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Archive for the ‘Disability Rights’ Category

YOUR PUT DOWNS OF SAFETY PINS ARE NOT ENOUGH!
& YOUR PETTY CALL OUT ACTIVISM
IS AN EMBARRASSMENT!

There have been a few articles and several social media posts mocking the proposal that people wear safety pins to proclaim, in this new UhMurikan landscape, that “I am a safe space.” It’s a way for those of us in an unfamiliar place or under attack to identify an ally who will defend us or accompany us if we encounter violence, hate speech, threats or intimidation because of our real or assumed membership in a targeted group. One article appeared, written by a white presenting cis het presenting man, in the Huffington Post, that bastion of social responsibility and grassroots mobilization. (Snark!)

 Of course the safety pins are NOT ENOUGH.They’re a symbol, a statement, a promise and a commitment.

Are these publish worthy leftists also for the abolishment of: buttons and t-shirts (which must be manufactured, marketed and sold), banners, signs. How are these any different? Are we against any symbolism? What about ribbons? arm bands?

This petty self promotion  and put down of other activist efforts is tiresome. After all not EVERYONE gets Huffington Post press access.

The safety pin solidarity started in England after the passage of Brexit with the targeting of immigrants.  In England there may have been an issue with the pins, that it was a white thing: an insufficient badge of respectability, guilt, remorse, penance. But in the U.S., Occupied Amerikkka the targets are MOST OF US. And there are still people totally complicit from all demographics, so the symbol is important, easy, accessible, inexpensive, UNFUCKINGMARKETABLE, so we can let people know we are ready to take action; (and then we need to come through; that we are here for each other). After all with the increased rhetoric and the emboldened extreme right, white supremacist (rebranded, normalized, alt-right),  only white Christian cis het, ENabled, body normative men aren’t targeted. The vast majority, the rest of us are!

For way too long activism has moved from the grassroots, to self promotion, individualism,  survival of the fittest, scarcity resources and competition. Allies who aren’t movement stars (there’s a clear double standard here!)  are told they should just not show up, not take up space, sit down, shut up, listen, read more, go shopping.  There has been very little engagement in what real allyship might be, what solidarity looks like, how we check each other and check ourselves, from a position of responsibility, accountability and transparency, and not from a place of obedience, acquiescence and silence.  Hopefully the broad targeting of so many of us is a wake up call, that we need all our bodies on the line, and that we can’t do this in separate groups (which fuels the alt right’s rebranding, as it appropriates that language with claims that it is simply a civil rights movement for white people and that we all have our place in our separate nations.)

Maybe the movement stars who are so used to making it all about themselves:  the self promoters, the individualist who have for too long used “activism” as their own personal starting line in that great competition for speaking engagements, publicity and  non-profit managerial positions can show some solidarity instead of crapping on this very basic grassroots organizing effort. Maybe we can move the dialogue from whose voices matter to how we can assure our movement is as large and inclusive as possible (day care, DISability access, language translation, financial accessibility). Maybe we can start to have the difficult discussions around transparency and accountability around unlearning racism, sexism, ableism,  ageism, classism and all the other ways marginalization keeps us down and apart.

So let this be the start and not the end. Let the lists of other ways of showing solidarity, of putting our bodies, minds, reputations on the line for each other begin, but let us start with “AND” and not “BUT”.

Sure the safety pins are not enough, and your grandstanding is getting real tired, too.

 

 

 

 

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Emma Rosenthal, MacArthur Park, Rampart Division-LAPD, Los Angeles

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today at this October 22 demonstration against police brutality on the theme, Resistance Matters,  focusing on a segment of EVERY community– people with dis-abilites.

People with dis-abilities are specifically targeted by police for abuse and brutality.

People who are deaf, unable to heed orders they do not hear, unable to communicate with authority, often are killed or battered by a system that doesn’t take their communication needs into consideration.

People with visible dis-abilities attract the attention of bullies, including the bullies in blue who know that there are no consequences for our ostracism or victimization.

People who appear, walk, talk differently are often singled out, accused of being drunk, and often have trouble with law enforcement because of both misunderstandings and the outright hostility toward us, by the police.

People with mental health conditions come in contact with police on the street, when our behavior doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, or when police are called to respond to medical emergencies.

Homelessness and prisons ARE our society’s mental health care system.

