This is not a complete list and feel free to suggest anything. I recognize that I hold privilege for having the time and energy to put this together, and hope that my footprint in the world leads to more people of color and marginalized people going through this and utilizing my experience as a stepping stone for their growth. I also write this as a reminder for myself.
1. Prioritze sleep: Not getting enough sleep leads to imbalance emotions and exacerbates stress.
2. Eat breakfast/food: Not eating enough in the day can lead to mood swings which can lead to reacting on ignorant ass comments and further exacerbating stress.
3. Talk to your fucking friends: specifically friends who share the same marginal status as you (e.g. person of color, queer, disability, gender, etc) before the class or workshop to get re-centered (present/not stressing the fuck out). Also call on one or a few people after the event to debrief and make sense of the idiocy of people’s subconscious and conscious remarks and actions that just irritated and or hurt you.
4. Be honest with yourself about how much you can share: do not speak up/ participate in a heated discussion if you know you will end up hurting yourself by trying to force a fucked up individual to admit their fucked up thinking therefore using up all your energy on someone who is unwilling to listen or acknowledge oppression. Similarly do not stay silent if you know you feel that what you have to say is important and you need to be heard about it.
5. Let shit go: If a person says something hella fucked up (cuz you know its gonna happen) and after someone has called out/questioned the meaning of their offensive ass actions or words, let it go. They have just outed themselves on their ignorance, and it is THEIRS TO WORK ON. Not yours. We live in a fucked up world with lots of battles to take on in our lives. Hopefully there is an ally working in the background trying to educate that person. If not, have hope that they will face enough people telling them to think differently that they will eventually choose to change. Unfortunately people with oppressive views are often supported in their ideas by society and social norms and some will never think differently. In this case be thankful that you don’t ever have to talk to them if you choose not to. You have control over that part. You can surround yourself with people who are willing to listen and admit fault.
6. Have compassion: with yourself! Hearing people react candidly about their internalized privilege and oppression can feel traumatizing and awful, you are not alone. Remember that these feelings are temporary and that if you did or said anything that you could have done better this can also be seen an opportunity for growth rather than brutal self criticism. Also have compassion for other people, this might be their first time facing their privilege, or ACCEPTING THEIR OPPRESSION, and it’s a painful process. I hate privilege guilt, don’t get me wrong, it is awful to hear about how insensitive people can be. By compassion for others, I mean don’t assume that all unaware privileged people are happy being douche-bags, they might actually feel something that leads to growth and change.
7. Focus on yourself/Stay present: What can you learn from this? Often while hearing people go through the word by word script of defending their racist remarks, I think “What can I do to take care of myself after this? Is there anything I can say to help myself stay sane in this moment?” I gotta remind myself often that I can only control myself, other people will only listen if they are willing to or ready to. Focus on your learning, take notes on how people with privilege are acting, how people with oppression are learning. Don’t take what people say about your marginal group personally, it is their shit, and their work to do, not yours to internalize and hurt yourself with. Also take note of how much energy you are using in the conversation, if you are focusing on trying to have them “get it” by being explicit and vulnerable, consider stopping. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO UTILIZE YOUR ENERGY or re-traumatize yourself by reliving your painful life in front of a group TO EDUCATE OTHERS ON OPPRESSION.
8. Be patient: it can take a fucking long time for people to actually change from the moment they say they want to. You may not know them when they finally make the leap into awareness and accountability. Have hope they might get there, and let the outcome go.
9. Treat yourself well: this goes back into all the other points I have mentioned. Your life has been hard enough, you don’t need to make it harder by beating yourself up for not knowing certain things, or for acting out of emotion. Let your actions go too. Surround yourself with people who you can be real with, who won’t judge you, and will hopefully get you to grow further.
10. Learn about privilege you hold: It is a myth that people who are marginalized are more understanding of other peoples struggles. Learning about my privilege helps me stay in my power. I am an able bodied, Christian-raised person. I speak English, and am in college. By learning about other people’s struggle that I do not experience, I also learn how to healthfully detach from oppression targeted at marginal statuses I do hold. I also get to go through a privilege filled and hard unlearning process. This helps me have patience and compassion for others, because I too was once a douche-bag to a certain degree.
Remember that this is all part of the process and that it will get easier to feel centered and whole after an anti-oppression workshop. Take care of yourself and grow, heal and create change. Doing anything to interrupt oppressive social norms is fighting oppression. Keep fighting!
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