Awareness-Diskussion Montag 18:00/monday 6pm @Infocafe /// text now in EN und ES

platform
for emancipatory learning processes
against discrimination and oppression

We identify ourselves as ‘leftists’ and are against discrimination and oppression. A few of us identify as very clever and reflective, and in comparison to others, some of us are. What often happens in the left scene is this: people are    quickly punished and labelled on the basis of unreflective, discriminatory comments. What all too often goes missing in the process is the insight that we all (!) discriminate, oppress and dominate people every day, even if we don’t want to and we try very hard not to.

This strange left(-radical) scene is an image of the rest of society: white, German and male dominated. Here, too, roles, prejudices and stereotypes prevail. It’s no surprise. We were all born into this society and socialized here, and we grew up with these roles. We have to give up the illusion that we can just disassociate ourselves from ‘this society.’ We have to realize that, in order to live with each other in a different way – a better way – we don’t need to have some Super-Duper-Anti-Discrimination button, but rather constantly to learn. If I say, “I’m an anti-sexist,” that doesn’t mean that I am, by a long shot.

Let’s take a collective look at where we (and others) behave in discriminatory, oppressive or hierarchical ways, where we have internalized racism, sexism and other forms of oppression, and let’s fight them together!

learning process instead of punishment

People have different educational and experiential backgrounds. One person thinks learning is crap in principle; the other says learning has nothing to do with school, learning is emancipation from stupidity. Or one person has worked exclusively in the peace movement until now, the other knows about various forms of antisemitism. Someone who has already dealt with an issue in greater depth can either gripe about the ‘idiots’ who just don’t get it – or, they can share their knowledge and experiences, without being a know-it-all. On the other hand, we can either accept these opportunities for further educating ourselves – or reject them.

It is painful to realize that we don’t (or can’t) measure up to our own ideals, especially for leftists who often think of themselves as ‘better people.’ None of us are perfect! But we can’t let ourselves be content with this; we have to constantly learn how we can at least come closer to a better life with one another, and eventually to a utopia of a (more) nonhierarchical society.
This process might sound exhausting – and it can be – but, nevertheless, it’s also exciting to develop and grow together, and hopefully to feel better and less alienated in our dealing with other people.

Certainly, we’ll never achieve a really agreeable life inside of the current circumstances. And, certainly, we’ll never solve any problems if we (‘only’) work on ourselves. But our own behavior affects society around us.
And besides, very practically, better ways of relating to each other improve our chances of survival in the middle of this shit.

safe spaces for learning

If we want to change society, then exactly those people who are disadvantaged by the current system must be able to take part in shaping these changes. What can we do with a utopia of a few white, German, male students?

In order to take part in discussions in general (for example, about utopias), I need some kind of basis. I need safe places and spaces, in which, for once, I won’t be oppressed or discriminated against (or at least, to a much smaller degree), from which I can act and which I can pull back into.

If I feel prepared to leave these spaces and go out onto ‘uncertain terrain’ (for example, as a woman, to have a discussion with men about sexism), then I can do that, but I don’t have to. It should be left up to each person to decide when they have the strength, or want to take the time and energy, to overlook mistakes, to talk things out with people, or to explain something. Sometimes the moment just isn’t right.
When someone starts mouthing off about ‘criminal foreigners’ or blathering on about ‘hot chicks,’ they are attacking/discriminating/excluding people. Can I really go on now to discuss raising understanding for the socialization of such a violent person? Wouldn’t a clear “Get out!” be (more) appropriate? In such situations, safe spaces for those who are affected and the learning processes of the perpetrators stand in conflict.

Clearly, the safety of the affected comes first.

free space vs. safe space

“AHHH! Can’t I say anything at all? How can I have any freedom, if I always have to be watching my behavior? This isn’t an open space at all any more…”
From the perspective of privilege, t’s easy to talk like this – the only problem is that the free space isn’t free at all, if only a few people can feel free in it. Structurally disadvantage people or groups are shut out of it – who wants to expose themselves to ignorant comments?

Certain social groups are more powerful and have more agency in daily life than others. Such groups are, for example, whites, men, (in Germany) people with a German passport, ‘healthy’ people in their 20s and 30s, heteros, the ‘educated,’ and so on. These are also the principle groups from which discrimination comes. Sexist discrimination comes for the most part from heterosexual men, racist discrimination from whites/Germans, etc.

And in just these groups, defensiveness is a more common reaction to criticism (as in the made up quote above) than thanks. If, for example, a woman demands of a man that he leaves a space, men most often get upset and claim that that would be discriminating against/excluding them. What too often gets forgotten is that many places ALWAYS exclude POCs, Women, “foreigners,” non-heter@s, non-graduates, and many others. Sometimes officially, sometimes more subtly – they are simply made to feel unwelcome, whether through ignorant comments, stares, exclusive language or other means.

Free spaces and safe spaces aren’t mutually exclusive – they overlap. If we really want to claim that we have a free or open space, it has to be a safe space and a space for self-criticism and reflection as well. In this way to can get closer and closer to a really free space, a space that is constantly becoming free-ER FROM hierarchy and oppression and free-ER FOR a life that we truly enjoy. 

now what?!

platform for emancipatory learning processes
an initiative from the libertäre tage planning committee
dresden, august 2011

Just like in any other time and place, there could be violations of consent or assault at the Libertäre Tage. We cannot rule it out, but we can try to work against it. We can do this by raising awareness, making people more sensitive to these issues and asking them to think about their own actions. In general we hope that everyone can respect each other and each other’s needs and boundaries, which, as we all know, can be very different. In case people’s boundaries are transgressed despite all this, there must be immediate help and support for those affected.

How do we create the basis for these emancipatory learning processes, for egalitarian, utopian dreaming? How can we make sure that people who have dealt with discrimination are not isolated? How can we make the wish for free space a practical reality – which consequently would also have to be a safe space, so that structurally disadvantaged people/groups could also move freely inside it?

At some events, conferences and camps there have been and continue to be awareness and/or support groups, that is to say, a few people who feel (more) responsible for promoting awareness and increasing the visibility of relations of domination and discrimination. They might do this through banners, information, flyers, talking to people or other means. Others prefer to be on hand to simply listen to (and sometimes that alone helps a great deal) or to actively support anyone who faces discrimination and wants their help.
This doesn’t mean that a small, concerned group of people is there to free all the other participants from their own responsibilities – please, EVERYONE, pay attention and intervene if you notice discrimination or violence. Nevertheless, it is important to have a  concrete go-to person, to whom anyone can turn if they need help.

Whether or not there will be a support/help/back-up/safety/awareness/sensitivity structure at the Libertäre Tage – and how it would look concretely if there was – depends on the people who want to get involved and how many there are.
On Monday, 8.29.2011, at 6:00 pm there will be a discussion in Infocafé Dresden (Rudolf-Leonhard-Str.39) about we can do and would like to do at the Libertäre Tage. If you’re interested, please come by! Afterward there will be tasty food at Lutherstraße 33. If you can’t make it, just leave a comment here or send us your thoughts at libertaere-tage@notraces.net.

We look forward to seeing you and to some exciting discussions!