Police often respond to medical psychiatric emergencies with brutal and often deadly force, claiming they felt that they were in imminent danger.

Imagine if health care providers said they had to kill a patient because the patient’s condition threatened the lives of health care professionals.

It is the job of health care providers to treat people who are ill. We must demand no less of emergency personnel, including police, when answering a call for medical emergencies.

___________________

There is a nexus of gender, class and race with dis-ability, compounding our experience with authorities. We are part of every community, not a separate group, or geographic. There is no organization or outreach that can fully succeed without our full inclusion. You cannot address the issue of police brutality without also addressing the role of people with dis-abilities in the struggle for social justice.

Yet many social justice organizations don’t include people with dis-abilities fully, in addressing many social justice issues, and often perpetuate attitudes and policies that contribute to our marginalization.

You can’t defend our rights without our participation, our full participation. Nothing about us, without us. Working on our behalf without us, simply appropriates our exploitation in the service of rhetoric.

A movement that isn’t informed by the victims perpetuates the abuse. Planning that does not take our specific needs and issues into consideration often puts us in significant danger. Too often event security responds to us in much the same way that the state does.  I have been at demonstrations where the event coordinators did as much to endanger us, as the police do. This must be changed, this must be challenged.

We cannot fight a system by replicating its attitudes & practices. We cannot demand from society what we cannot also create among ourselves.

Expectations of people with dis-abilities merge with issues of race/gender and class to increase marginalization via expectations of behavior.

Thinking of people with dis-abilities as aberrant, undesirable, non-contributing and a burden have no place in the movement, these are capitalist attitudes.

Dis-ability rights isn’t charity. nothing short of full inclusion is justice. It is not your place to “help” us, but rather to work with us, to include us in ways that inform praxis.

It is NOT our job to make you comfortable with out conditions.

It is NOT our job to find our own way into your organizations.

It is NOT our job to say what you want to hear, and to leave our particular needs and experience out of the discussion.

Dis-ability inclusion is the collective responsibility of the entire community. 

________________

Additionally, agents of repression know to use dis-ability to divide the movement, like they use gender & race; by relying on our own prejudice & bigotry.

Infiltrators use ridicule of people with dis-abilities. Police have been known to “street: us into demonstrations to provoke an angry crowd that knows we are acceptable targets.

These divisive tactics don’t work when we check ourselves, our own entitlements that mask as privileges that defeat us all. We cannot build a sincere movement w/o including the most marginalized sectors, and we cannot address police brutality by ignoring its specific nexus with dis-abilty .

_______________

It must also be  recognized that police not only target people with dis-abilities for abuse, but also, in their brutality, create dis-ability, leaving those who survive, injured and traumatized. Let us honor those comrades wounded in the struggle, injured by capitalism, with ramps, sign language & voice, as well as make room for all activists into the future, as any one of us can become a person with a dis-ability, at any time.

No more excuses. These are matters of resistance because resistance matters.

So, let us build the strongest resistance to police brutality and state hegemony by ever increasing the circle, by standing, sitting, signing, rolling arm in arm in solidarity, a strong movement that cannot afford to leave anyone behind, a movement that needs everyone’s voice, everyone’s story.

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  •                                                                                                                                   Know-Your-Rights Workshop
    Wednesday, October 12 at 12:00pm                                                                                                                               Pasadena City College (Circadian, CC Building)
    Part of ANTI-POLICE BRUTALITY WEEK

    KNOW-YOUR-RIGHTS WORKSHOP

    DATE: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
    TIME: 12:00-1:30PM
    LOCATION: Pasadena City College (Circadian)

    Whether you are planning on participating in any future acts of civil disobedience or simply walking down the street, it is essential that you know what your rights are if you are stopped, questioned, or detained by the authorities.

    Local L.A.-Based activists will offer their personal experiences with being detained by the authorities as well as educate us on procedures we need to follow to ensure the preservation of our rights and safety.

    This event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. If you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.

