I am writing this as I travel to San Francisco to start the four and a half month Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training Program For White Social Justice Activists.
I decided to do this program to put a focus on my own work as a white settler person dedicated to supporting anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles. I have been involved in a variety of different kinds of social justice organizing since I was a teen. With the guidance and encouragement of many people, I began to grow more of a focus on anti-racism and anti-colonialism in the past few years. For me, the course of action to take has not always been clear but as I have been reading and listening, I have heard it said many times that there is a need for white people to talk and work with other white people about and against racism and colonialism, with and under the leadership of the people most impacted.
With the Idle No More movement taking place currently, there have been incredibly powerful discussions of how people who are not Indigenous to these lands can act in support of ongoing Indigenous resistance and long-standing movements towards justice. With all that is happening within this movement right now, it seems a strange time for me to be leaving the places that I have previously been living, where the Idle No More movement has been taken up by local organizers in a variety of creative, meaningful and continually inspiring ways. I hope that what I learn in this program can contribute positively long-term to movements against racism and colonialism.
Talking to myself
I had the privilege of taking the Indigenous Studies program at Camosun College and I was, in the program, often reminded of the importance of people like me (white settler) talking to other people like me. All too often, when I would tell other white settler people that I was taking an Indigenous Studies program, they would respond with a paternalistic answer about “helping Natives”. Soon I was quick to correct them, that it was actually me and my community in need of a lot of help.
Already the readings from the Anne Braden program are reaffirming my thoughts on why I am doing this program. Anne Braden, for whom the program is named, writes in “A Time to Organize” about her work to bring white people into the struggle against white supremacy. And, in her essay, “The Tip of the Iceberg”, Barbara Smith talks about the importance of white would-be allies engaging in political organizing. The readings are further encouraging me to explore where my role lies and what it means to take responsibility for not just myself.
Talking to each other
A friend once asked me, “Do you love your own people?”*… I wasn’t even sure what she meant. I could only think of Nazis, White Pride and other hateful, dominating forms of “love” for other white people. Until that point, I had not thought of other white people as people that I needed to love or take responsibility for. There are so many histories, actions and attitudes that I didn’t want to accept as my responsibility to acknowledge, own or begin to work towards changing.
But who, if not me, if not us? Who can take responsibility for this and, under the leadership of the people most impacted by racism and colonialism, join the struggle against white supremacy rather than hide beneath its comfortable (for most white folks) form?
To be continued…
*Carol Bilson, thank you for asking good questions always.