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. 

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