    ____________________________________

    Thursday, October 13 at 6:00pm

    Please join Julia Wallace, Emma Rosenthal and others on the panel, discussing police brutality as it impacts and targets different groups of people. Cafe Intifada’s Emma Rosenthal will be addressing specific impact of police brutality on people w dis-abilities (PWDs)http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=271259869581330
    ANTI-POLICE BRUTALITY FORUM
    (Part of Anti-Police Brutality Week)

    DATE: Thursday, October 13, 2011
    TIME: 6PM-8PM
    LOCATION: Pasadena City College (Circadian Building CC), 1570 E. Colorado Bl., Pasadena, CA 91106

    Police repression and brutality is UNDENIABLY one of the most pressing issues which afflicts our communities. Whether we believe that the police are here to protect our communities or keep them in their place, we cannot ignore that that the people of Los Angeles have experienced unbelievable trauma as direct result of decades worth of police misconduct, mayhem, and murder.

    But it is important to note that we are NOT defenseless against state repression. Through knowledge, community, and resistance, we can push back the authorities and assert our right to live in a space that is free from poverty, crime, and the grasp of the prison-industrial complex.

    This forum will not only educate us on the complex relationship between racism, economics, and injustice system, but will also offer a safe space for marginalized communities to offer their experiences with police and state repression, including:

    – People of Color
    – Womyn of Color
    – The Queer/Transgender Community
    – Dis-Abled Populations

    We hope that through this event, we can begin connecting to each other and form communities of resistance.

    In Solidarity,

    Students for Social Justice

    This event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. If you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.

  • Part of Police Brutality week. An important forum
    ____________________________________

Sunday, October 16 at 10:00am, Pasadena City College

Creveling Lounge CC Building
Pasadena, California
oin our training and discussion on what should be the next steps for the immigrant youth movement.
There will be training on 287g and “secure communities” and other anti immigrant policies
as well as looking beyond the Dream Act and creating a grassroots movement.

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By Emma Rosenthal

One might assume that natural disasters are “beyond politics”.  Certainly the massive, popular rush to donate to victims of disasters indicates as such.  But where that money goes, how it is used and who receives services in general is highly political.  Politics and power informs much of the resource distribution and policy in a variety of disasters including evacuation plans in fire zones inhabited by some of California’s wealthiest residents, and the  decisions of which communities to save from the blaze;  building integrity in earthquake zones, and evacuation and shelter planning during these disasters.  In many cases, media and social service agencies put the care of pets over the care of entire human populations, many of whom not only are left on their own, but are left confined to inescapable conditions.

As people use their own personal resources (to the extent that they have them), to batten down the hatches, and people with renters or homeowners insurance find shelter at fine hotels, more marginalized populations face dire circumstances, as they fall through (and get stuffed in) the cracks of the failing infrastructure.

The following links provide information for and about some of the more vulnerable and targeted populations, the discarded sisters and brothers of our collective human family.

http://www.unitedspinal.org/2011/08/25/preparing-for-hurricane-irene––-basic-tips-for-people-with-disabilities/    

www.unitedspinal.org

As Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast of the US, we urge all of our members and other people living with disabilities in states that may be impacted by this dangerous storm to be prepared.
______________________________

solitarywatch.com

‎‎”‎”We are not evacuating Rikers Island,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference this afternoon…
According to the New York City Department of Corrections’ own website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island’s 400 acres are built on landfill–which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters. Its ten jails have a capacity of close to 17,000 inmates, and normally house at least 12,000, including juveniles and large numbers of prisoners with mental illness–not to mention pre-trial detainees who have yet to be convicted of any crime. There are also hundreds of corrections officers at work on the island.”

______________________________

http://transgenderequality.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/hurricane-irene-is-coming-guide-to-making-shelters-safe-for-transgender-evacuees/

transgenderequality.wordpress.com

From North Carolina to New York City, thousands of people have already evacuated their homes to escape Hurricane Irene’s path. Among them are transgender people who, like others, don’t have anywhere else to turn to except for evacuation shelters.”
_________________________
some of the problems facing people with dis-abilities (pwds) during california wild fires.http://www.nobodyleftbehind2.org/speakout/speakout1.shtml

www.nobodyleftbehind2.org

One in five Americans lives with a disability. 1 Each month one or more communities, which include residents with disabilities are working to recover from a natural or man-made (sic) disaster.
__________________________
http://bailoutpeople.org/evacuationforrikersprisoners.shtml

bailoutpeople.org

New York City Mayor Bloomberg has announced that in the event of a hurricane, that he will not evacuate prisoners at Rikers’ Island, claiming instead to have a “contingency plan” in place. The experience of prisoners in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina shows that city authorities will abandon the basic rights of prisoners in the face of disaster.
____________________________
http://WWW.CIDNY.ORG/hurricane-irene-update-and-resources.php

