 118). Of course, the ideas of structurlessness came up in many ways, all of which I ate up (and let it feed my righteousness? yes, probably).

Towards the end of the book there was a lot more essays and interview style writings from folks who were not Crass--- and I was more excited and pensive about those sections. It felt less theory based, and more... just how it is. Groups like the Rural Organizing Project blew my mind with how they've moved folks along, ways in which they prioritize collaboration with organizations that focus and acknowledge privilege and oppression, and individual and collective experiences (A struggle for Our Lives, p 204) and later digging in more about how "to hold the complexity, historical knowledge, and pain when people of color we're supporting act out intersecting forms of oppression (p 248). 

I have found myself thinking a lot about a section that talks about the ways we change and feel powerful when we put our bodies on the line. It made me reconsider the ways i look at 'direct action'  in the day of a digital world--- how getting a petition signed can actually create meaningful change in a person, if they do it person to person, face to face. (Leading with our Vision, p 244).

Good On Ya, at least mostly...

While I wasn't all that into what Crass had to say- or maybe the way he said it- I do really appreciate the book and his writings. I think folks who step up and take leadership to educate others about oppression are great. Sometimes we don't do it right, and we make mistakes, or we say things that make folks uncomfortable (not in a good way), but I can (metaphorically) applaud taking a stance and stepping into that role. If I were to ever meet Crass, I wouldn't say he opened my mind or showed me the way or even represented the struggles of women (since that's the one I have first hand experience with) well-- but I would say thanks. An honest, sincere thanks for writing a book to bring folks along, to share experiences and know-how, and for stepping it up. 

Take home Message...
reading and talking about challenging ideas with friends is way better for me than reading by myself and leaving it be. 

{sometimes EK and Bex would be in the same place-- which was always notably not ohio}

Friends Rule.