 

Emergency Shelters. Shelter information is available through the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder at www.NYC.gov/hurricanezones or by calling 311 (TTY: 212-204-4115). This site is overwhelmed and may take time to access. We are attaching a list of shelters. There are 91 emergency shelters.We are advised by OEM that the shelters are accessible and will have accessible toilets, cots, etc.We have not been advised what arrangements have been made for ASL interpreters at shelters.”

WWW.CIDNY.ORG

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Originally published in TruthOut.

By Courtney Desiree Morris; Sunday 30 May 2010

CAFE INTIFADA notes on the article:
” We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved.”

Cafe intifada notes:  ONCE AGAIN the absence of any awareness of DISability and ableism as a tool of division within the movement, one which has been used in los angeles specifically, to marginalize cafe intifada’s Emma Rosenthal.  The record indicates that when no clear or reasonable means of attack is available against an activist raising inconvenient issues, attacking, humiliating  and ridiculing dis-ability  is clearly an acceptable tactic.

Nonetheless we feel this is an extremely important article and document for all social justice human rights, efforts.  It has been removed from the archive of Truthout where it first was published. under fair use guidelines, we republish it here.  (https://cafeintifada.wordpress.com/fair-use-disclaimer/  ) -cafe intifada

—————————————————————————————————————————————–
Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence in Movements Enables State Violence

By Courtney Desiree Morris; Sunday 30 May 2010

In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own, a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009 trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails” and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring Katrina evacuees’ right to return.

I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus (although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.

And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists, becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrate.

Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence[1] as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).

The Makings of an Informant: Brandon Darby and Common Ground

On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and co-founder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization.[2] Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.

Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.

A Brief Historical Reflection on Gender Violence in Radical Movements

Reflecting on the radical organizations and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s provides an important historical context for this discussion. Memoirs by women who were actively involved in these struggles reveal the pervasiveness of tolerance (and in some cases advocacy) of gender violence. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown, each at different points in their experiences organizing with the Black Panther Party (BPP), cited sexism and the exploitation of women (and their organizing labor) in the BPP as one of their primary reasons for either leaving the group (in the cases of Brown and Shakur) or refusing to ever formally join (in Davis’s case). Although women were often expected to make significant personal sacrifices to support the movement, when women found themselves victimized by male comrades there was no support for them or channels to seek redress. Whether it was BPP organizers ignoring the fact that Eldridge Cleaver beat his wife, noted activist Kathleen Cleaver, men coercing women into sex, or just men treating women organizers as subordinated sexual playthings, the BPP and similar organizations tended not to take seriously the corrosive effects of gender violence on liberation struggle. In many ways, Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, has gone the furthest in laying bare the ugly realities of misogyny in the movement and the various ways in which both men and women reproduced and reinforced male privilege and gender violence in these organizations. Her experience as the only woman to ever lead the BPP did not exempt her from the brutal misogyny of the organization. She recounts being assaulted by various male comrades (including Huey Newton) as well as being beaten and terrorized by Eldridge Cleaver, who threatened to “bury her in Algeria” during a delegation to China. Her biography demonstrates more explicitly than either Davis’s or Shakur’s how the masculinist posturing of the BPP (and by extension many radical organizations at the time) created a culture of violence and misogyny that ultimately proved to be the organization’s undoing.

These narratives demystify the legacy of gender violence of the very organizations that many of us look up to. They demonstrate how misogyny was normalized in these spaces, dismissed as “personal” or not as important as the more serious struggles against racism or class inequality. Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations. However, if we pay attention to the work of Davis, Shakur, Brown, and others, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and create different kinds of political community.

The Racial Politics of Gender Violence

Race further complicates the ways in which gender violence unfolds in our communities. In “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” Rachel Luft explores the disturbing pattern of sexual assault against white female volunteers by white male volunteers doing rebuilding work in the Upper Ninth Ward in 2006. She points out how Common Ground failed to address white men’s assaults on their co-organizers and instead shifted the blame to the surrounding Black community, warning white women activists that they needed to be careful because New Orleans was a dangerous place. Ultimately it proved easier to criminalize Black men from the neighborhood than to acknowledge that white women and transgender organizers were most likely to be assaulted by white men they worked with. In one case, a white male volunteer was turned over to the police only after he sexually assaulted at least three women in one week. The privilege that white men enjoyed in Common Ground, an organization ostensibly committed to racial justice, meant that they could be violent toward women and queer activists, enact destructive behaviors that undermined the organization’s work, and know that the movement would not hold them accountable in the same way that it did Black men in the community where they worked.

Of course, male privilege is not uniform—white men and men of color are unequal participants in and beneficiaries of patriarchy although they both can and do reproduce gender violence. This disparity in the distribution of patriarchy’s benefits is not lost on women and queer organizers when we attempt to confront men of color who enact gender violence in our communities. We often worry about reproducing particular kinds of racist violence that disproportionately target men of color. We are understandably loath to call the police, involve the state in any way, or place men of color at the mercy of a historically racist criminal (in)justice system; yet our communities (political and otherwise) often do not step up to demand justice on our behalf. We don’t feel comfortable talking to therapists who just reaffirm stereotypes about how fucked-up and exceptionally violent our home communities are. The Left often offers even less support. Our victimization is unfortunate, problematic, but ultimately less important to “the work” than the men of all races who reproduce gender violence in our communities.

Encountering Misogyny on the Left: A Personal Reflection

In the first community group I was actively involved in, I encountered a level of misogyny that I would never have imagined existed in what was supposed to be a radical-people-of-color organization. I was sexually/romantically involved with an older Chicano activist in the group. I was nineteen, an inexperienced young Black activist; he was thirty. He asked me to keep our relationship a secret, and I reluctantly agreed. Later, after he ended the relationship and I was reeling from depression, I discovered that he had been sleeping with at least two other women while we were together. One of them was a friend of mine, another young woman we organized with. Unaware of the nature of our relationship, which he had failed to disclose to her, she slept with him until he disappeared, refusing to answer her calls or explain the abrupt end of their relationship. She and I, after sharing our experiences, began to trade stories with other women who knew and had organized with this man.

We heard of the women who had left a Chicana/o student group and never came back after his lies and secrets blew up while the group was participating in a Zapatista action in Mexico City…[t]he queer, radical, white organizer who left Austin to get away from his abuse. Another white woman, a social worker who thought they might get married only to come to his apartment one evening and find me there. And then there were the ones that came after me. I always wondered if they knew who he really was. The women he dated were amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, radical women that he used as shields to get himself into places he knew would never be open to such a misogynist. I mean, if that cool woman who worked in Chiapas, spoke Spanish, and worked with undocumented immigrants was dating him, he must be down, right? Wrong.

But his misogyny didn’t end there; it was also reflected in his style of organizing. In meetings he always spoke the loudest and longest, using academic jargon that made any discussion excruciatingly more complex than necessary. The academic-speak intimidated people less educated than him because he seemed to know more about radical politics than anyone else. He would talk down to other men in the group, especially those he perceived to be less intelligent than him, which was basically everybody. Then he’d switch gears, apologize for dominating the space, and acknowledge his need to check his male privilege. Ironically, when people did attempt to call him out on his shit, he would feign ignorance—what could they mean, saying that his behavior was masculinist and sexist? He’d complain of being infantilized, refusing to see how he infantilized people all the time. The fact that he was a man of color who could talk a good game about racism and racial-justice struggles masked his abusive behaviors in both radical organizations and his personal relationships. As one of his former partners shared with me, “His radical race analysis allowed people (mostly men but occasionally women as well) to forgive him for being dominating and abusive in his relationships. Womyn had to check their critique of his behavior at the door, lest we lose a man of color in the movement.” One of the reasons it is so difficult to hold men of color accountable for reproducing gender violence is that women of color and white activists continue to be invested in the idea that men of color have it harder than anyone else. How do you hold someone accountable when you believe he is target number one for the state?

Unfortunately he wasn’t the only man like this I encountered in radical spaces—just one of the smarter ones. Reviewing old e-mails, I am shocked at the number of e-mails from men I organized with that were abusive in tone and content, how easily they would talk down to others for minor mistakes. I am more surprised at my meek, diplomatic responses—like an abuse survivor—as I attempted to placate compañeros who saw nothing wrong with yelling at their partners, friends, and other organizers. There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.

Yeah, that guy.

Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us.

The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.

What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.

Looking Forward: Creating Gender Justice in our Movements

Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates. If we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors in our communities, the work will not survive.

Lately I’ve been turning to the work of queers/feminists of color to think through how to challenge these behaviors in our movements. I’ve been reading the autobiographies of women who lived through the chaos of social movements debilitated by machismo. I’m revisiting the work of bell hooks, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Gioconda Belli, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, and Gloria Anzaldúa to see how other women negotiated gender violence in these spaces and to problematize neat or easy answers about how violence is reproduced in our communities. Newer work by radical feminists of color has also been incredibly helpful, especially the zine Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

But there are many resources for confronting this dilemma beyond books. The simple act of speaking and sharing our truths is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been speaking to my elders, older women of color in struggle who have experienced the things I’m struggling against, and swapping survival stories with other women. In summer 2008 I began doing workshops on ending misogyny and building collective forms of accountability with Cristina Tzintzún, an Austin-based labor organizer and author of the essay “Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival.” We have also begun the even more liberating practice of naming our experiences publicly and calling on our communities to address what we and so many others have experienced.

Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it. Until we make radical feminist and queer political ethics that directly challenge hetero/patriarchal forms of organizing central to our political practice, radical movements will continue to be devastated by the antics of Brandon Darby’s (and folks who aren’t informants but just act like them). A queer, radical, feminist ethic of accountability would challenge us to recognize how gender violence is reproduced in our communities, relationships, and organizing practices.

Although there are many ways to do this, I want to suggest that there are three key steps that we can take to begin. First, we must support women and queer people in our movements who have experienced interpersonal violence and engage in a collective process of healing. Second, we must initiate a collective dialogue about how we want our communities to look and how to make them safe for everyone. Third, we must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.

As angry as gender violence on the Left makes me, I am hopeful. I believe we have the capacity to change and create more justice in our movements. We don’t have to start witch hunts to reveal misogynists and informants. They out themselves every time they refuse to apologize, take ownership of their actions, start conflicts and refuse to work them out through consensus and mistreat their compañer@s. We don’t have to look for them, but when we are presented with their destructive behaviors we have to hold them accountable. Our strategies don’t have to be punitive; people are entitled to their mistakes. But we should expect that people will own those actions and not allow them to become a pattern.

We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of anti-queer, anti-woman, racist violence that pervades society. As radical organizers we must hold each other accountable and not enable misogynists to assert so much power in these spaces. Not allow them to be the faces, voices, and leaders of these movements. Not allow them to rape a compañera and then be on the fucking five o’ clock news. In Brandon Darby’s case, even if no one suspected he was an informant, his domineering and macho behavior should have been all that was needed to call his leadership into question. By not allowing misogyny to take root in our communities and movements, we not only protect ourselves from the efforts of the state to destroy our work but also create stronger movements that cannot be destroyed from within.

[1] I use the term gender violence to refer to the ways in which homophobia and misogyny are rooted in hetero-normative understandings of gender identity and gender roles. Heterosexism not only polices non-normative sexualities but also reproduces normative gender roles and identities that reinforce the logic of patriarchy and male privilege.

[2] I learned this from informal conversations with women who had organized with Darby in Austin and New Orleans while participating in the Austin Informants Working Group, which was formed by people who had worked with Darby and were stunned by his revelation that he was an FBI informant.

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for more information go to:
http://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/kathy-running-horse-wells-1957-2010/

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With 70 people reported injured in the attack on the flotilla, surely some of them will acquire permanent dis-abilities. will they be part of an inclusive movement, or will they be sidelined for the consequences of their bravery and sacrifice?Too often, activists with dis-abilities, are discarded or dismissed within the movement, EVEN when their dis-abilities were the result of their courage and resistance to repression.

Dis-ability rights, isn’t a separate issue. No community is fully organized, if members of that community are excluded. We are everyone. We are everywhere. We aren’t cute stories to provide inspiration, or freak show entertainment. We are YOU!

Who do we exclude when we fail to include?

For guidelines for full inclusion: (cut and paste link if it doesn’t work!)

http://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/guide-to-accessible%20event-planning/

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